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Good coverage of 51 Squadron in Aviation News

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Good coverage of 51 Squadron in Aviation News

Old 29th Mar 2020, 14:20
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Good coverage of 51 Squadron in Aviation News

A very last-minute media facility was held at RAF Waddington on Wednesday 29th January 2020. According to the Op Note, the press event aimed to “provide an insight into the Rivet Joint programme, a unique US/UK cooperative programme.” The main emphasis, however, seems to have been on No.51 Squadron's newly delivered state-of-the-art cockpit simulator, and on a new standard in terms cockpit and mission systems. A UK release to service of the new standard aircraft was then reportedly expected in mid-March.



The facility did also include an opening brief from a panel of personnel involved in the Rivet Joint programme, including a Q&A, as well as a tour of the Rivet Joint simulator.



Unfortunately, the event was very poorly ‘advertised’ (many journos never received the note) and it clashed with a press jolly to Finland for the Eurofighter Typhoon’s participation in the Finnish ‘HX Challenge’, so relatively few journalists were able to attend. However, Dino Carrara, the editor of Aviation News, did attend, and he wrote a three-page piece in that magazine’s April 2020 issue.



Carrara quoted Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, Air Officer Commanding No.1 Group as saying:
"There are two main elements. It has a new glass cockpit, which is known as Baseline C and the upgrade in the rear of the aircraft is called Baseline 12.2 and is a generational step forward for some of the mission systems. We've done a lot of work to look at everything from exploiting open source big data right through to the most top secret highly classified capabilities. We are bringing new technology to bear like machine learning and artificial intelligence et cetera to provide quicker and higher fidelity analysis of the data collected, all of which is to help people like me [in senior positions] make more informed decisions on an operation."


Smyth was also quoted as saying that:
"There are 20 RJs in the fleet and we have three of them which we operate hand-in-glove with our US colleagues. What we get from this co-operative programme is far bigger than our 15% financial contribution. We greatly exceed that in terms of what we learn and the capability development we have already seen from day one of our involvement in the programme. Our first jet was delivered in November 2013 and while the capability is phenomenal, it is the ability to do co-manning, the co-operation and co-operative learning, which have been the real win. It's not just the aircrew [that benefit], and in many ways more importantly, it's the sharing that goes on among the analysts that receive the data but don't fly in the aircraft and how they manipulate it to deliver a joint product for decision-makers and commanders. You will see our aircraft at places like Mildenhall and Offutt and we are very much one team both in terms of force generation and the training side, but also when we're on operations. It's not uncommon to us to co-man across each other's platforms to help out to deliver operational effect."


He also said that:
“In today's world it's about who can get the information quickest, assimilate it, make a decision and get out in front of the bad guy….. Our aspiration in the near future is to join all of our assets up in a networked way and Rivet Joint will be a major player in that. I could see a scenario where there is a Rivet Joint 'doing collect, an aircraft carrier with F-35s in the North Atlantic, Typhoons out of Lossiemouth all working in the High North area sharing data and perhaps a submarine and Type 45 also feeding in and all coalesced as a common operating picture. Rivet Joint would play an enormous role in that. We definitely see it as one of the central nodes in that network. You can collect a lot of data, but if you can't analyse and share it, so that it's decision-quality information, it is just a great big bunch of data that doesn't contribute — it actually hinders.”


Carrara also quoted Don Miceli, Rivet Joint Co-operative Program Manager, who he said gave some insights into what lies ahead for the Rivet Joint fleet:
"Advanced battle management systems (ABMS) and advanced sensing grids are the sensors we are trying to employ on the Rivet Joint programme in the future to help us prosecute the high-end fight a little bit better than we do now — putting more artificial intelligence and machine learning on the jet so we can free up operators in the back to be thinking of the problem set and have the computers produce the information they need to disseminate."


It sounds as though there is a much greater emphasis on immediacy and on the tactical application of the information gathered from SIGINT with the Rivet Joint than there was in Cold War Nimrod days, probably with a greater emphasis on COMINT, and with less stress on precise measurement and analysis? The references to machine learning and artificial intelligence seem to imply a degree of automation that runs counter to the traditional ’51’ way of doing things with its emphasis on the very high skill and experience levels of operators allowing manual tuning etc. to a very high degree of accuracy? It seems as though the shift towards an increased concentration on COMINT was already underway in the latter days of the Nimrod, too? I wonder how different things might have been if the R1 had been replaced by a SIGINT version of the MRA4, rather than by the RC-135.


Smyth said that:
"We in the UK talk a lot about the UK-US special relationship and if ever there was an exemplar of that it is this Rivet Joint programme,” and praised "the co-operation in terms of the technical and through-life development of the aircraft. We are a co-operative programme partner (CPP) and have an equal voice and that in itself is worth its weight in gold."


Susan Thornton, Director for Information Dominance Programs from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the (US) Air Force, backed Smyth up, saying that:
"This co-operative US-UK programme is completely shared; there is nothing specific to either nation. We have worked together on this programme since 2010. We intend to take this capability well into the 2030s. Our guiding principle is that it has to be relevant today and for the future. It's also based on the ability to have bilateral exchange of intelligence expertise and best practices, including key partners across our respective governments.”

No-one seems to have asked whether purely national tasking is still practised/possible, or whether No.51 still lives up to its former nickname as “GCHQ’s secret Squadron.” Nor did anyone ask whether the ‘take’ goes straight to UK agencies or whether it goes via the US, not that answers would necessarily have been forthcoming.

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Old 29th Mar 2020, 15:34
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No big surprises that there is more and more automation involved in both COMINT and SIGINT. The role of the WSO and WSOp will need to evolve with this technology as much as their roles have on other platforms. On the P8 we now have 2x Pilots, 2x WSOs (TACCO 1 and 2), 2x WSOp (ISR) EW (so-called “dry men”) and 2x WSOp (ISR) Aco (so-called “wet men”). There is a 9th crew member being discussed to conduct Sonobuoy setting, beam look out, etc... Compare that 9 to a crew of 13 on the MR2 and you can see how technology has moved things on. The same for Wedetail vs Sentry - a normal crew of 18 on a Sentry and just 10-12 (ish) on Wedgetail.
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Old 29th Mar 2020, 15:59
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By the way, plenty on the internet. Here is AOC 1Gp flying the new glass cockpit aircraft simulator.



Here is a graphic showing the various Aircrew positions.






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Old 29th Mar 2020, 16:02
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I suppose the big question is whether this automation results in a better product?

For many years, AEELS on the RC-135V/W (early Blocks, before they re-named Blocks as Baselines) was really very poor - initially so poor that they nearly abandoned the Rivet Joint altogether, and the received wisdom seemed to be that manual tuning by 7 (in 2011, including Rack 6 but not Rack 7) to 9 (2008) or even 13 (1982) AEOs and AEOps gave a much better result than three Ravens on the RC-135V/W, and that the R1 had a capability approaching that of the RC-135U in some respects.

But while the 2011 Nimrod R1 was an impressive aircraft, and had some functionalities still not available on the RJ, we are now up to Baseline 12/13 on the RC-135V/W, and one might assume that the automated systems are much better than they were. They bloody well should be, nine years after the R1 was retired.....
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Old 29th Mar 2020, 16:05
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Originally Posted by The B Word View Post
On the P8 we now have 2x Pilots, 2x WSOs (TACCO 1 and 2), 2x WSOp (ISR) EW (so-called “dry men”) and 2x WSOp (ISR) Aco (so-called “wet men”). There is a 9th crew member being discussed to conduct Sonobuoy setting, beam look out, etc... Compare that 9 to a crew of 13 on the MR2 and you can see how technology has moved things on.
When you consider that the MR2 included a Flight engineer and two Navs, I'm surprised that the crew on the P-8 is as large as it is!
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Old 29th Mar 2020, 16:34
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[QUOTE=The B Word;10732298]By the way, plenty on the internet. Here is AOC 1Gp flying the new glass cockpit aircraft simulator.



Slight drift - to port - and a slight smile at discovering that Air Vice-Marshall Smyth has been succeeded by Air Vice-Marshal Marshall.....

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Old 29th Mar 2020, 16:43
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Originally Posted by Jackonicko View Post
When you consider that the MR2 included a Flight engineer and two Navs, I'm surprised that the crew on the P-8 is as large as it is!
Not really, because one of the Navs was doing the lead TACCO’s role. On the MR2 there were 2 x Pilots and an Air Engineer on the flight deck, 2 x Navigators (one tactical and one route), an Air Electronics Officer (AEO), the sonobuoy sensor team of 3 x Air Electronics Operator (AEOp (Ac)) and the radar/datalink team 4 x AEOp (EW). The 7x AEOps are now down to 5 WSOps (that could be 4 routinely) due to technology improvements and as you say, Air Engineer is gone as is also the Route Navigator.
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Old 29th Mar 2020, 17:53
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I wonder how come they've managed to reduce the dry team by two (half) and the wets by just one? Fewer technological improvements in sonobuoys? Was MAD a full-time job for one of the dry ops?
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Old 29th Mar 2020, 17:55
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[QUOTE]"A slight smile at discovering that Air Vice-Marshall Smyth has been succeeded by Air Vice-Marshal Marshall."[/QUOTE]

Shame his name isn't Vic.....

Last edited by Jackonicko; 29th Mar 2020 at 18:48.
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Old 30th Mar 2020, 10:45
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Shades of Major Major..
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Old 30th Mar 2020, 12:19
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Thread drift but slightly related to the topic of airborne signallers.

I was watching the Elton John film 'Rocketman' at the weekend and his dad was shown in a flashback wearing a Signaller brevet.

My immediate reaction was "oh here we go, some costume designer in movie la la land has just reached for the first blue uniform in the box..."

So when researching his dad later on, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Sqn Ldr Stanley Dwight was indeed a Signaller! (But the flashback scene shows him with an airman's capbadge on his side hat slung under his epaulette.)

London Gazette has him listed as a Fg Off in the Equipment Branch wef 1949. Could Elton John senior have been on post-war ABC duty??

This lockdown has led to research of the most tenuous RAF-connected things....


Flt Lt Stanley Dwight (Date unknown)
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Old 30th Mar 2020, 18:15
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Originally Posted by Jackonicko View Post
I wonder how come they've managed to reduce the dry team by two (half) and the wets by just one? Fewer technological improvements in sonobuoys? Was MAD a full-time job for one of the dry ops?
On the Mk 1, and carried over to the Mk 2, Radar and ESM/MAD would change positions periodically as the radar op needed a rest from one and ESM from the other. Of course on a purely wet sortie Radar could take on other roles such as buoy loading or galley.
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Old 30th Mar 2020, 18:37
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Originally Posted by Jackonicko View Post
Was MAD a full-time job for one of the dry ops?
No. Just a condition...

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Old 30th Mar 2020, 19:01
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No. 51 Sqn? Never heard of them! If they did exist, nobody spoke of them!

I suppose Secrets aren’t very secret these days!

Hat, coat, taxi ... as they say!
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Old 31st Mar 2020, 10:49
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I suppose Secrets aren’t very secret these days!
Nor in those days either. In July / August 1977 the Daily Telegraph had a nice picture of an R1 on their front page taken by a helpful Swedish Air Force pilot.
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Old 31st Mar 2020, 13:13
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Oh dear! That was back in the days when silent departures of a small stream of aircraft used to depart their base under our control at Eastern Radar. We never talked about them either!
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Old 31st Mar 2020, 16:46
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Originally Posted by MPN11 View Post
No. 51 Sqn? Never heard of them! If they did exist, nobody spoke of them!

I suppose Secrets aren’t very secret these days!

Hat, coat, taxi ... as they say!
It’s very difficult to conceal what you’re doing and even if successful the opposition will probably assume that you’re doing it anyway. So, the secret is not that you’re doing it, but how good you are at it.

YS
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Old 31st Mar 2020, 17:05
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Originally Posted by Yellow Sun View Post
It’s very difficult to conceal what you’re doing and even if successful the opposition will probably assume that you’re doing it anyway. So, the secret is not that you’re doing it, but how good you are at it.

YS
Very true. Although great efforts were made for the Vulcan deployment to ASI, with known AGIs sat off the East Coast. Dummy flights, changing callsigns, spoof recoveries. I wonder if ‘they’ noticed?
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Old 1st Apr 2020, 08:58
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Here they are at home, on 17th July 1986.



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Old 1st Apr 2020, 16:53
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Originally Posted by Jackonicko View Post
I wonder how come they've managed to reduce the dry team by two (half) and the wets by just one? Fewer technological improvements in sonobuoys? Was MAD a full-time job for one of the dry ops?
The MK2 had gone down to a 12 man crew by 2005. The P8 does not have a specialist radio operator so that drops the dry team to two and the MK2 wet team was at two.
ESM/MAD was the same work station.
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