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Harrier GR7
Pilot wings
Sea King Mk4

Pilot training is extremely demanding. Whilst civilian pilots are required to fly from Airport A to Airport B military pilots need to operate their aircraft in demanding environments over hostile terrain around the world. As well as flying the aircraft they are increasingly system and weapon operators and many of the attributes associated with the Observer are equally important to a pilot. They complete the same basic selection process as the Observers with an annual requirement of around 60 places at BRNC to be filled. Grading takes place at Plymouth on a light piston aircraft and those that are successful join in service candidates such as Royal Marine Officers at the Defence Elementary Flying Training School (DEFTS) at RAF Barkston Heath to complete EFT on the Firefly. The RN has up to 60 places a year at DEFTS and aims to select around 10 a year in to the fast jet pipeline with the rest being selected for rotary wing training.

DEFTS teaches core flying skills such as general handling instrument and navigation flying and introduces some advanced sorties such as low flying, formation and composite sorties. Students can expect to go solo after about 10 hours and successful students who also complete a small CAA accredited groundschool package are eligible for the award of a Private Pilots' Licence

Fast jet candidates will follow the RAF fast jet pipeline and need to be fully committed to complete the training and be selected for a single seat fast jet cockpit and employment in the Joint Harrier Force flying the GR7 or 9. With 10 selected from EFT and 5 slots a year on the Harrier OCU there is stiff competition and RN pilots are not able to dispose to twin seat cockpits like the Tornado F3 or GR4. The pipeline involves up to a year at RAF Linton flying the Tucano undertaking Basic Fast Jet Training. On completion RN students move to RAF Valley for a year to fly the Hawk and complete Advanced and Tactical Fast Jet training. The Harrier OCU is at RAF Wittering and on completion the RN fast jet Pilot will find himself employed and deployed onboard ship or ashore in operational theatres like Afghanistan. If at anytime the RN Pilots fails to meet the demanding fast jet standards all is not lost as they will re-streamed into the RW pipeline where experience shows they should have the necessary aptitude and skills to complete training. The RN also takes a small number of rotary wing pilots out of the frontline and retrains them for the fast jet pipeline. Known as the 'AIR 309 Course' this has been a rich seam of fast jet talent over the years.

Those selected for Rotary Wing Pilot, on completion of EFT, go to the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury the tri-service helicopter school where the RN trains around 40 students a year. This figure is set to climb slowly over the next few years to a maximum of around 45. The students complete Basic and Advanced Rotary Flying Training on the single engine Squirrel aircraft before being streamed for OCU. Courses are tri-service of up to 16 in number from Army Corporals to RN Lieutenants and training lasts around 6 months.

DHFS has a similar training profile to DEFTS with basic handling being taught on 660 Squadron before more advanced techniques are taught on 705 Squadron. The RN Pilots conduct low level navigation down to 100 feet, mountain flying, winching, instrument and formation flying as well as a very important captaincy phase where all disciplines are drawn together. This latter phase is vital in inculcating the naval pilot in the multi crew concept whilst operating independently. On completion up to 16 RN students a year are streamed to the Sea King Mk IV a Commando Support Helicopter which operates in the Commando Helicopter Force as part of the Joint Helicopter Command, 12 are streamed to the Merlin OCU and 9 to Lynx OCU. RN Sea King SAR and SKASaC pilots are normally drawn from the frontline types however the RN currently has a small requirement to train ab-inito students in these roles at the rate of about 4 a year. RM Pilots take a slightly different route after DHFS going to the School of Army Aviation at Middle Wallop staying on the Squirrel and completing Army Operational Training Phase before converting to the Lynx on 847 NAS at RNAS Yeovilton. Merlin and Lynx Mk 8 pilots join up with their observer counterparts conducting mostly joint training building the crew concept.

Commando pilots convert to the Sea King IV at RNAS Yeovilton and go onto learn to operate the aircraft in the SH role maintaining a focus on the amphibious environment. Initially completing groundschool and simulator training at RNAS Culdrose they are trained in NVG operations from an early stage and complete mountain flying detachments and an embarked phase to gain deck landing qualifications. The course is capped by a deployed exercise where the pilots put everything together in the field.