yeah, I know it's not Rotary Wing but the attached may be of interest to some here who don't access DefenceNet: Navy Harrier Force Settles into New Home 20/10/2004 The Dark Blues here rub shoulders with Light Blue colleagues at the home of the Joint Force Harrier, RAF Wittering and sister base Cottesmore, up in the hills around Stamford. Lt. Cdr. Kev Seymour goes through checks in the Harrier cockpit Royal Navy officer Lt Cdr Kev Seymour lands his Harrier safely on the deck alongside the familiar ski ramp as Lt Iain Ritchie, in the Meteorology Office, monitors the weather. Elsewhere, in the hangar, AEMs Steve Walker and Paul Stocks carry out maintenance on Harrier jet engines. A typical Dark Blue scenario â but miles from the sea, and not even in a stone frigate. For the Dark Blues here rub shoulders with Light Blue colleagues at home of the Joint Force Harrier, RAF Wittering and sister base Cottesmore, up in the hills around Stamford. The new set-up is by no means a Navy enclave surrounded by an overwhelming take-over force. As far as the Naval contingent is concerned, âjointâ means just that â RN and RAF work and play side by side. The colours mingle, but neither fades nor darkens. The white shirts and dark uniforms of the Navy started to arrive at the RAFâs bases in Cambridgeshire and Rutland two years ago, in preparation for the planned move of the three Naval Air Squadrons and their aircraft. However, around the same time the decision was taken that the Sea Harrier FA2 fleet was to retire early, and all RN and RAF Harrier pilots and engineers were to unite in an upgraded all-Harrier-GR9 force by 2007. So for the Navy it is not only a new base, but a new aircraft â the ground-attack Harrier in place of the interceptor Sea Harrier. Lt Cdr Kev Seymour heads up the Naval contingent at the Operational Conversion Unit â 20 Squadron in RAF eyes, the FA2 899 Naval Air Squadron in Navy parlance. His experience of flying AV8s â the American version of the Harrier GR7 â in the United States made him among the first to report to Wittering in the summer of 2002. Described frankly as âsix months of painâ, Kev completed the various courses to make him a Qualified Warfare Instructor in the Harrier GR7, ready to train the next intake of Naval fliers, whether the new pilots tackling the reality of the Harrier for the first time, or the cross-overs going from fighter to bomber, forging the familiarities of the unfamiliar. Cross-over pilot Lt Rob Fenwick said that similarities between the aircraft did not make life any easier: âItâs a double-edged sword. They are similar but different. In many ways it is a completely different aircraft, although still a Harrier.â Kev Seymour added: âThe Navy has a lot to learn about operating strike aircraft. We used to do it â look at the Buccaneer, among others. We have got to relearn Navy lessons.â RAF Witteringâs station commander, Grp Capt Mike Jenkins, reinforced the point: âThe difficulty is making sure people donât view this as something new and out of the blue. Itâs nothing really new. The Air Force and Navy have been operating together throughout their history. I flew with the Navy during the Falklands Campaign. Itâs just been dressed up in a new package â only a turning of the wheel.â Lt. Cdr. Kev Seymour checks his Harrier's airframe Normally there are around 16 pilots under training at Wittering, split into groups of four. At the moment there is one RN pilot to three RAF, but by March next year these numbers are expected to equalise. Grp Capt Jenkins said: âIt takes three years to ensure that the right personnel are at the right levels to achieve true Naval squadrons. We canât allow RN air squadrons to be predominantly manned in key roles by Air Force personnel. It is essential to maintain the Fleet Air Arm ethos that these are predominantly Naval squadrons.â Kev Seymour sees the convergence of the two Services as a positive change: âItâs brought a lot of new people into fast jet â fresh thoughts and fresh faces. Most of the guys in 800 Squadron knew that they were coming up here â in fact they wanted to come up here. âYes, itâs a joint force, but we are still in the Navy, just working in a joint environment. Itâs in transition at the moment. By 2006, once the two Naval squadrons are up the road at Cottesmore, it should be no different to Yeovilton. Working with the RAF is not new for us, this is more a final convergence.â There are some differences between the methods of the two Services, as Kev explained: âThe Royal Navy traditionally do not train their engineers on the front line. When a squadron deploys at sea, they need a fully-manned deployable unit. The RAF are used to completing some of their training at the squadrons. âThe âschoolhouseâ concept has been brought in, where the Air Force looks at the Navy and adopts some of our policies, so training down here is coming some way towards the Naval system. âWeâre coming together as we learn to work with each other. So weâre also looking at our guys. Weâre giving our trainees more responsibility earlier, so that they become equivalent to their RAF colleagues.â CPO Phillip Spencer, one of the senior rates leading the technical work at RAF Wittering, said: âThe biggest problem is that we have two distinctly different Services who do things differently. I came up here 15 months ago to start to cross these bridges.â PO Nicky Howse added: âThe trade structures are very different between us and the RAF. Bridging that was very difficult when we first got up here.â RAF counterparts have traditionally been focused on a single trade. and are usually older, whereas the Navyâs rates have a broader skill base. However, both Services are looking at their aircraft trades and reducing differences between the two. Phillip Spencer said: âThis is one of the best examples of a joint service environment.â Nicky Howse added: âIt works well here. Itâs accepted that we have a lot we can learn from the RAF, and they have a lot to learn from us. Things are always difficult in the transition stage â but itâs all right up here now, so things can only get better.â Cpl. Rob Sterland and LAEA Paul Power in the 20 Squadron Hanger AEMs Steve Walker and Paul Stocks work in the Harrier Propulsion hangar, carrying out scheduled servicing and maintenance â the only two Navy workers, but dressed in RAF green overalls. But Steve pointed at his Royal Navy shoulder flash: âIâve still got these. They know weâre Navy. In our blue overalls thereâs still a barrier between us and them.â Paul added: âBut we feel part of the team, all in matching gear. We donât stand out." They pointed out that on board ship their Air Force equivalents wear the dark blue rig of the Royal Navy. Paul said: âTheyâve had to do it for years now. We should be seen to take an active role in the changes too.â The two see no problems with the move of the Harrier squadrons up to the Midlands. For the pair, with homes in Manchester and Lancashire, the move only brings advantage â a better location, good amenities and new challenges. The officers remain aware that there is more to be honed than just Harrier skills. Kev Seymour said: âThe big thing we had to get right is the divisional system here. The people here should get what they need, with all the facilities, all the administration they require.â The first steps have been taken with a Waterfront Manning Office set up in its own block at RAF Wittering. It currently cares for about 160 personnel split between the two sites, but this will rise to some 500 once the move is completed in 2007. At Joint Force Harrier the Navy and RAF will work side by side, a truly joint unit with aviation staff split 50:50 between the Services. Once the squadrons move up to their new home at Cottesmore, 800 and 801 NAS will retain a majority of Naval personnel, while their RAF counterparts in 1 and 4 Squadrons maintain a predominant â but not exclusive â light blue character. An equal balance will reign at the Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Wittering. And Naval identity will not fade away in this new joint force. At Wittering, CPO Nick Wyld, the Station Fire Officer, sits beneath a shirt given to him by his RAF-RN firefighting squad. Carefully stitched together, the shirt â half Naval white, half RAF blue â hangs on the wall, a joke but also a symbol of what joint means. He sees the addition of another air base a useful tool in the RNâs firefighting kit, giving Naval airmen vital experience for their firefighting function. But certain divisions will always remain between the two Services. Nick Wyld sits and proudly strokes his Naval sideburns, an adornment that regulations forbid a RAF serviceman. Naval regulations forbid the handlebar moustache, in case anyone was tempted â¦ >> Couple of years ago, the first Royal Marine fixed wing aviator for a generation joined the Harrier Force. Dunno whether he's still flying. I take it fast jets are barred to AAC pilots ? Le Chevre - groundborn when not afloat.