45 (R) Squadron, based at RAF College Cranwell, has one of the most varied and illustrious records in the RAF. Now in an educational role it celebrates its 100th year...
The centenary of one of the RAF’s most versatile squadrons has been celebrated at its current base, RAF College Cranwell.
A parade with Tornado flypast was held at the college on Friday with over 50 veterans attending, before which The Standard was invited to see the work of No.45 (R) Squadron behind the scenes as well as learning its impressive history.
They have chosen May to celebrate rather than the official date of March 1 as the squadron was originally notified by signal and they did not have any equipment until May.
The squadron became the multi-engine flying training squadron in 1992, flying Jetstreams, moving to Cranwell in 1995. Currently commanded by Wing Commander David Catlow, they have been flying King Air B200s since 2004, adding the newer B200GTs in 2008 which have ‘glass cockpits’ (digital screens instead of banks of dials).
Wg Cdr Catlow explained that their role is to not only train the pilots but also the rear crew - weapons systems operators - to work as a unit, ready to fly any of the heavy transport aircraft such as the Hercules and the new Airbus A400.
Looking back, Wg Cdr Catlow said the squadron was originally part of the Royal Flying Corps, prior to the RAF being formed. It saw battle honours in both world wars, as well as flying probably the greatest variety of aircraft in the RAF, later including Canberras, Hunters and Tornados, before becoming a full time ‘reserve’ squadron, meaning it could be brought back into front line service if required.
They have also absorbed 55 Squadron which trains the teams that work in the back of the heavy lifter aircraft, loading and unloading all manner of equipment and making it secure.
Running about eight or nine courses, the squadron has around 70 staff and 50 students at a time. Wing Cdr Catlow said: “We are anticipating a big increase from the officer training and initial officer training courses soon.”
He said: “Without trained aircrew or weapons systems operators the air force would not be able to work on the front line and it is absolutely vital to underpin that work on the front line. We have a vast amount of experience to pass on.
“The air force has some really first class indidviduals. They are very different to when I was trained and the technical training is different, but still first class.”
It is expected that in 2018 the squadron will receive its new aircraft, the Brazilian built Embraer Phenom 100, as part of a £1.1bn private contract with the Assent Consortium to supply RAF future training systems.