News story

Millions invested in pilot training at state-of-the-art helicopter centre

The Ministry of Defence has announced an over £90 million investment in a world-leading helicopter simulation centre to help train the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy helicopter pilots of the future.

A Chinook Mk 2 helicopter simulator at RAF Benson.
A Chinook Mk 2 helicopter simulator at RAF Benson.

The simulators put pilots through their paces, replicating extreme real-life scenarios, from flying in blizzards or under enemy fire to dealing with power failures and electronic warfare.

The deal will sustain 70 jobs at the Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility based at RAF Benson in South Oxfordshire.

Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin said:

As we saw in the wake of devastation in the Caribbean just this Summer, our helicopter crews provide life-saving relief across the globe as well as defending the UK. This £90 million investment will see these cutting-edge simulators train our pilots right through until 2025, ensuring they are ready to deploy on missions all over the world.

One of the helicopter simulators in action at RAF Benson.
One of the helicopter simulators in action at RAF Benson.

Defence, Equipment and Support, the MOD’s procurement organisation, signed a contract amendment with simulator specialist CAE Aircrew Training Services to deliver training for Chinook, Puma and Merlin aircrews at a purpose-built facility, extending the use of CAE’s current contract for another 8 years.

The equipment provides a realistic representation of the operating environments the crews will fly in, including emergency situations like the effects of icing and rotor blade damage, the impact of gun or missile fire and electronic warfare, total electrics failure and fuel management issues.

The contract will deliver training for Chinook and Puma aircrews until the Puma planned out-of-service date. Training for the Merlin Mk3 will continue at the facility for at least two more years as the Royal Navy transitions from the Mk3 to the Mk4 helicopter.

One of the UK Chinooks undertaking relief work in the Caribbean in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
One of the UK Chinooks undertaking relief work in the Caribbean in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The centre is equipped with six CAE-built dynamic mission simulators (three Chinook, two Merlin and one Puma), four computer-based ground school training classrooms and a Tactical Control Centre that allows for operational mission training.

Adrian Baguley, Director Air Support at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support, said:

The importance of effective synthetic training cannot be underestimated and continues to play an increasingly important role in our overall training curriculum.

The Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility has consistently delivered a high standard of quality training to the operators of our front line helicopter capabilities. This agreement continues to maintain the world-leading ground school and simulator training facility for our helicopter aircrews.

Published 24 October 2017