Essential night vision goggle training for Royal Air Force C17 Globemaster pilots will take place at RAF Wittering in September, October and November this year.
Night flying, including night vision goggle (NVG) elements, will begin on September 24 and will potentially continue until the evening of September 28. This activity will start 30 minutes after darkness falls and should be complete by 11pm.
NVG training was originally envisioned as a twice-yearly event, however, the usefulness of the airfield at RAF Wittering became apparent following the NVG training in August.
While this will be an increase, RAF Wittering said the amount of night flying will always be proportional to the operational requirement and all effort will be made to keep disturbances to a minimum.
During operations it is safer to land and take-off at night. Modern equipment allows the RAF to exploit the cover of darkness in ways that are sometimes denied to hostile forces. Since February this year, C130 Hercules, C17 Globemaster and Atlas A400M aircraft have all landed at the Cambridgeshire station.
Variety is key to the success of NVG training. Whilst the C17s are based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, repetitive training using their main operating base only has limited value. To maintain full operational flexibility the techniques, which are essential to keep personnel and equipment safe, must be practised at different airfields.
Light pollution is a serious consideration. Sunlight and moonlight times cannot be changed and vary throughout each month. In less developed and sparsely populated areas of the world, light pollution from artificial sources is low. To simulate this, NVG training sometimes needs to be conducted later at night.
It is planned that the training in October and November will be completed earlier than the summer months as the days are shorter making the night flying window larger.
Wing Commander Nick Maxey is responsible for the safe running of RAF Wittering’s airfield and airspace. He said: “The original intent was that night flying would occur on two or three occasions per year. What has become apparent in the last six months is that our airfield is an optimal training location for the RAF air transport fleet.
“We are aware that night flying can be disturbing but it is an essential part of the training required by RAF aircraft to support operations. All military airfields in the UK take their share of NVG training and we will do our best to minimise the disruption and disturbance caused by visiting aircraft to our local community.”