There are three subordinate squadrons that make up 4 FTS – these being 4 (AC) Squadron and 25 (F) Squadron, both flying the BAE Systems Hawk T2; and 72 Squadron flying the Beechcraft T-6C Texan T1. Having previously been a frontline jet squadron flying the Harrier GR.9 ‘jump-jet’, 4 Sqn re-formed at RAF Valley in 2010, with 25 Sqn (a former Tornado F3 unit) joining it in September 2018. In combination with each other, the two Hawk squadrons provide the Advanced Fast-Jet
Total 66 sorties/75.5 hours
The Hawk’s avionics enable simulations of many of the functions of a modern fighter, combined with an extensive mission debrief system that extracts maximum output from every sortie via the aircraft’s data-link. The on-board simulation capability also enables simulated air-to-ground weapon drops, realistic electronic warfare (EW) training against surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and other complex operational scenarios.
Advanced Fast -Jet Training (AFJT) Programme
Training the UK's Future Fast-Jet Pilots
Although 72 Squadron did not formally re-establish until 28th November 2019, the first BFT course (the second phase of RAF and Royal Navy fast-jet training) with the Texan T1 had commenced two months previous in the September.
The training system uses advanced course-ware and mission planning systems in conjunction with highly realistic Texan flight simulators that enable sorties to be practiced on the ground before they are flown for real.
Newly refurbished buildings, hangars and classrooms have also been established at Valley over the previous two-year period in preparation for the first student course. With the Hawk and Texan aircraft now well established at Valley, the station now provides two-thirds of the RAF’s fast-jet training programme. (Cont'd)
Fast-Jet Flying Training (AFJT)
'At a Glance' - BAE Hawk T2
Under the Military Flying Training System, future fighter pilots now commence their training on the Grob Prefect T1, then move on to the Texan T1 and finish on the Hawk T2, making the training process more efficient and far more representative of the F-35 or Typhoon aircraft they will eventually fly with frontline units. The first pilots graduating from Basic Flying Training in the new Texan T1 aircraft with 72 Squadron saw six students receive their ‘Wings’ in November 2020.
Currently, there are 20 Qualified Flight Instructors (QFI) working the BFT course at RAF Valley. Six courses are held each year, with six students on each course. This course structure was based on the ten Texans that were in service mid-to-late 2020, but with the additional four T-6s that were delivered late 2020, it is planned that
Aviation in the United States and part of a 14-strong fleet to deliver Basic Flying Training (BFT) at RAF Valley with 72 Squadron, their arrival was a further development in the delivery of the UKMFTS - a partnership between the UK Ministry of Defence and Ascent Flight Training Ltd. The full ‘glass’ cockpit and modern avionics of the Texan (known as the Texan T.1 in RAF service) enable the aircraft to simulate both air-to-air and air-to-ground targets sorties for the students. (cont'd)
Flown with 4(AC) Squadron
Total 32 sorties/37.75 hours
Fast-Jet Flying Training (AFJT)
'At a Glance' - BAE Hawk T2
Basic Flying Training (BFT) Programme
Seen left is a Hawk T2 wearing 25(F) Squadron markings about to touch down at RAF Valley after an early afternoon sortie. In 2018 it was announced that 4 Squadron, which had been operating at Valley since 2010, would be split into two squadrons, with a reformed No.25 (F) Squadron taking on responsibility for the first phase of AFJT.
The move was brought about by the increased demand for fast-jet pilots required to fly the Typhoon and F-35B Lightning. The number of Typhoon squadrons was increased in July 2018 when 12 Squadron reformed at RAF Coningsby, with IX(B) Squadron due to stand up on the Typhoon at RAF Lossiemouth in 2019.
Located on the small island of Anglesey off the northwest coast of Wales, Royal Air Force (RAF) Valley is home to 4 Flying Training School (FTS). Responsible for training the UK'snext generation of fighter pilots, 4 FTS takes both RAF and Royal Navy (RN) students through Basic Flying Training (BFT) and teaches them to fly the latest RAF fast-jets prior to them being assigned to a Typhoon or Lightning Operational Conversion Unit (OCU).
The two Hawk T2s above both wear the markings 4 (AC) Squadron, which provides the pre-Operational Conversion Unit (Advanced) element of AFJT
The unit was re-designated as 7 Flying Training School (FTS) on 1 June 1954, before being renumbered to 4 FTS 15 August 1960. Having flown the Folland Gnat jet trainer from November 1962, with a number of Hawker Hunter F.6 & T.7s for advanced training, the first British Aerospace Hawk T.1s arrived on 11 November 1976.
September 2017 saw further development of RAF Valley, when a project to upgrade the airfield was completed. This involved resurfacing of the runway and taxiways and the creation of a new section of airside perimeter road. New visual aids, aeronautical lighting and signage were also installed and upgraded.
simulator, totaling 50.5 hours. There are approximately 1500 personnel, both military and civilian involved with the Advanced Fast-Jet Training programme; with both military (RAF, RN) and civilian instructors (Ascent), and engineering and support services provided by British Aerospace and Babcock.
The T2’s ‘glass’ cockpit and comprehensive avionics suite provides a realistic, advanced platform to meet current and future requirements for the UK’s future fighter pilots – enabling students to be fully immersed in complex tactical environments, downloading training from Operational Conversion Units onto the Hawk, which is far more economical to fly than Typhoon or the F-35 Lightning. The T2’s avionics enable simulations of many of the functions of modern RAF/RN frontline fighters via the aircraft’s data-link. Despite the Hawk not being equipped with radar, the aircraft is capable of generating synthetic radar returns for intercept and basic fighter manoeuvres (BFM) training, as well as air-to-ground and electronic warfare training.
In 2004 the UK Ministry of Defence contracted for 28 examples of the BAE Systems Hawk Mk128, known in service as the Hawk T2 - the aircraft becoming operational as part of a comprehensive fast-jet training system under the auspices of the new Advanced Fast-Jet Training (AFJT) programme, a component of the wider UK Military Flying Training System.
The Hawk T2 replaced the Mk1/1A in the RAF's flying training role, bringing personnel up to fast-jet operational conversion unit (OCU) standards following graduation from the turboprop Texan T1.
The Hawk's glass cockpit and comprehensive avionics suite provide a realistic advanced fast-jet training platform, allowing students to be immersed in more complex tactical environments, ‘downloading’ training from the OCUs directly onto the Hawk. (Cont'd)
We would like to thank the Defence Equipment & Support Secretariat for their assistance in making this article possible
by 2024 the extra four aircraft will allow an additional 17 students per annum to be trained. Plans are that the BFT programme will still consist of six courses each year, but with an increased number of students on each course. In addition to the actual flying in the Texan, each student completes an additional 51 events in the simulator, totalling 54 hours.
Much of the delay due to the ownership of the aircraft and United States International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) which controls the manufacture, sale, and distribution of defence and space-related articles and services. Thus, it was 15 October 2019 before the first student began their flying training on the aircraft. Since then, however, the Texan fleet has been extremely active and proven to be a more than capable asset.
As mentioned previously, four additional Texans were delivered to RAF Valley in November 2020, but at the time of writing these had not yet entered the training syllabus with 72 Squadron and had remained hangared since their arrival.
The airfield at Valley was constructed in the latter part of 1940 and opened for operations on 1 February 1941 as a Fighter Sector Station under 9 Group RAF, with the task of providing defence cover for England's industrial north-west and shipping in the Irish Sea. Post-WWII the airfield was placed into a care and maintenance basis until 1950 when improvements were made to the hangars and buildings which ultimately saw 202 Advanced Flying School reform there on 1 April 1952 to train fighter pilots with the De Havilland Vampire FB.5 & T.11, and Gloster Meteor T.7 jet aircraft.
The Beechcraft Texan T1 took over the Basic Flying Training role for the RAF that had previously been fulfilled by the Shorts Tucano T1. Students move onto the Texan after having mastered the Grob Prefect at the Elementary Flying Training level, before then moving onto the Hawk T2. Continuing the precedent set by the Tucano for employing a tandem-seat turboprop basic trainer, the Texan replaced the analogue cockpit of the earlier machine with a digital ‘glass’ cockpit featuring modern avionics. The Texan's mission system is capable of generating simulated air-to-air targets and also scoring against the release of simulated air-to-ground ordnance, and can simulate missions in both fourth and fifth-generation aircraft such as the BAE Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning. (Cont'd)
The RAF's Advanced Flying Schools operating in the early 1950s provided a step between elementary flying training and the operational conversion units within the RAF. The restructuring of flying training led to a renumbering of Flying Schools and on 1 June 1954, No. 205 AFS at Middleton St George was renumbered as No. 4 FTS, later moving to Worksop in June 1956, absorbing 211 FTS and its Gloster Meteor aircraft, which it operated alongside its Vampires until 9 June 1958 when it was disbanded.
4 FTS's role was carried out by No. 7 FTS on the Vampire at RAF Valley until 15 August 1960, when it was renumbered as 4 FTS once again, tasked with training students for Coastal and Transport Commands, using Varsity T.1s. This was short-lived however, and by March 1962 this role was transferred to 5 FTS at RAF Oakington, with 4 FTS receiving the new Folland Gnat T.1. Students progressing from their initial training on the Jet Provost came to Valley for advanced Jet training before moving onto 229 OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) at RAF Chivenor for air warfare training.
In 1967, the Hawker Hunter F.6 and T.7 were brought into RAF service, supplementing the Gnats, with the first Hawker Siddeley (later becoming part of British Aerospace) Hawk T.1 was delivered in 1976 - the last Gnat course graduating on 24 November 1979. The Hawk was a purpose-built fast-jet trainer and perfectly suited for its role, being designed to replace a number of different types then in service with the RAF - Jet Provost, Gnat and Hunter. The Hawk T2 now in service started to replace the Hawk T1 from 2009, and is now the RAF’s only fast-jet trainer in service – all of them based at RAF Valley.
RAF Valley, June 2021
During the AFJT phase, students undertake two phases of training – the ‘Basic’ element and the ‘Advanced’ element, and in addition to the actual flying in the Hawk T2, each student completes 46 events in the Hawk
The image left depicts a Hawk T2 wearing the markings of 25(F) Squadron about to touch down on Runway 31 at RAF Valley. 25 Squadron reformed in 2018 and provides the Hawk T2 conversion and lead-in (Basic) element of the AFJT programme
Basic Flying Training (BFT)
'At a Glance' - Beech T-6C Texan T1
The first two Beechcraft T-6C Texan IIs (known as the Texan T1 in RAF service) arrived at RAF Valley in February 2018. Manufactured by Textron
Training (AFJT) syllabus of the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS). Students are first assigned to 25 (Fighter) Squadron for the Hawk T2 conversion and lead-in (Basic) element, before moving to 4 (Army Cooperation) Squadron for the pre-Operational Conversion Unit (Advanced) element. Up until October 2019, student pilots had undergone their Basic Flying Training (BFT) with 72 Squadron at RAF Linton-on-Ouse on the Shorts Tucano T.1 turbo-prop trainer. With Linton having closed and the Tucano being withdrawn from service, the unit disbanded before reforming at RAF Valley, with 72 Squadron now performing the BFT element of the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) utilising a fleet of 14 Beechcraft Texan T1s.
No. 4 Flying Training School was formed on 1 April 1921 at Abu Sueir, Egypt, its primarily role being to train pilots for the Royal Air Force squadrons based in the Middle East.
On 1 September 1939, 4 FTS moved to Habbaniya, Iraq, changing its name to No. 4 Service Flying Training School in February 1940 so as to differentiate it from an Elementary Flying Training School.
On 3 February 1947, 4 FTS reformed at Heany, near Bulawayo in what was then Southern Rhodesia. By 1948, the school's role of training both pilots and navigators had become unworkable, and so the navigator training was moved to the No. 3 Air Navigation School at Thornhill, Rhodesia, along with the unit’s Avro Anson aircraft (cont'd)
Flown with 25(F) Squadron
Total 44 sorties/50 hours
Seen here about to taxy onto the end of Runway 31 at RAF Valley is a Texan T1 from 72 Squadron
The aircraft and unit are responsible for the BFT element of the UK Military Flying Training Programme
Beechcraft developed the T-6A Texan II from the Swiss-built Pilatus PC-9, in response to the long-running US Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) requirement to replace the aging fleet of Cessna T-37s. After reworking a Pilatus-supplied airframe, Beech flew a production standard T-6A Texan for the first time in December 1992 and began re-equipping USAF flying training squadrons in May 2000.
Chosen to supply a Tucano replacement under UKMFTS programme, Affinity Flying Training Services sourced an initial ten T-6C Texan aircraft from Beechcraft, with a further four in October 2020. The first aircraft arrived at RAF Valley in February 2018, however ‘release to service’ did not come about until December and so the aircraft sat idle until February 2019 before the Instructors began to get their hands on the aircraft. (Cont'd)
The 42 Qualified Flight Instructors (QFI) assigned to the Advanced Fast-Jet Training (AFJT) course are kept very busy, with six courses per year, with up to ten students in each course. Flying starts as early as 8am each day and weather permitting, can go on almost non-stop until 5pm. In addition to training RAF and RN aircrew, the last two years have also seen students from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar trained on the Hawk T2 at RAF Valley.
The 'Advanced' element of AFJT is flown with 4(AC) Squadron. In the photos above, the aircraft on the right wears the standard markings for 4 Sqn, whilst the aircraft on the left wears RAF '100 Anniversary' markings applied back in 2018
The British Aerospace Hawk is probably most familiar to the British public as the mount of the Royal Air Force Red Arrows Aerobatic Team, which flies the Hawk T1 version, however it is the Hawk T2 that now provides fast-jet training for British pilots. With the original Hawk T1 fleet withdrawn from the pilot training role, the Hawk T2 was ordered in 2004 – the Ministry of Defence (MoD) contracting with BAE Systems for 28 Hawk Mk.128 aircraft, with deliveries commencing in 2009. (Cont'd)
The Beechcraft T-6C Texan T1 is a modern tandem twin-seat turbo-prop trainer which provides a first class introduction into the fast-jet training programme
On a hot July day, 'Ninja 2' taxy's out towards the runway at RAF Valley (Photo, right). The crew have yet to close the canopy, trying to get as much fresh air into the cockpit prior to their 3-ship sortie.
In service with 4 Squadron and 25 Squadron, the Hawk T2 is the ultimate fast-jet trainer