While we couldn’t really expect 2019 to repeat the glitz and glamour of the Royal Air Force’s centenary year, it was still incredibly busy. We saw the first successful deployment of F-35 Lightning on operations; the retirement of the much-loved and unbelievably effective Tornado; the first flights of Poseidon, the RAF’s new multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft; the Typhoon Force continuing to participate in counter-Daesh operations and, for the first time, in air policing operations from Iceland; and, most recently, an RAF A400M supporting search and rescue efforts off the southern coast of Chile.
When reflecting on the past year I find it interesting to observe just how important the activities of No 41 Squadron have been to the wider success of the Royal Air Force. That the Typhoon Force could effectively deploy Brimstone (the RAF’s hyper-precision strike munition) on Op SHADER was only made possible by 41 Squadron’s extensive and intensive trial work. Similarly, the retirement of Tornado could only occur after Typhoon could field new air-to-ground mission capabilities;
No 41’s delivery of Project CENTURION to the Typhoon Force was truly pivotal to this. Meanwhile, the Squadron’s second home, NAS China Lake in the Mojave Desert, was hit by a devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake. And yet the Squadron still found time to support a memorial service at RAF Coltishall to celebrate the lives of the personnel from No 41 Squadron who perished during a coach accident in Germany in 1983.
Our association has continued to keep former members of the Squadron in touch with each other and, of course, with the Squadron of today. It is with regret that we have seen one of the most active members of the Association, Andy Myers - our founding Chairman, step down from the role to pursue new business opportunities in Saudi Arabia. Andy did a truly brilliant job for us for which we are all immensely grateful. His shoes will be tricky to fill but fill them we must. Please may I encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in taking up this role to contact me for a chat.
2020 will be important for the Royal Air Force. It will see the practical launch of Project
ASTRA, a bold initiative to fast track the Royal Air Force towards 2040. ASTRA will accelerate good ideas into service and blend them with a powerful and dynamic vision for our future. There is no doubt in my mind as to the importance of this project in ensuring the ongoing credibility of our air force. Facing new dynamics in defence and security, and a complex blurring of the lines between peace, conflict and crisis, the RAF simply must adapt to the realities of multi-domain operations. ASTRA will ensure that its people, equipment, structures and processes are properly configured to do just that.
As we celebrate Christmas and New Year, some 2000 RAF personnel will be supporting 15 missions, on 4 continents, in 22 countries around the world. With very special thoughts to them, their families and the loved ones from whom they are separated, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a happy, peaceful and enjoyable festive season and a prosperous and healthy New Year?
Sir Christopher Harper KBE
No 41 Squadron Association
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