Lethal Weapons

RAF Leuchars in Fife, Scotland played host to the operational phase of the latest Qualified Weapons Instructor (QWI) course from 14-24th November 2005.

Séan Wilson reports.

The QWI course is organised by the Air Warfare Centre at RAF Waddington and this year would see aircraft from several RAF frontline units flying alongside USAF F-15C/Ds from the 493rd Fighter Squadron based at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk.

Sqn Ldr Andrea McColl of the Air Warfare Centre said “The QWI course lasts five months. It begins with an initial two weeks combined ground school where pilots and navigators learn about the weaponry of various aircraft. This is followed by five months of training back at their respective squadrons in the use of the weaponry specific to their own aircraft. The course culminates in the operational phase, the Combined QWI (CQWI), where everything learnt over the past five months is put into practice. Each morning the QWI students are given an Air Tasking Order (ATO). They then need to plan the appropriate missions required to fulfil the objectives laid out by the ATO. The Hercules is included in the course to give the students an opportunity to integrate a slow mover into their mission plans”.

The RAF’s E-3D Sentry AEW.1 from 8/23 Squadron acted as the command centre for the participating aircraft during what were effectively mock wars, with additional Airborne Early Warning coverage being provided by Royal Navy ASaC.7 Sea Kings. Further to its role as command centre, the E-3D also acted as an ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) platform.

In total a typical strike package involved approximately 30 aircraft. Harrier GR.7/GR.7As conducted close air support missions while Tornado GR.4/GR.4As operated in the strike and SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defence) roles. Offensive and defensive air missions were carried out by Tornado F.3s.

FR Aviation’s Dassault Falcon 20s operated in the electronic warfare role, providing communication and radar jamming. Together with F-15C/Ds, Tornado F.3s and Hawk T.1s these provided the opposition for the strike package.

During the ten day course F-15 pilots were seen wearing the new Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS). This clip-on package was initially intended for use with the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. The JHMCS enables pilots to cue air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons as well as radar and infrared sensors by simply looking at the target. Vital information such as targeting cues, airspeed, altitude and range-to-target are displayed directly onto the pilot's visor therefore providing them with a first look, first shot, first kill advantage.

The QWI course is an essential part of pilot and navigator training. The successful students return as qualified weapons instructors now able to pass on weapons tactics to the other aircrew within their squadrons.




Type                                                 Squadron(s)

Harrier GR.7/GR.7A/T.10               3, 20(R)*

Hawk T.1A                                       19(R)*

Hercules C.3                                    Lyneham Transport Wing

E-3D Sentry AEW.1                        23

Tornado F.3                                     25, 56(R)*

Tornado GR.4                                  2, Lossiemouth Tornado Wing (12, 14, 15)

Sea King ASaC.7                           849 NAS



Type                                                 Squadron(s)

F-15C/D                                           493rd FS

Hawk T.1A                                       100

Tornado F.3                                     43

Falcon 20                                         FR Aviation

* - QWI students were from 19(R), 20(R) and 56(R) Squadrons.


A similar version of this article first appeared in AirForces Monthly February 2006 pp8-9.

Thanks to Sqn Ldr Andrea McColl without whose help this article would not have been possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 19 January 2006




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© Séan Wilson 2005