151(P) Squadron was re-formed at Chivenor on September 18 1981 as one of two Squadrons of No 2 T.W.U. (Tactical Weapons Unit). It was equipped with 24 British Aerospace Hawk jet training aircraft capable of carrying a wide variety of air to air, and air to ground weaponry.
In its training role
the Squadron took
about 50 pilots per year and instructed them in the basics of low level formation
flying, evasion exercises and air combat, as well as both air to air and air to
ground weaponry. The course lasted about four months
and on successful completion of the course, the pilots were posted to operational conversion units for
conversion on to front line aircraft types.
In addition to the
training task, the Squadron was in great demand from all front line Squadrons to provide a realistic
day fighter threat for "Dissimillar Air Combat Training". Due to its small size
and excellent manoeuvrability, the Hawk is still a potent fighting machine.
During 1982, 151(F) Squadron was
indirectly involved in the Falklands crisis. Several aircraft were detached to
Germany to simulate Argentinian aircraft flying against Harriers, who were
working up prior to going down to the South Atlantic.
Virtually every month after that, the Squadron
was involved in some type of "Dissimilar Air Combat Training" (DACT),
at low level against types as diverse as Jaguars, Buccaneers, Helicopters and
Hercules transport aircraft and all the Air Defence types at medium level.
One of the Squadron pilots, F/Lt Rawles, ejected on short finals following a multiple bird strike at night. The aircraft impacted just short of threshold, but upon arrival of the crash crews there was no sign of the pilot. F/Lt Rawles had ejected safely but had landed in the Taw Estuary. He had inflated his dinghy, climbed into it and was rapidly being taken out to sea on the tide. Luckily, a sharp eyed fireman at the scene spotted his survival light floating past. The aircraft was not damaged beyond repair and after two years of repair work it reappeared on the Squadron line.
S/Ldr Derek Sharpe and his navigator F/Lt Lea Pearce, a former Vulcan Bomber navigator, were flying at low level when they hit a duck as the Hawk was flying at around 500 mph. The duck shattered the cockpit canopy. The Daily Telegraph reported the event in detail as described by S/Ldr Sharpe:
"Suddenly there was a great big thud in the face and I couldn't
see any more. The wind was making an
infernal noise. I pulled back the stick and closed the throttle. I felt no pain.
I wiped what I could away from my eyes and I could just see a little out of my
right eye. There was muck and blood and feathers everywhere. I couldn't open my
left eye. I could just about make out the cockpit, but couldn't see out. I
latched on to the instruments and crouched down under the dashboard because of
the gale. As we slowed down to 150 mph I was able
to talk to the navigator in the rear seat."
F/Lt Pearce helped to keep the
dual-controlled trainer jet in the air, reading out the speed and height and
they headed for Wittering, Cambridgeshire, about six minutes' flying time away.
Then the aircraft's speed reduced as it
came into land, and the fierce air flow into the cockpit eased.
"I said we would probably be ejecting
because I couldn't see, but in the end I just had sufficient vision to put her
down in the middle of the runway. The fire crew couldn't believe it. They just
stood and stared when this gory, blood covered character got out. It was a bit
like driving up the M1 at 150 mph with
a shattered windscreen while only being
able to see out of one eye."
S/Ldr Sharpe had three operations, including, he says, "chromo-therapy and welding the eye back with a very cold gas." He explained, "My nose is better than before I broke it as a kid and the surgeons have finally straightened it out."
S/Ldr Sharpe was awarded the Air Force Cross ( AFC) for this action.
During April 1983, whilst the Squadron
was flying in a UK Air Defence Exercise, a passenger carried in one of the
aircraft decided that he had had enough of air combat and "ejected" over the
North Sea. Luckily, he was picked up unhurt and the aircraft landed without
further incident, although the pilot suffered a lot of jibes from his colleagues
over the "careless loss of
Later, in July, a mid-air collision
occurred with two of the Squadron's aircraft involved. All four crew members
At a formal Dinner in March, Chris
Golds AFC presented a painting of a 151 Squadron Sopwith Camel of World War I
in action against a heavy German bomber. This painting now hangs in the Officers
Mess at RAF Chivenor.
The Squadron's external taxing continued
unabated with small detachments to East Coast stations for DACT with
Lightnings, Phantoms and Tornados and also to practise the Squadron's wartime
role as a reserve Air Defence Squadron.
In addition, participation in several UK and NATO Air Defence exercises led to detachments being sent to Germany, Denmark and Norway with the chance to fly against 75, 715, 716 and 718 aircraft.
Although the Hawk is considered as just
another trainer, it has gained a lot of respect from the pilots of some of the
most advanced aircraft in the world for its performance against them. On one
occasion there was an 8 x 18 combat, the result of which is unknown although the
sight of 26 high performance aircraft in one small piece of sky must have been
quite impressive and reminiscent of sights in World War II.
The Squadron occasionally assisted the
Army with forward Air Control simulated attacks on troops and armour on
Salisbury Plain and in Wales.
To provide more
realistic training for the front line Squadrons, 151 (F) Squadron
was on task to support them on
their detachments to Cyprus and Sardinia. At Decimomannu in Sardinia there is an
Air Combat Mission Installation (ACMI) which provides, through telemetry and
advanced computers, a full moving three dimensional record of combat. This is
invaluable as a de-briefing aid and it also allows the ground crews to watch how
their aircraft are doing in combat as it actually happens.
Whilst working the ACMI in 1985 another
two 151(7) Squadron Hawks had a mid air collision, but again both pilots managed
to eject without major injury to themselves.
In the five years since re-formation, a total of four aircraft were lost and eight aircrew ejected without any loss of life thanks to Martin Baker, the designers of the ejector seat system.
Whilst providing support for the front line Squadrons, 90% of the Squadron effort was still channelled into the training task. In addition to the training of pilots for the R.A.F. the Squadron trained several courses of Saudi-Arabian pilots and navigators during 1986 prior to their conversion to the Tornado.
Due to the wide variety of flying, the exhilaration of flying the Hawk and the pleasant geographical position of Chivenor in the West Country, a posting to 151(F) Squadron was much sought after from all the fast jet Squadrons. The Squadron gained a reputation for the standard of pilots who completed the Tactical Weapons course, and also for the professionalism of the Staff pilots shown in combat against many of the front line Squadrons within NATO.
151 (F) Squadron was again disbanded in September 1992.