Two of the first weapons and sensors specialists for Britain’s new breed of maritime patrol aircraft have learned the fundamentals of their future jobs - with the Royal Navy.
Flight Lieutenants Phil Mowat and Jase McPherson are lined up to crew the RAF’s new Poseidon P-8s – the long-range eyes and ears of the Submarine Service, scouring hundreds of square miles of ocean on each patrol looking for underwater threats.
The duo are the first air force Weapons System Officers (WSOs) to undergo training with the Fleet Air Arm’s 750 Naval Air Squadron.
The small Culdrose-based squadron teaches naval Observers how to use systems and sensors to locate, identify and plot targets or, say, direct a search and rescue mission… tasks very similar to those expected of RAF WSOs.
Over 16 weeks, aircrew learn the fundamentals of the Observer/WSO role with 750 and its King Air Avenger ‘flying classrooms’ before they move on to train on the specific weapons, sensors, cameras and navigational aids on Wildcat and Merlin helicopters or the P8.
More than 100 men and women have passed out of 750 since the Avengers entered service; the aircraft have just passed the 100,000-hour milestone delivering training in the skies of the South West as part of the UK Military Flight Training Scheme.
Flt Lt Mowat said the four months at the air station just outside Helston had been “challenging and worthwhile” and the training facilities “excellent”.
He continued: “The Avenger, together with its avionics suite, is ideal for Weapons System Operator training. I am more than ready to take on the challenges of the P8 Poseidon.”
Both he and Flt Lt McPherson will head to Jacksonville, Florida, in October to begin Poseidon training alongside former colleagues from the Nimrod MR2 fleet.
“The course at 750 NAS has been very challenging – especially for the more mature students on the course – but I am more than prepared for the next stage of training,” said Flt Lt McPherson.
The former Nimrod flier lives just a dozen miles from the Poseidon’s future home at RAF Lossiemouth, near Elgin. Completing his training at Culdrose means he no longer faces a 750-mile commute.