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What did the RAF do with its fast jet navigators after the Tornado was retired?


Procopius
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As I understand it, with Typhoon and the Lightning II being the two frontline aircraft, the RAF now has no two-seat frontline aircraft following the retirement of the Tornados. This must have left a fairly large number of aircrew navigators with no role on the frontline fast jet squadrons. Where did they go? Did they retire, or go other aircraft, or retrain as pilots, or...?

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Probably, all of the above, as an educated guess. 

 

Cheers. 

 

Chris.  

 

PS: I remember talking to a RAF Marham Tornado navigator some years ago. To my great surprise, he described his day-job as "boring". Some people don't know they're born, is my response to that.  

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15 minutes ago, spruecutter96 said:

 

PS: I remember talking to a RAF Marham Tornado navigator some years ago. To my great surprise, he described his day-job as "boring". Some people don't know they're born, is my response to that.  

 

Beep. Screen angles to the right. Beep. Screen angles to the left. Beepbeepbeepbeep. Seat flies up through the roof.

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1 hour ago, Procopius said:

As I understand it, with Typhoon and the Lightning II being the two frontline aircraft, the RAF now has no two-seat frontline aircraft following the retirement of the Tornados. This must have left a fairly large number of aircrew navigators with no role on the frontline fast jet squadrons. Where did they go? Did they retire, or go other aircraft, or retrain as pilots, or...?

They all got lost?

 

Selwyn

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2 hours ago, Procopius said:

As I understand it, with Typhoon and the Lightning II being the two frontline aircraft, the RAF now has no two-seat frontline aircraft following the retirement of the Tornados. This must have left a fairly large number of aircrew navigators with no role on the frontline fast jet squadrons. Where did they go? Did they retire, or go other aircraft, or retrain as pilots, or...?

 

'Tis the way of things, isn't it? - WOP/AGs, air bombers, air signallers, flight engineers, navs, miners, milkmen...

 

But then it always was supposed to be a pilots' air force. Full circle?

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A serious answer: there are numerous possible jobs for ex-navigators in any highly professional air force (not just with the RAF).  They include staff positions at the wing, group, and HHQ levels too numerous to mention, all of which need to be filled, and all of which are important.  An aviation "rated" officer is fundamentally a commissioned officer, regardless of his/her trade, and staff jobs are key to promotion to higher rank.  At lower levels of rank, navigators assigned to wings/squadrons can assist with combat mission planning at the tactical level, freeing the pilots for crew rest.  The skills that fast-mover navigators develop are quite similar to those of the front-seaters in this regard.  They can route-map, weaponeer, and work with intel on en-route threats every bit as well as their pilot brethren.

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Re-designated Weapons Systems Officers from 2003 the last three fast-jet 'navigator' trainees graduated from RAF Cranwell in early 2011 to head for Leeming and fast-jet training  before heading to Lossiemouth and conversion to the Tornado GR.4 so the training pipeline had closed down well in advance of the Tornado withdrawal eight years later in March 2019.

 

Add a reduced intake in the years leading up to this final trio along with career development away from flying duties/leaving the service at the end of contracts for longer serving WSO and the numbers still serving in the role once the Tornado gradually drew down towards withdrawal would not have been excessively high.     Those released from the Tornado force and with time still to serve would have then retrained for new air/ground roles within the service including some mentioned in press reports who re-mustered as Pilots on the Typhoon or as UAV Operators.

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On 11/29/2022 at 9:20 PM, IanC said:

 

'Tis the way of things, isn't it? - WOP/AGs, air bombers, air signallers, flight engineers, navs, miners, milkmen...

 

But then it always was supposed to be a pilots' air force. Full circle?

Depends on which branch of any given Government you want to believe. Aren't they the ones who tried to persuade us (and the world) that we had no need for pilots at all?

 

Regards

Pete

 

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As @TheyJammedKenny! said they're either moved on (retire), up (desk jobs) or sideways (retrain to pilot). Down here the P-8 and Wedgetail still use them (I assume it's the same for the Poms) and I'm guessing there would be some job for them in the back of a spy plane too. 

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11 hours ago, Jay Gee said:

I'm guessing there would be some job for them in the back of a spy plane too

In the case of the RAF, that is doubtful, because--if the Nimrod R serves as a precedent--the RAF's RC-135W back-end crew is an enlisted-run mission in its entirety.  Retraining EWOs or NAVs to other flying jobs is impractical and overly expensive, particularly if the youngest ones are at the 11-year mark in their careers.  More likely are staff and systems program office (SPO) jobs, for which their operational experience will come in handy.

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A lot of navigators end up in the engineering industry. Navigators are like pilots, just smarter 😉

 

Jokes aside, I can't recall what book I was reading but it had quite a bit about navigators and how important and challenging there job actually was. 

 

In many cases, the navigators would be the most senior and experienced crewman. Take a look at what the Bucc navs were doing in the anti shipping role. Low level navigation, over sea, to put the aircraft in a position where it could deliver a weapons system in a simultaneous and co-ordinated attack, ensuring the weapons from numerous aircraft all arrived on the target, from different directions, within the matter of a few seconds of each other.

 

A lot went on to become instructors within the RAF or moving to the MoD to write requirements for example. The changing philosophy in aircraft design and operation means the pilots now take on some of the jobs that navigators/WSOs fulfilled (the increase in automation and integration basically reduces the workload, negating the need for a second crewmember).

 

There are quite a few ex-navigators in the civil aviation world; airline pilots, survey aircraft, calibration aircraft, threat simulation, flight testing, police, helimed, pipeline/wires inspection, etc etc. All of which are places you can find many ex military pilots.

 

There are a lot of aviation jobs that require specialist non-pilot aircrew to deliver a service. 

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7 hours ago, wellsprop said:

Navigators are like pilots, just smarter 😉

 

As I once pointed out to a nav colleague, on every Final Nav Test through my training I was also doing the flying!

(Remember - banter is inevitable!) 🙂

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  • 1 month later...

This discussion and the banter reminds me of the times me and my brother get together over a couple of drinks. He's an  Aircraft Engineer, I'm a pilot. He claimed he knew more about Aircraft than I  did. I gave  him that but  then he claimed he could fly better than me.😡

 

I  challenged him to come flying with  me and show  me good  he is. But  he declined.😃

 

My worry now is he'll  get  a Pilot's license just to lord it over me.🤣

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Judging by a recent consultancy  the RAF is asking for, any ex-aircrew they can get their hands to retrain as pilots would be welcomed back, though of course they have the minor problem of having outsourced their training to pviders who have not enough aircraft since the RAF's estimates were low.

 

Apparently the 'solution' to theri pilot shortage is to pay a fancy, fat, consulatncy fee for people to 'model and 'simulate' this to decide what to do.   Strange - given the tiny size of our Air Force - the flying parts today,  Readingthe 'deliverables' is hilarious - BS Bingo at its best.

I'd have thought it quite easy to look at what we have, what we are getting over say the next ten years and work out how many airframe drivers are needed.  That bit is a pencil and paper job, or a spreadsheet if you want to be fancy.

 

Plus ask some of the recent early leavers what woudl have helped them decide to stay - better conditions, more pay or more prospect of actually flying?

! know at least one very keen young character who just binned the RAF after several years of swanning around uselessly in the Force, waiting for a course to actually happen.  Now overseas with another  force, happily in their flying training.  It is very sad - we now seem to make what should be simple far too complicated.

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Your last sentence is true about almost everything these days. Well said. 

 

Dick.

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