We have collective experience in everything from attack helicopters to Typhoon jets, artillery leaders to cyber intelligence specialists. Despite this, a question often asked, and perhaps with a sceptical view of our ex-military credentials, is ‘how do you stay current’?.
Currency is a key requirement for many in the military; it’s what makes the front line sharp. Pilots, for example, have to adhere to a plethora of rules and regulations to allow them to remain ‘current’. These may be things such as monthly flying hours, practice emergency simulators or tactically focused events and annual medicals to name but a few. Flying, fighting and deploying overseas all provide experience, knowledge and wisdom in order to enable the present generation to do their jobs and therefore remain current. As does keeping up to speed with the latest threat assessments and tactics.
So, are we here at Inzpire current in the same respect that our military friends need to be? Our Qualified Helicopter Instructors certainly are, but the rest of us probably not so. I would argue that this is not an issue and in some ways it is an advantage. There is no requirement for many of us to do those ‘basic currency events’ such as emergency handling and, of course, those time consuming secondary duties which means that we can focus on the tactical and technological aspects. Take, for example, Ex STEEL DRAGON that runs for 19 weeks per year at the Air Battlespace Training Centre (ABTC), where Inzpire make up the majority of the operations staff. Those of us who are Close Air Support (CAS) Subject Matter Experts certainly aren’t current in the physical flying of our previous fighter platforms. But over the 19 weeks the Exercise runs we fly our simulators in a fully representative way with accurate communications and weapons. We do this in a fully contested and complex battlespace, adhering to rules of engagement where we can conduct fully joint ‘live’ fires. I certainly feel as current in CAS as I ever did on the front line and on top of that I have the luxury of being able to instantly face-to-face debrief with the person who has been controlling me after the event and conduct a full after action review within a couple of hours of the exercise end. You rarely get to do that through live flying on the front line – it’s just not practical. And I certainly never spent 19 weeks a year conducting CAS in a contested battlespace back when I was flying on the front line.
Exercise STEEL DRAGON only makes up half the training throughout the year at the ABTC. The other half is spent flying simulated Composite Air Operations (large formations of fighters, bombers and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms) for Typhoon, E-3D AWACs, Royal Navy Type-45 Ops Teams and Rivet Joint training. These are complex missions flown against formidable simulated adversaries that require a deep understanding of the air battle tactics and procedures.
At Inzpire we are regularly embedded with the military as part of what is known as the ‘Whole Force’. This means that we can keep up to date with current tactics and are acutely aware of emerging adversary threats. We have teams working with the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Fast Jet Qualified Weapons Instructor (QWI) courses (the flagship flying courses in the RAF); have ex-army gunnery instructors, intelligence specialists and Air Battlespace Managers, all working together. In the military I rarely got regular face time with this many people with so many differing and complementary backgrounds. And that provides a whole new perspective on remaining tactically current; my knowledge is much broader now than it ever was when I was current live flying.
Being part of the team at Inzpire really isn’t that different to being part of a front line squadron…although with fewer secondary duties and slightly less excitement. I always remember one of the ‘old’ members of my first flying Squadron telling us that, on his 40th birthday, we had to remember he wasn’t old…he was experienced. Now that I’m over 40 and retired from the military I’d concur. And in my present role at the ABTC I feel as tactically current as I ever was on the front line.
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The author of this blog has chosen to remain anonymous.