RAF Chinooks

A state-of-the-art helicopter simulation centre has been given a £90 million investment by the Ministry of Defence.

Based at RAF Benson in south Oxfordshire, more than 200,000 hours of flying have been undertaken at the site by UK military pilots in the past 17 years.

The three Chinook, two Merlin and Puma simulators allow them to experience real-life and immersive operational scenarios.

Russ Cole, flight simulation and synthetic trainers team leader said of the facility:

"It is absolutely fundamental to our ability to be able to train our medium support helicopter crews."

"Prior to us having this facility, we had to go to Norway to get our Puma training and we had a very simple Chinook training device... totally inadequate for what we needed.

"Now... we can deliver state of the art, top of the range training, teaching the aircrew how to operate the aircraft properly and effectively, and then how to fight in them."

 

The new contract will see more than 70 jobs at the centre sustained, with training for Chinook and Puma aircrews set to continue until the Puma's planned out-of-service date in 2025.

Alongside the six simulators, there are also four computer-based ground school training classrooms and a tactical control centre, which allows for operational mission training at the facility.

Quizzed on whether he thinks the £90m spend is justified, given further cuts which are expected to be made across the Armed Forces, Mr Cole said "absolutely”:

"Training delivered in simulators is a tenth of the cost of training in the live aircraft and in the air."

He also revealed that an hour of real-time flying can cost £12,000, with the same in a simulator coming in at just £1,200:

"It is safer, less environmentally damaging. You can do things in the simulator you can't do in the air.

"We can't be forever firing off flares and having guys hammering around southern England practising engine failures. This is where you can do it safely."

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