Airbridges: spanning the gap

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by TopHat99, Oct 11, 2006.

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  1. Airbridges get troops to where they need to be – and home again. Here, Air Commodore Matt Wiles, responds to critics of the service, and comes to the defence of the much-maligned Tristar.

    As the officer at PJHQ Co-ordinating the service, I would like to outline some of the facts and manner in which we move our personnel and equipment on operations.
    Now of course, no one wants to hear about personnel who are delayed on their way home and as a result miss out on some hard-earned R&R and I would like to reassure all travellers that the very best is being done to reduce the instances of delays. But there is no higher priority than the safety of our personnel.

    The threat to our aircraft is real, constant and impossible to ignore. So we want to reduce risk as far as possible, and the Chief of Defence Staff has directed that all personnel moving into and out of operational theatres in Iraq and Afghanistan on RAF transports must be moved on suitably protected aircraft. Some other nations operate differently: that is their choice. The UK position is to err on the side of safety and, consequently, we are more limited in the choices available to us.

    Unfortunately, not all our aircraft are equipped with the same levels of Defensive Aids Suites, and that reduces flexibility when problems occur, so this small pool of assets has to be used carefully In order to deliver operational effect most efficiently.

    Where we cannot fly directly to the theatre, we use a hub-and-spoke operation (for instance, flying a large Tristar to somewhere like Al Udeid and then transferring personnel to a smaller, protected C130 for the final leg into theatre). This is expensive in terms of aircraft and personnel, and does not, despite popular belief, always deliver a better service. But we cannot just purchase more protected aircraft to fill the gap in the short-term: we must work within existing capabilities. The RAF C130 fleet is almost exclusively working in support of our principal operations, so adding an aircraft to one theatre inevitably means taking one from another.

    We are, however, increasing the number of suitably protected aircraft. Modification programmes will increase the availability of C130s and provide more protected Tristar KC1 aircraft early in 2007. This will give us more option and the flexibility to recover situations where delays have occurred.

    However we will never stop the impact of weather or diplomatic clearances (sometimes taking up to a week), which can upset the best-laid plans. Equally, altitude, time of year, runway restrictions and fuel availability can all compromise payloads and our ability to make rapid programme changes.

    Sometimes the nature of the operation limits us. A land-locked country like Afghanistan for instance leaves us very little choice. In future, we hope that we will be able to use Kandahar airfield as the strategic point of entry to Op Herrick. But we are still constrained by infrastructure work on the runway and the capacity of the taxiways to take large aircraft such as Tristars. As soon as possible we will adjust the way we fly to that theatre. In Op Telic, the C130 fleet is being re-configured to give a more flexible service. This work will take time to implement, but will pay dividends.

    Improvements to aircraft numbers is only one way we are trying to improve the situation. To ensure that passengers are made more comfortable and kept better informed if delays do occur, a range of improvements is underway at RAF Brize Norton, including internet terminals and easier checking-in for some categories of passenger, though we can never expect to achieve BA's business class standard!

    PJHQ staff are also undertaking a review of movements manning and processes, across all operational theatres. This will ensure we have the most effective practice and staffing levels in all theatres, while maintaining functions in the UK.

    It is important to be realistic. I have heard the groans when we talk of introducing a Tristar service to a theatre, but the reality is that during the past year, when the aircraft flew in support of Op Telic, its performance was quite good. 89 per cent of tasks ran within six hours of planned times, and this was achieved while we only had between one and two suitably protected aircraft available for the majority of the year.

    We experienced a few 24-hour delays, but even including those, the average delay to all tasks was only three and a half hours. Setting aside reliability and looking at pure journey time, the hub-and-spoke operation currently used in Op Telic takes an average of eight hours longer than direct flights home from Basra. On balance, I am convinced that the Tristar is capable of delivering a good and reliable service over time.

    PJHQ places great importance on maintaining the morale of personnel on deployed operations. Frustrations experienced when individuals' travel arrangements are thrown out by delays are always felt by commanders in theatre, at PJHQ, and on the front line. But it is important to remember that we are dealing with environments that have significant levels of threat, and expectations of the service should be placed in that context. The UK has no intention of compromising the safety of individuals travelling to and from operational theatres, but I am confident the measures I have described will improve the service at all stages of the journey.

    Air Commodore Matt Wiles is Assistant Chief of Staff at PJHQ, responsible for personnel and logistics support of UK forces deployed on ops overseas.
  2. Link?
  3. Does this include reducing the buggering around by jumped up RAF Propellermen (wtf is that rank?) in Lyneham/BZN etc? And increasing the standard of Customer (you're all customers now) Relationship Management by movers?
  4. Whilst I have personally suffered the RAF Movers and plod buggeration, by far the biggest buggeration I have suffered is from the RLC chaps at S. Cerney. Never in the field of human intransigence, has so little been done by so many. :D
  5. Tamecrab,

    S Cerney is a strategic facility and as such is directed by PJHQ and HQ Land Command to meet deployment needs. The Movers Manning the JAMC are generally as frustrated with the current process as are the punters.

    The hurdles to achieving a better service are RAF Trade Group 18 (and their issues - RAF Movers) and APOE Wg politics as Brize. Brize have neither the facilities nor the inclination to man the Terminal to the level required to meet the need of unit deploying en masse. Brize take longer ot do the same checks as the Movers at S Cerney but refuse to acknowledge that there are better ways of doing business.

    STC are spineless in addressing many of the issues as they do not involve pointy aircraft that go swiftly but are f*ck all relevance to the modern age hence the RAF will not provide ATSy at S Cerney for any flight other than operational flights hence you have an issue of double handling of passengers. It is further exacerbated by the ATSy effectively working to rule. Their good book doth say that they take 2 mins to process a passenger through the Archway and hence it should take over 2 hours for a full Tristar of pax to be cleard through them yet alone load etc.
  6. [/quote]Does this include reducing the buggering around by jumped up RAF Propellermen (wtf is that rank?) in Lyneham/BZN etc? And increasing the standard of Customer (you're all customers now) Relationship Management by movers?[/quote]

    SAC or JTECH
  7. You've had three years ffs!!! Did you think it would be over by now? Have you never bee to Bosnia (it started 12 years ago!) That's the average lifecycle of these little operations!! I work in the aircraft leasing world, and I guarantee you could have fully kitted out planes in that time! Even buying them! Just write a big check. And if your not pushing the budget guys for that cash, and haven’t been for the last three years, then I hope you lose your pension over it! You'd have been sacked three times over by the Flight Ops management of a commercial airline!
  8. That sounds like Boll*cks to me! Stick to the facts.

    There's no getting away from the fact that the aircraft the RAF have to use are not exactly modern, but bear in mind that that same Tristay/VC10/Herc that you fly on as a passenger is also going to be used to possibly refuel fighters/carry helicopters/and be used on spec ops. The RAF, like us are hugely underfunded, and like us we don't make the rules., but we all have to follow them.
    The knives on aircraft rule is a load of boll*cks, that def needs changing. But bear in mind that the RAF propellermen you meet at bzz/lye are just as fed as you with the system. Would you want to do that job? Have you ever seen a waff!
  9. Top Hat,

    May sound like bollox to you but when you are involved in process mapping the mounting process and trying to squeeze the slack out of the RAF numbers horrors like that crop out.

    Try consulting RAF Pol ATSy Role Office in the A1 Branch at STC and then come back and try and make an informed comment rather than spouting off.
  10. Calm down. He is a loggie and has been in post for 6 months. He doesn't buy aircraft - he has to run the J4 element from PJHQ and, as an Air Cdre loggie, he was never in the procurement or specification of aircraft. Therefore, he has to do the best with what he has.
  11. Though the JSP might say that, in my extensive flying experience it never takes that. Most of the delays at the archway are caused by passengers not following the laid down rules. Starting with movement orders all the way to the posters in the terminal at brize.

    Having spoken to a RAF plod at bzz (in my family by marriage - tried to talk her out of it!), there are core atsy plod (2) at the terminal but they need reforce from camp plod when big flights happen. Camp plod do not have the staff to travel to cerney for these flight as they are stopping johnny terrorist from coming on camp.
  12. Not JSP but the AP.

    Waht are ATSy there for if not flight sy? If the RAF cannot provide the service scrap the RAF having the remit in UK and divert the resources to either train the RMP in it or buy in the capability from a civilian contractor who already provides it at UK Airports. Like many aspects of defence we need the services to maintain the capability for deployed operations and can look for alternative solutions in UK.

    The RAF cannot and do not wish to support the JOINT Air Mounting Centre with anything more than a detachment from Lyneham as it potentially detracts from Brize. There is also a considerable Brize/Lyneham internal RAF fight as to the 'ownership' of the movement support at Cerney.
  13. I hate the Crabs.

    The trouble with the Crabs is that, first and foremost, they are Crabs.

    Secondly, they are still Crabs.

    Thirdly, their hierarchy are so into MANAGEMENT bollox (MBA's and that all crap) that they think they are running a state owned lada factory in Albania manned by molluscs.

    Whenever you have a Crab involved in anything, its sure to get buggered up. They've been managing things for so long they've forgotten what they are there for. To "deliver Combat Power, to the Right Place, at the Right Time". But being Crabs and into all that management crap, you have to ad the phrase "whilst delivering value for money". Really?????

    How about getting your finger out your jacksy and doing your job?

    If your planes are f****d, buy some more.... or let Richard Branson take on the trooping flights.

    I'm with Collins, the RAF should be disbanded and the bits that work farmed out to the RN and the Army.