Under the auspices of Programme Future Brize (PFB) the development of RAF Brize Norton continues to move on apace.
Under the plan, Brize Norton will be transformed into Defence’s future sole Air Point of Embarkation, the main operating base for the RAF’s air transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft, and the future home for 15 per cent of the RAF’s uniformed manpower.
The plans developed by the PFB Team are on track. Units and personnel have already begun transferring from RAF Lyneham to RAF Brize Norton and all flying operations cease at RAF Lyneham on 30 September 2011, with the entire station closing as an RAF base by 31 December 2012.
PFB was established in March 2009 to plan and implement the movement of the C-130 force and all supporting units and elements from RAF Lyneham, including the move of aircraft, formed units, aircrews, engineers, administrators, suppliers and families.
Most recently, the force headquarters staff on the two stations have been melded into a single headquarters at RAF Brize Norton, while 101 Squadron (who operate the VC10 fleet) have relocated within RAF Brize Norton to create space for 33 (Engineering) Squadron from RAF Lyneham, who will be arriving in stages from March to July 2011.
PFB is a complex, dynamic and wide-ranging programme, required to address aspects as diverse as meeting pan-Defence requirements and ensuring building planning applications are submitted in good order, through to managing the always-important financial constraints faced by any defence programme.
At the same time, PFB staff also have to plan and manage exceptionally detailed infrastructure processes down to deciding where desks will go in buildings and where IT sockets will be placed.
The core PFB Team is supported by inputs from staff at both RAF Brize Norton and RAF Lyneham.
As Group Captain David Houghton, the Future Brize Programme Manager, noted:
We are doing this with Lyneham and Brize, not to them.
That collective effort is supported by the current Station Commanders at both Lyneham and Brize Norton.
Brize Norton’s Station Commander, Group Captain Dom Stamp, said:
The transition of RAF Lyneham’s capabilities to RAF Brize Norton means that personnel and civilian staff at both stations will have to work hard over the coming months, but I believe that with the work PFB are doing we can all fit together like a hand in a glove.
Alongside the work of moving personnel to a new working environment, new, modern living accommodation is also being developed at RAF Brize Norton. The extensive Single Living Accommodation Modernisation (SLAM) programme at RAF Brize Norton is aimed particularly at providing junior ranks with much-needed improvements in their on-base accommodation.
The Station Commander at RAF Lyneham, Group Captain John Gladston, said:
I am extremely positive about the new SLAM buildings. The RAF has a responsibility to provide good quality living accommodation and I believe these new SLAM buildings are worth the extra cost of living.
For families, Defence Estates (Housing) are planning to demolish 600 homes within the current RAF Brize Norton Service Families’ Accommodation (SFA) area at Carterton, and build 800 three-bedroomed houses.
However, these are not planned to be complete until the end of 2016, so a flexible, interim solution has been developed between Defence Estates (Housing), PFB, RAF Brize Norton and RAF Lyneham staff, which involves the use of SFA close to RAF Brize Norton, some bulk-lease houses and Substitute SFA (SSFA).
Although this will mean that, for a time, some personnel and their families will be spread out in locations away from RAF Brize Norton, the SSFA, SFA and other housing provided while the Carterton SFA is being developed will be of a good quality.
With more PFB-related development underway, planned and proposed at RAF Brize Norton, the station will continue to see significant changes over the coming years.
However, as Group Captain Stamp noted:
Military personnel and civilian staffs have worked well around the disruptions at RAF Brize Norton throughout 2009 and 2010, and I believe that 2011 and 2012 will bring more challenges, but RAF Brize Norton will be a stronger and more capable unit because of it.