RAF College Cranwell set for expansion

RAF College Cranwell, set to play a larger role in the training of all aircrew in the armed forces.
RAF College Cranwell, set to play a larger role in the training of all aircrew in the armed forces.
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Cranwell is set to see expansion as it is earmarked to become the single central point of entry for training of Royal Air Force personnel.

As part of a Ministry of Defence (MoD) restructure announced by the Defence Secretary earlier this year, the RAF is planning to have a centralised single point of entry for training called the PORTAL programme.

The announcement outlined the decision to close RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire as part of the restructure of armed forces and review of the amount of stations on the books.

It sees the location of Phase One Training and the Airmen Command School on a single site, at RAF College Cranwell, as a single gateway to the RAF for all entrants.

An MoD spokesman said: “It envisages a more relevant, up-to-date and shared experience than exists on either site at the moment (Henlow and Cranwell).

“The base is also seeing investment from Military Flying Training School, the building of a High-G trainer (to train aircrew and test the effects of high G forces in aircraft) and, with the previous announcement of the closure of Henlow, the intended arrival of the RAF Centre for Aviation Medicine (RAFCAM).

“Thus, RAF College Cranwell will become a much better utilised estate, with many key functions, at the heart of an RAF locus of activity in and around Lincolnshire.”

RAFCAM was formed in 1998 from the amalgamation of aviation medicine centres at Farnborough and North Luffenham and has absorbed several other roles since.

It is designed to deliver expertise and high quality training in aviation, occupational, environmental medicine and related sciences to support air operations in all three services. It also acts as an advisory service to the MoD, the military and accident investigation and is a medical board for clinical assessment of aircrew and air traffic controllers.

A vital role is the modification and improvement of aircrew protective clothing and life support systems, such as when helicopters had to fly higher in Afghanistan to avoid enemy fire.

The centre trains approximately 2,500 aircrew each year, and part of its practical training focuses on the effects of hypoxia. The centre uses hyperbaric chambers that can simulate different altitudes, enabling aircrew to experience the extreme flight environment they may face.

Fast jet pilots are trained to deal with the effects of gravitational forces on the human body. The Anti-G suits developed at the RAF CAM regulate the blood flow to withstand these forces and help aircrew complete their mission successfully.