Ensign William McLoughlin from New Jersey, told us; "You've got to be on your toes" he said, "There's certainly been a few 'helmet-fires' going on during the first couple of flights. From the T-6 to the T-45 you realise you are going a lot faster, but the power and the speed can also work to your advantage".
Not to confuse anyone, but this aircraft is adorned with a VT-9 squadron mark and yet wears a fuselage band for the 'Eagles' of VT-7
A TH-57B hovers below the control tower at NAS Whiting Field in March 2016
Naval Flight Officer (NFO) Training; Four NFO training pipelines are conducted by CNATRA - Strike Fighter, Airborne Early Warning (AEW), Maritime Patrol (MPR), and Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO). Training for all four NFO pipelines is conducted with TAW-6 at NAS Pensacola. All NFOs begin their Primary Training at VT-10 in the Beechcraft T-6A Texan II, learning the basic skills of aviation, visual and instrument navigation, and communications. The training consists of academics, navigation and communication training, high fidelity simulators, and instrument, navigation, and formation flights. Following completion of their Primary Training, students selected for land-based aircraft (MPR and TACAMO) move on to Advanced Training at VT-4 (a simulator only squadron). Those SNAs selected for Strike Fighter and AEW roles receive additional T-6A training (known as Primary 2), before those selected for the Strike Fighter community move onto Advanced Training with VT-86 at Pensacola on the T-45C Goshawk. Advanced Training at VT-10 and VT-86 provides tactical training to student NFOs that tests and prepares them for their future fleet aircraft. Upon completion of their advanced training, NFOs receive their 'Wings of Gold' and move onto their respective Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS).
Training Wing Five at Whiting Field house's the rotary-wing component for SNA training, with HT-8 'Eight Ballers', HT-18 'Vigilant Eagles' and HT-28 'Helions' flying the Bell TH-57 Sea Ranger. Alongside these squadrons are three units flying the T-6B Texan II; VT-2 'Doerbirds', VT-3 'Red Knights' and VT-6 'Shooters', which share the Primary Training programme with TAW-4 at Corpus Christi. Their mission is to provide primary and intermediate stage flight training to SNAs from the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and a number of allied nations, prior to them being streamed for their future roles.
Training Wing One at Meridian has two squadrons, VT-7 'Eagles' and VT-9 'Tigers', both flying the McDonnell-Douglas T-45C Goshawk and training SNAs for a period of a period of around 12 months in the fundamentals of Strike aviation. Initial flights and simulators are devoted to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), which culminate in an instrument rating. In the familiarisation stage, students learn basic aircraft manoeuvring, aerobatics, and landing skills for their future aircraft carrier environment, with both day and night flights.
To quote Naval Air Training Command (NATRACOM), their mission is to 'Train the world's finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a Naval Force that is where it matters, when it matters'. Headquartered at Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) leads NATRACOM, and is currently composed of five Training Air Wings (TAW) located at Naval Air Stations in Florida, Mississippi and Texas. The latest available annual figures show that the 735 aircraft on CNATRA strength logged some 254,256 flight hours, nearly a quarter of the total flown by all U.S Navy aircraft during the same period. To put those numbers into perspective, NATRACOM flew 28% of the combined Navy and Marine Corps flight hours during the year, with just 19% of the total aircraft fleet. In that same period, more than 1142 pilots and Naval Flight Officers (NFO) earned their 'Wings of Gold'.
Jetwash Aviation Photos was provided exclusive access by CNATRA to report on the student pilot training programme and the squadrons and aircraft that provide that training. During our time in the United States we visited CNATRA's major training bases to get an in depth and up close insight into the Navy's Student Naval Aviator (SNA) training to ensure we covered all aspects of this complex programme.
MPR, TACAMO, and AEW students receive Advanced Training with VT-4 utilising the Multi-Crew Simulator (MCS). The MCS is a reconfigurable trainer that allows students to learn how to employ the systems and tactics of their future fleet aircraft in real world mission scenarios with multiple crew members and multiple aircraft.
Pilot Training; CNATRA conducts six Student Naval Aviator training pipelines for future Navy and Marine Corps pilots; Strike, Rotary, Maritime, Tilt-Rotor, E-2C/C-2 and E-6. All Primary flight training is conducted on the Beechcraft T-6B Texan II with both VT-27 and VT-28 at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, or with VT-2, VT-3 and VT-6 at NAS Whiting Field, Florida. Following completion of their Primary training, the students are then 'streamed' into the Advanced Training element as follows.
Students selected for the 'Strike' role undertake the Intermediate Jet and Advanced Strike Training Programme, flying the McDonnell-Douglas T-45C Goshawk with either Training Wing One at NAS Meridian, Mississippi, or with Training Wing Two at NAS Kingsville, Texas. The 'Strike' pipeline provides aviators for the FA-18C/D Hornet, FA-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, AV-8B Harrier, F-35B/C Lightning II and the EA-6B Prowler communities for both the Navy and Marine Corps.
VT-86 Goshawks train all NFOs for the Hornet, Super Hornet and Prowler squadrons in the U.S Navy and Marine Corps
#F-602 is seen taxying out of one of the numerous sun-sheds, a familiar sight now at many U.S bases
LCDR Williams then went on to tell us about the training undertaken with VT-9 at Meridian; "The basic level of guy we have here will have completed their Tucano training in the UK, he will then come here and do the full Hawk course (the Advanced Strike course, also known as the MPTS or Multi-Service Pilot Training System) that a U.S Navy pilot will do. We take him from doing basic instruments to Fam (Familiarisation flights), instrument rate him, do formation and tac-formation flights, weapons detachments at El Centro, CarQuals and BFM (basic flight manoeuvres). After that they then go to one of the FRS' at Lemoore or Oceana as an extra" (FRS-Fleet Replacement Squadrons at NAS Lemoore, California and NAS Oceana, Virginia conduct the training on the FA-18 Super Hornet for U.S Navy pilots).
Seen in front of the VT-31 hangar at Corpus Christi, this T-44 gets prepared for another sortie
He went on to explain; "They do not actually 'take' a slot in the squadron, but instead are provided as an extra pilot to the squadron. So if the standard squadron strength is for example 15 pilots, they create a 16th slot for the RN aircrew and so we provide an additional body. The benefit for them (the U.S Navy) is that we give them a finished product and what we get is a frontline pilot, potentially with combat experience of operating from a U.S aircraft carrier. So when he comes back to the U.K, we've got an experienced guy to fly the F-35, building that cadre to fulfil the needs of the Fleet Air Arm in the future". In terms of his particular role, aside of course in providing his expertise and experience as an IP, he told us; "For me, as a senior naval officer, I'm here for mentorship, pastoral care, and to make sure they don't forget their organisation and where they're from"
United States Navy
Naval Air Training Command
A T-45C from VT-7 'Eagles' trundles up the hill towards the runway at NAS Meridian
Two Singaporean students and their instructors stroll back to VT-10's building for their flight de-briefs
As with most training wings in the U.S Navy, VT-10 and VT-86 see their fair share of international students
A new student gets their first briefing on the Texan II by one of the VT-10 IPs at NAS Pensacola
Training Wing Six at Pensacola is known as the 'Cradle of Aviation' amongst U.S Navy personnel. Primary, intermediate and advanced NFO training is presently conducted by the three squadrons at Pensacola; VT-10 'Wildcats', VT-4 'Warbucks' and VT-86 'Sabrehawks'. VT-10 flies the T-6A version of the Texan II, providing primary and intermediate flight training to NFOs, and 'Primary 2' flight training for those selected for future strike and AEW roles.
A Training Wing-5 T-6B Texan II seen at its home base of Whiting Field
Whiting Field is often also referred to as 'Milton', the nearest town to the base
The Beechcraft TC-12B Huron is a twin-engine, pressurised, fixed-wing monoplane. A total of 49 UC-12Bs were ordered by the U.S Navy for base communication flights, with fourteen being converted to the TC-12B crew trainer for VT-31 at Corpus Christi. The TC-12B is used for advanced turbo-prop aircraft training and for intermediate E-2/C-2 training. The original UC-12B version is a military derivative of the civilian King Air A200C, powered by a pair of 850SHP Pratt & Whitney PT6A-41 turbo-props. Other features of the aircraft include a cargo door and high-flotation landing gear. The flight and cabin compartments are pressurised for high altitude operations and a plug type ground escape hatch is located on the right side of the aircraft at the forward end of the passenger compartment. The pressurised fuselage section of the TC-12B is divided into two sections; the flight compartment and the cabin section. The flight compartment contains seating for two pilots and the cabin section contains seating for one aircrew and up to seven passengers. The U.S Navy TC-12B fleet is assigned to squadron VT-35 at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas.
AEW students learn command and control and air intercept control, and after graduation move on to VAW-120 in Norfolk, Virginia for training in the E-2C or E-2D Hawkeye. Strike Fighter NFO training is conducted with VT-86 flying modified T-45C simulators and aircraft which incorporate the Virtual Mission Training System (VMTS). VMTS allows NFOs to train for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions using a synthetic radar that mirrors the capability of the FA-18 Hornet. With its data-link network and instructor ground station, students perform complex missions against multiple air and surface targets. The NFOs train for strike, close air support, and all-weather intercept missions. Following graduation, the Navy NFOs will train in the FA-18F Super Hornet with either VFA-106 at NAS Oceana, Virginia, VFA-122 at NAS Lemoore, California, or on the EA-18G Growler with VAQ-129 at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. Marine Corps NFOs will complete their training in the FA-18D with VMFAT-101 at MCAS Miramar, California.
A resplendent T-45C Goshawk from VT-86 'Sabrehawks' basks in typical Florida sunshine
We noted that a very small number of VT-10 Texans had started to appear in the more familiar red/white colour scheme
as worn by the T-6Bs at both Whiting Field and Corpus Christi
The Beech T-44C provides intermediate training for students destined for the C-2/E-2 and advanced training for the C-130, E-6 and P-3/P-8 communities.
#160842 from VT-31 'Wise Owls' is seen at its home base of NAS Corpus Christi, Texas
A somewhat faded TC-12B from VT-35 'Stingrays' taxi's out for a morning mission at NAS Corpus Christi
The Pensacola T-6As are gradually receiving a red/white colour scheme in keeping with the T-6B fleet
VT-86 operates the T-45C Goshawk, picking up NFOs selected for the strike role after they progress from their primary and intermediate training on the T-6 with VT-10. VT-4 doesn't currently operate any aircraft, but instead provides advanced training for NFOs destined for the MPR, AEW and TACAMO communities, utilising Multi-Crew Simulators (MCS).
At this point the SNAs are split into those that will go on to fly the FA-18 and those that are moved into the E-2/C-2 track. For those scheduled to go to the FA-18/strike role, Phase 2 comes up. Lt. Graves went on "Phase 2 sees the students move onto tactical flying, this covers ACM, air to surface attacks with inert ordnance and two-ship low-level formation flights. After numerous FCLPs, which will run into the hundreds, they then get their chance to complete their Carrier Qualification (CarQual). They get the chance to complete ten daytime 'traps' (arrested landings), with four touch & goes". Lt. Graves told us that the biggest hurdle for the students joining the T-45 community is the step-up in performance between the T-6 and the Goshawk. "It's the largest performance jump you will experience. The power difference and speed is a challenge, it's an entirely different animal".
The CNATRA Beechcraft TC-12s were all initially purchased as UC-12Bs for base communication flights
They were pressed into the training role due to a lack of options in the multi-engine training curriculum
The Beechcraft T-44C Pegasus is a twin-engine, pressurised version of the civilian Beechcraft King Air B90 and is powered by two 550 shaft horsepower (SHP), Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34B turbo-prop engines. The primary mission of the T-44C is to provide advanced maritime flight training for students on the Specialised Undergraduate Pilot Training (SUPT) turbo-prop track. It is equipped with de-icing and anti-icing systems, augmented by instrumentation and navigation equipment which allows flight under instrument and icing conditions. The interior includes a seating arrangement for an instructor pilot, a student pilot and a second student. Two additional passenger seats are also available for general transport duties. A total of 25 of the original T-44A versions were upgraded to T-44C specification, featuring a complete re-wire and fitting of the Rockwell Collins Pro-Line 21 series avionics suite. New wing spars were also fitted to the C-versions to extend their service life, with the work being undertaken at Jacksonville's Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE). The modifications began in April 2010 and the modifications should allow the T-44C to remain in service until 2025. The T-44C fleet is assigned to squadron VT-31 at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas.
reporting to VAW-120, the C-2/E-2 Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) at NAS Norfolk, Virginia.
Future Rotary-Wing and Intermediate Tilt-Rotor training is conducted on the Bell TH-57B/C Sea Ranger at NAS Whiting Field with HT-8, HT-18 and HT-28. The rotary pipeline provides fundamental and advanced rotary skills for Student Naval Aviators selected for service in the AH-1 Cobra/Viper, UH-1 Venom, H-53 Sea Stallion, H-60 Seahawk and the H-65 Dolphin for the Navy, Marine Corps, and also the Coast Guard. As Marine Corps students destined for the MV-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor community require both rotary and fixed-wing training, they receive their Intermediate Rotary Training at TAW-5, before reporting to TAW-4 for multi-engine training in the Beechcraft TC-12B Huron prior to receiving their wings.
Maritime and Advanced Tilt-Rotor training is conducted in the T-44C Pegasus and TC-12B Huron with VT-31 and VT-35 at TAW-4. The Maritime Patrol and advance Tilt-Rotor pipelines provide foundation training for Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard aviators selected to fill seats in the P-3C Orion, P-8 Poseidon, C-130 Hercules, E-6B Mercury, HC-144 Ocean Sentry, E-2C/D Hawkeye, C-2A Greyhound, MV-22 Osprey, and C-12 Huron squadrons.
Having just hot-fuelled between missions, this VT-9 Goshawk gets marshalled towards the runway for another mission
To give us an idea of the heavy schedule at a busy training base, Mr Jay Cope, a U.S Navy Public Affairs Officer gave us some statistics about the activity at NAS Whiting Field. Latest figures available included 1.2 Million flight operations a year with over 142,000 flight hours. The base had 400 instructors, with 1300 students (750 Primary, 550 Rotary-Wing) passing through. The aircraft fleet incorporated 125 TH-57s and 141 T-6s. The T-6 (Primary Training) course currently consists of 117 days, 171 hours of classroom & ground instruction, 46 hours in the flight sim and 76 hours of actual flight time. The TH-57 (Advanced Rotary-Wing) course consists of 132 days, 122 hours of classroom & ground instruction, 40 hours in the flight sim and 114 hours of flight time.
Having just completed another exhausting set of FCLPs these students and instructor head back for a de-brief
The 'Yellow Peril' T-6B was delivered to VT-3 'Red Knights' and painted to commemorate the US Navy's Centennial in 2011
Students selected for the E-2/C-2 pipeline at the completion of primary flight training report to TAW-4 at Corpus Christi for multi-engine training in the Beechcraft T-44C Pegasus. Upon completion, students then move to either TAW-1 at Meridian or TAW-2 at Kingsville to complete a syllabus that will culminate in them conducting carrier qualifications (CarQuals) in theT-45C Goshawk, prior to
After the first 12 flights they do their solo, then they complete a further 80 hours in the 'B' doing tactics and then do familiarisation flights in the TH-57C, then instruments, airways and cross-country flights".
The international students that pass through the various Training Wings with the U.S Navy come from all over the world to gain experience. Some countries provide a regular source of pilots for training, whilst others maybe just a single student. Students from Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Thailand, Kuwait, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and India being some examples. The training is rigorous and never stops, as illustrated by the Indian student (left), studying his flight manual outside of VT-3's building prior to a morning sortie.
Training Wing Four at Corpus Christi has four squadrons, VT-27 'Boomers' and VT-28 'Rangers' both operating the Beech T-6B for basic flight training, with VT-31 'Wise Owls' and VT-35 'Stingrays' providing advanced and multi-engine training on the Beech T-44C and Beech TC-12B respectively. Primary flight training on the T-6 for SNAs lasts around 22 weeks. During this time they undergo some ground schooling, followed by simulator and flight training. The simulator and flight training consists of aircraft familiarisation, aerobatics, formation flying, night flying and finally instrument flying.
Two 'Sabrehawks' T-45Cs on approach to NAS Pensacola
The different cockpit layouts between the TH-57C (above, left) and the TH-57B (above, right) are clearly evident
Another Whiting Field resident is this TH-57C Sea Ranger, used for advanced rotary-wing training
NAETC has five Naval Air Stations involved in delivering SNA training for the U.S Navy and Marine Corps, located across the south/southeast of the United States at NAS Corpus Christie, NAS Kingsville, NAS Meridian, NAS Pensacola and NAS Whiting Field.
With a puff of black smoke, a student powers on the Rolls-Royce Adour engine as he is 'waved-off' by the Landing Signals Officer for a go-around
Multi-aircraft flights follow on, which provide the requisite skills in two and four-plane formation flights. The next phase exposes students to manual air-to-ground bombing, tactical formation, Air Combat Manoeuvring (ACM), and operational navigation at low altitude. Finally, students perform Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) in preparation for their Carrier Qualifications (CarQuals). In order to become 'tailhookers' and earn their Wings of Gold, students must safely complete four touch-and-go and ten arrested landings aboard an aircraft carrier at sea.
He told us; "We normally commence a new 'Wing' every two weeks, with around 20-30 students in each. Those students consist of not only Navy personnel but also Marine Corps, Coast Guard and international students. So we average around 23-24 Wings, with some 500 students completing their courses each year". We asked him about how the two models of TH-57 are utilised in the training syllabus; "The first 12 flights are conducted on the TH-57B. The 'B' is not instrument rated and does not have a stabilisation system, so it is much harder to fly. The idea is that if they can fly the 'B' they can fly anything, so we give them the hardest one first.
FCLP is a key component for all SNAs destined to be 'tail hookers'
In the photo above, a student does another touch and go in his T-45
We would like to thank the following for their help in completing this article;
Lt. Jesus Uranga (CHINFO)
Lt. Elizabeth Feaster (CNATRA)
Penny Randall (NAS Meridian Public Affairs)
Lt. Shane Johnson (TAW-1)
Lt. Ryan Graves (VT-9)
Ens. William McLoughlin (TAW-1)
LCDR. Dan Williams (Royal Navy)
Patrick J. Nichols (NAS Pensacola Public Affairs)
Cathy Whitney (NAS Pensacola Public Affairs)
Ens. Jorge Vega (TAW-6)
Ens. Shawn Lynch (TAW-6)
Jay Cope (NAS Whiting Field Public Affairs)
Ens. Ben Ziemski (NAS Whiting Field Public Affairs)
LCDR. Jason Uhrina (TAW-5)
‘We Train Hookers’
Having completed their Primary Training at Corpus Christi or Whiting Field on the T-6B, the SNAs destined to become 'tail-hookers' move onto the T-45C Goshawk at either Kingsville or Meridian. The mission of these two Training Wings is to provide tail-hookers for the U.S Navy and Marine Corps. The intensive 12-month course is made up of a mix of classroom study, simulator and flight instruction.
Lt. Ryan Graves, a Weapons Systems Officer (WSO) and Instructor with VT-9, joined the Navy in 2009 and joined the Hornet community via the East Coast 'RAG' with VFA-106 at NAS Oceana. He then did 3.5 years at VFA-11 'Red Rippers', including a cruise on the USS Enterprise. He followed this up in the summer of 2015 with another cruise on the USS Roosevelt, which included missions over Iraq and Syria, before becoming an instructor at NAS Meridian in October 2015. He told us about the course; "First the students complete their Ground School and sims, which lasts between 1 to 1.5 months" (This covers aerodynamics, meteorology, engineering, navigation and emergency procedures). This is followed up by some back-seat rides in the T-45 to cover the instruments. "Phase 1 then sees them start doing cross-country flights, Fams (familiarisation flights-aerobatics, approaches, stalls, emergency landings) and Field Carrier Landing Practice".
FCLP is the final Intermediate Jet part of the course and this is where the students really begin to ready themselves to be tail-hookers. Up until this stage little has been done to differentiate their training from a non-naval pilot's training. FCLP is designed to prepare the SNAs for landing on an aircraft carrier and sees them perform 'touch and goes' on a simulated flight deck painted on the runway, observed by a Landing Signals Officer (LSO) who critiques and grades their performance. There is also a Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System (known as the Meatball, or ball) on the runway verge, as fitted to all aircraft carriers and is used to assist the pilot in completing a successful trap on the flight deck.
The Bell TH-57B/C Sea Ranger is used to train Student Naval Aviators (SNA) selected for rotary-wing streaming. The TH-57 is a military version of the hugely successful commercial Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter, which was initially designed to compete in a U.S Army light observation helicopter (LOH) competition. The primary mission of the TH-57 is to train SNAs in the fundamentals of helicopter flight for their transition to operational fleet aircraft in the U.S Navy, U.S Marine Corps, Coast Guard and some international armed forces. Both models of the aircraft are powered by a single Allison 250-C20J turbo-shaft engine, down-rated to 317SHP. The original TH-57A Sea Ranger, which entered service in the mid-1960s, was replaced in January 1986 by the TH-57B version, the TH-57C subsequently joining a fleet that currently exceeds over 100 in number. The main differences between the B-model and C-model is that the B is not instrument rated and has no stabilisation system, making it a much harder aircraft to fly than the C-model. The TH-57 fleet provides advanced rotary-wing training for SNA's, with three squadrons of TAW-5 at NAS Whiting Field, FL.
Training Wing-6 at Pensacola uses the T-6A Texan II to train Naval Flight Officers
The Beechcraft T-6 Texan II is a tandem-seat, turbo-prop trainer primary trainer. It is operated in two versions by the U.S Navy, the T-6A and the T-6B (which is an upgraded avionics variant of the T-6A). The aircraft is a component of the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS), a joint programme with the U.S Air Force, which saw the T-6 replace the veteran Beech T-34C Turbo-Mentor as the Navy's primary trainer. A derivative of the Swiss-manufactured Pilatus PC-9 aircraft, the Texan II is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney PT-6A-68 engine and is equipped with Martin-Baker ejector seats, cockpit pressurisation and an on-board oxygen-generating system. The T-6B's upgraded avionics provides an all-glass cockpit using three 5"x 7" multi-function displays, a cockpit head-up display (HUD), hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls, dual-redundant integrated avionics computers, together with an open-architecture design to allow for future growth. Having initially taken delivery of a small number of T-6A aircraft, which achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC) with the Navy in August 2003, in April 2007 the Navy began a much larger procurement of the upgraded T-6B, which achieved IOC in April 2010 at NAS Whiting Field. The T-6A fleet is assigned to squadron VT-10 at NAS Pensacola, with the T-6B fleet assigned to two squadrons of TAW-4 at NAS Corpus Christi, and three squadrons of TAW-5 at NAS Whiting Field.
To make all things equal, this T-45 has VT-7 marks with a fuselage band for VT-9 'Tigers'
HT-8, HT-18 and HT-28 transition student aviators through basic and advanced rotary wing pilot training. Basic training introduces and develops the student's skills in helicopter flight manoeuvres as well as training in visual navigation and tactics. Advanced training completes an intensive curriculum of basic and radio instruments, advanced tactics and shipboard landings, culminating in a highly trained and proficient all-weather aviator.
The 'Salty Dog' fuselage band on this Goshawk represents the reserve component of VT-7 Squadron
The McDonnell-Douglas T-45C Goshawk is a naval version of the British Aerospace (BAe) Hawk aircraft and is used for the intermediate and advanced portions of the Navy/Marine Corps training programme for pilots destined for the 'fast-jet' community. It is a rare example of the U.S military adopting an aircraft of non-U.S origin in large scale numbers. The T-45 replaced both the Rockwell T-2C Buckeye intermediate trainer and the Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk advanced trainer in U.S Navy service, with the first development aircraft being rolled out at Long Beach, California, on 16th March 1988 and making its maiden flight exactly one month later on 16th April. To 'navalise' the Hawk, major changes from the standard BAe Hawk aircraft were required, comprising of a stronger twin-wheel nose landing gear with a catapult launch bar, improved nose-wheel steering and long-stroke main landing gear, stressed to withstand carrier deck landings. Twin air brakes were added on the sides of the rear fuselage in place of the single ventral air brake, a substantially strengthened airframe and intermediate engine casing, as well as U.S Navy standard cockpit instruments and radios, an On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) and Martin Baker Mk.14 ejection seats. On 16th December 1991, the first T-45A built to production standard achieved its maiden flight and was formally handed over to the Navy on 23rd January 1992. The major difference between the T-45C is that the T-45A had an analogue design cockpit, with the T-45C version built around a new digital 'glass cockpit'. Upgrading of the first 72 T-45s (which were built to T-45A standard) to T-45C standard commenced in 2002, with completion achieved by 2007. The T-45C Goshawk is in operational service with VT-21 and VT-22 at NAS Kingsville, Texas; VT-7 and VT-9 at NAS Meridian, Mississippi; and VT-86 at NAS Pensacola.
The T-45C Goshawk fleet is pushed to limit on a day to day basis
The thousands of FCLPs conducted by students require the aircraft to have a high availabilty rate
The TH-57B is used for the Student Naval Aviator's first 12 flights on their rotary-wing course before they go solo
How to identify a B-model from a C-model externally?
Look at the colour of the frame between the windscreen panels, one is red, the other white! Oh, and only one antenna below the cockpit.
LCDR Dan Williams (RN), a British officer serving with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, is currently on an 18-month tour with VT-9 as an Instructor Pilot (IP) at NAS Meridian. Having previous experience on exchange with the Royal Air Force Tornado GR.4 community, where he served 3½ years at RAF Lossiemouth, Dan completed a couple of 'Operation Telic' tours with 14 Squadron in Iraq, before returning to the Fleet Air Arm. Upon returning to the Navy he completed a 'Rotary-Wing Crossover' flying the Westland Lynx for seven years. He then did a tour as Flight Commander on HMS York, before reverting back to the fixed-wing community as an IP.
Advanced strike training for NFOs is flown by VT-86 at Pensacola using the McDonnell-Douglas T-45C Goshawk
The training focuses on Crew Resource Management (CRM), communications, and sensor utilisation, while also learning tactical procedures for various missions. Students learn how to utilise radar (including both Synthetic Aperture and Inverse Synthetic Aperture types), data links, electro-optical/Infra-red cameras, electronic surveillance, acoustic, and navigation and communications systems. MPR students utilise these systems to perform Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Electronic Warfare (EW), Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISAR), and Search and Rescue (SAR) missions. Upon graduation, NFOs transfer to VP-30 at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, for training in the P-3C, EP-3E, or P-8A. TACAMO students learn their communications protocols, prioritisation and CRM skills that prepare them for training in the Boeing E-6B before assignment to VQ-7 at Tinker, Oklahoma.
His appointment to NAS Meridian commenced in March 2015. Upon completion of his tour at Meridian he will return to RNAS Yeovilton as an EFT Flight Commander within the Navy's Military Flight Training System (MFTS). He was keen to tell us why the Royal Navy are currently sending a number of their aviators to the United States to undergo their training and was kind enough to give us an exclusive interview.
There are currently six U.K students at Meridian, with between 10-15 having already passed through the training course. There are also around ten pilots split between the Naval Air Stations at Lemoore and Oceana, although some are currently deployed as both frontline pilots and instructors. Dan told us that there is a mix of aircrew at NAS Meridian, with a variety of experience, explaining firstly why the UK aircrew are here; "Currently we have guys who have already undergone their Elementary Flying Training on the (Grob) Tutor in the U.K, following on with the Shorts Tucano, and guys who have done Hawk and Harrier conversion courses tailored to their experience levels. He went on; "The principle is, since we lost the Harrier, we lost that organic jet capability in the Royal Navy, so we have to grow our pilots and their experience so that we have a pool of people we can put in the F-35 when we get the new carriers. The initial squadron for the F-35 (in the UK) will be RAF-led, but will also be manned with RN personnel. In time, the next squadron will be 809 Naval Air Squadron (NAS). So as to ensure we have a cadre of people with sufficient experience, back in the UK we have people flying the (BAe) Hawk with 736 NAS, guys on exchange with the French, guys in frontline jobs with VX-9 for instance at China Lake and guys over at Lemoore and Oceana. So as to grow people to fill those 'slots' at Lemoore and Oceana, they come through here".
A Few 'Specials'
NAS Meridian has a number of T-45C Goshawks painted in 'special' schemes. Sadly they all remained under the numerous sun-sheds whilst we were on base, nevertheless we managed to photograph them all. There is one each to represent both VT-7 and VT-9, one representing VT-7's reserve component and another painted to represent the U.S Navy Centenary celebrations held back in 2011.
The ramps at Whiting Field are hive of activity, with the constant buzz of TH-57s arriving and departing
Training Wing Two at Kingsville also operates with two squadrons under its command, VT-21 'Redhawks' and VT-22 'Golden Eagles'. The two squadrons here both fly the McDonnell-Douglas T-45C Goshawk and operate the same pilot training programme as Training Wing One at NAS Meridian, before passing their students onto the respective Navy and Marine Corps Fleet Replacement Squadrons (FRS), where the qualified pilots transition to their assigned frontline aircraft such as the EA/FA-18, AV-8, EA-6, C/E-2 and in the future the F-35.
Training Wing Two is responsible for providing 50% of the U.S Navy and Marine Corps tactical jet pilots each year. Over 200 students a year report to Kingsville for Undergraduate Jet Pilot Training. At any given time, TAW-2 consists of approximately 250 SNAs, 75 instructor pilots, 80 civilian personnel and around 100 T-45C aircraft.
We spoke to LCDR Jason Uhrina about the rotary-wing training programme. LCDR Uhrina, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, joined the Navy in 2001. He did his primary fixed-wing training at NAS Corpus Christi in March 2002 and commenced his rotary-wing training in June of the same year. He then went on to fly the Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon for three years with HM-15 at Corpus Christi, during which time he took part in tsunami relief operations in Indonesia and also flew relief during the hurricane Katrina effort in New Orleans. Following his service with HM-15 he returned to Whiting Field as an instructor, serving three years with HT-8 and three years with HT-28. He currently holds the position of 'Rotary-Wing Ops' at Whiting and has over 3,000 hours in the Sea Ranger.
In line with the fact that the U.S Navy also train Marine Corps aircrew, many aircraft also wear Marine titles as per the T-44 above
VT-10 at Pensacola conducts Primary Phases I & II for all NFOs using the T-6A Texan II
Of note is that these are the only Navy T-6s to wear a blue/white scheme similar to that worn by USAF aircraft
This T-45 Goshawk was one of several aircraft painted in 2011 for the U.S Navy Centenary
The Beechcraft TC-12B is utilised for Advanced Maritime and Advanced MV-22 pilot training at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas
Seen turning in on approach to Pensacola is #165974
All U.S Navy A-model T-6s are based with VT-10 at Pensacola
VT-31 has flown the T-44 since 1977 providing primary, maritime and advanced tilt-rotor, multi-engine training for Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard pilots destined for aircraft such as the C/E-2, P-3, P-8, C-130, E-6 and MV-22. VT-35 also provides maritime and advanced tilt-rotor training alongside VT-31.
Almost 300 Beech T-6B Texan II are in use with five U.S Navy squadrons, three at Whiting Field and two at Corpus Christi