Report and pictures courtesy of the Corporate Communications Office, RAF Waddington
For the fifth time in its 91-year history, V (Army Cooperation) Squadron reformed, this time at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire on 1 April 2004.
The new squadron commander, Wing Commander Bill Hughes, said that although the unit is not yet equipped with aircraft or vehicles, it is the beginning of its new life and it was important to commemorate such an occasion. He said, "It is a great honour and a privilege to be the 65th commander of 5 Squadron, and I am delighted to be leading the unit as it returns to the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance role, the role that the Squadron performed in 1914, shortly after its foundation as a part of the Royal Flying Corps".
Wing Commander Hughes, who currently has 20 personnel under command, will eventually lead a squadron of some 300 airmen and soldiers, who will jointly man the new ASTOR (Airborne STand-Off Radar) system, using the Sentinel R Mk 1 aircraft and imagery exploitation ground stations.
After a short ceremony, a commemorative plaque was unveiled by Air Commodore Nigel Williams, representing 3 Group, Strike Command, and by Brigadier Peter Everson, Director Intelligence Corps and head of the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre. They both emphasised the importance of inter-service cooperation in bringing ASTOR into service.
Air Commodore Williams said, "It is a challenging and demanding project that is breaking new ground to develop a unique capability into the battlespace".
Speaking for the Army, Brigadier Everson echoed the significance of ASTOR as a new capability for defence as a whole, delivering the right information to the right people at the right time, and said that the mixture of Army and RAF personnel on V(AC) Squadron reflected what 'jointery' was all about. He wished the Squadron "good fortune, and good hunting!"
Over the past few years, the personnel of RAF Waddington, and the contractors, Raytheon Systems Limited and Mowlems, have been working hard to prepare for the arrival of this exciting new capability. They have constructed purpose-built headquarters, hangar facilities and new car parks, all of which have been well-received by their new occupants.
The operational crews in the air and on the ground will be a mix of Army and RAF personnel, The Ground Stations are built on Steyr-Pinzgauer 6x6 vehicles, and will provide direct support to brigade and divisional commanders in the field. The Sentinel R1 aircraft is a militarised version of the Canadian Bombardier Global Express business jet, the first of which is due to conduct its UK flight trials early in 2005.
Soon, the people of Lincolnshire will see a new shape in the skies around Waddington to complement the distinctive and already familiar E-3D AWACS and the Nimrod R1 - the Sentinel R Mk 1 of V(Army Cooperation) Squadron.