Crews from two Royal Navy Jetstream T Mk.2 navigator/observer trainer aircraft visited BAE Systems Regional Aircraft at Prestwick today to pay tribute to the 30 years of continuous support given by the facility.
Since it first entered service in 1979, the Jetstream T Mk2 has been used by 750 Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose, Cornwall, and now holds the record for operating the same type and mark of aircraft in the same role with the Fleet Air Arm.
The Jetstreams are used as flying classrooms to train Observers in basic navigation, radar, communications and airmanship before they graduate to the Merlin, Sea King Mk7 or Lynx Mk 8 helicopters. Over the past 30 years, nearly 1,000 students have completed what is commonly believed to be one of the hardest courses in the Royal Navy.
This role of the Observer in the Fleet is that of an airborne warfare officer. He/she must combine a comprehensive range of skills to control and co-ordinate ships, aircraft and weapon systems in the fighting of modern maritime warfare. Inherent in these skills is the ability to navigate over both land and open water, often operating far from base.
Sixteen Jetstream T Mk2s were originally delivered to the Royal Navy over a period from 1978-1983 and twelve aircraft remain in service. Powered by twin Turbomeca Astazou turboprop engines, the aircraft have an endurance of five hours and are configured with radar and other equipment consoles for training. The normal crew is one pilot, one observer and one student observer.
During this 30 year period, the original company, Scottish Aviation has become British Aerospace and now BAE Systems Regional Aircraft, but despite the name changes the same high level of customer and engineering support has always been given.
Under its post design services (PDS) contract BAE Systems Regional Aircraft and its predecessor companies have provided engineering and technical expertise. Working closely with the Ministry of Defence Training Aircraft integrated project team at RAF Wyton, the Prestwick team has developed and introduced almost 500 modifications to both enhance the aircraft and to prolong its useful life.
Repair schemes have been produced to keep the aircraft flying after various incidents. Spares have been supplied that keep the aircraft flying and technical publications have been continuously updated to keep the Royal Navy’s suite of manuals accurate and fully up to date. Mr Mark Taylor, Business Director Engineering of BAE Systems Regional Aircraft said today:
“We are delighted to welcome the Jetstream T Mk2 crews from 750 Naval Air Squadron to Prestwick. BAE Systems prides itself on its dedicated through-life support of its products and at Regional Aircraft we provide continuing airworthiness services and support to over 800 BAE Systems-built aircraft that are extant worldwide. This 30-year milestone serves to illustrate the long-term nature of such aircraft in-service support programmes.”
Lieutenant Commander Nick Armstrong, Commanding Officer of 750 Naval Air Squadron, stated that 750 NAS is the MoD’s longest established squadron in continual service and conducting the same role. He said: “A significant part of that service has been conducted with the Jetstream T Mk2 which has become synonymous with Observer training and the Royal Naval Air Station at Culdrose in Cornwall where it is based.”
Furthermore he added, “The Jetstream has an exemplary service record and has delivered everything that has been asked of it. Despite 30 years of service, we still routinely have seven out of the seven aircraft available to fly on the line each day (the other two Jetstreams are in second line servicing) and so the squadron’s effort can be focussed entirely on training the ab initio students. In times when we read about military equipment not performing well it is pleasantly surprising to be part of a unit whose military equipment does everything asked of it, and does it well.
“With the benchmark set so high, the replacement aircraft will have a lot to live up to. The Jetstream allows us to establish all of the fundamental principles of being an Observer and assess whether the student has the ability and capacity to succeed on the front line in Merlin, Lynx or Sea King helicopters. Unfortunately the cost of keeping the Jetstreams up to standard is becoming prohibitive and so will be replaced. Although based on an established platform, the King Air 350ER, the Navy’s new aircraft, will be fitted with many of the computer based systems the students will find in the front line aircraft. Seen by many as being much more efficient, we are optimistic for the future; however, we didn’t get to be old and senior Observers by relying on technology and will make sure that the new aircraft lives up to the standards set by the old; not an easy task.”
The Jetstream T MK2 reaches its planned out of service date in March 2011 and will be replaced by a new incremental three-stage training approach, culminating in training at Culdrose on four new Beech B350ER King Air aircraft which will have radar and tactical mission training systems installed.
About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is the premier global defence, security and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services. With approximately 105,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded £18.5 billion (US $34.4 billion) in 2008.