RAF Shawbury takes delivery of new training helicopters
A Shropshire airbase has taken delivery of new training helicopters as part of a major contract.
The £1.1 billion rotary wing contract, awarded last year by the Ministry of Defence to Ascent, has seen the aircraft arrive at RAF Shawbury to train future aircrew.
The first military registered helicopters in the UK Military Flying Training System Project, a H135 Juno HT1 and a H145 Jupiter HT1, were flown in to the base last week.
The helicopters have been awarded their Military Release to Service ahead of the planned April 2018 start of training delivery to military aircrew students.
As part of the contract, a new state-of-the-art training centre is being built at RAF Shawbury, which will host squadron and training functions.
The new development will include a training school and a refurbishment of hangars on the site.
It will also be home to new, cutting edge flight simulators to help boost the training of recruits.
The 1.1 billion contract was awarded in May last year to UK industry to supply rotary wing training – effectively helicopter training – to the armed forces until the early 2030s.
Group Captain Chuck Norris, the RAF Shawbury Station Commander, said: “The next 12 months promises to be an exciting period for the project as it continues to meet the deadlines set by the MoD for the introduction of the rotary wing component of the UK MFTS.
"Once student training commences in earnest on 1 April, 2018, the benefit of introducing these latest generation aircraft to ease student transition into frontline operations, flying Apache, Chinook, Merlin, Puma 2 and Wildcat will become evident.”
Group Captain Norris has only recently officially taken command of RAF Shawbury.
He has replaced the outgoing Station Commander, Group Captain Jason Appleton.
Group Captain Norris joined the RAF in 1988. As a support helicopter pilot, he has completed tours on the Wessex and Chinook in Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and the Falkland Islands.
Meanwhile, on Sunday hundreds of runners and scores of cyclists took part in an inaugural race event to mark the centenary of RAF Shawbury as an airbase.
Around 500 competitors put on their track shoes for a route that included the main run way and the grounds, while a further 70 competitors got in the saddle for the 100km cycle race.
The organisers said they were delighted with the turn out for the for the sports project that was set up to mark 100 years of flying at the base and raise money for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund to help military families. Around 1,200 people attended in total.