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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Doctoral Degree

I recently read a study of the Gulf War air campaign that was written by Tom Clancey with the help of retired Air Force General Chuck Horner, who led the air campaign. In chapter 3 he describes the 6-month course at the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base. The course is essentially the same as the Royal Navy's Air Warfare Instructors' course that I completed in  July 1968. The course includes a full month at HMS Excellent, the Royal Navy's weapons school at Whale Island and several months' tactical flying. Subjects include avionics, ballistics, air navigation, the theory of flight, radar and electronics, air combat and air weapons and fuzes, and is a high-intensity learning curve. In addition, candidates receive training in instruction techniques as they will be passing their knowledge on to squadron comrades in briefings and lectures once they have completed the course.

What struck me about General Horner's description of the course was that he claims that those few pilots that have successfully completed the course have, in effect, completed a doctoral degree in Fighter Operations. The academics of which, he claims, are fiercely difficult, and the flying almost endless. It was during the equivalent Royal Navy course at RNAS Lossiemouth that I experienced my two "close calls" when in the one we lost an engine at 24,000 feet (my pilot was killed when he ejected at the last second) and in the other I experienced a mid-air collision with a second aircraft in our formation.

The Hawker Hunter after forced flame out landing
I recall that, according to the Daily Telegraph, a few years before my joining the Royal Navy, a group of air warfare instructors went to NAS Miramar to give instruction in air warfare to US Navy aviators. The original eight navy aviators became the original instructors at Miramar's Top Gun school. The modern version of the manual that was brought about by these AWI's can be seen here. Looking back in retrospect I wonder how different my post navy life could have been if I had included a doctorate in my résumé. I guess I'll never know.