Leroy Blake, Training Area Operative at Holbeach in the East Region, has worked at the Air Weapons Range (AWR) for 12 years and has been employed by Landmarc since the inception of NTEP on 1st November 2014. Here he tells us about his exciting and unusual role.

“After 31 ½ years in the RAF, I applied for the role as Main Tower Assistant (MTA) and developed my skills on the job.

“Now, as a Training Area Operative (TAO) I work in the Visual Control Room (VCR) alongside a Landmarc colleague, another TAO, and the RAF Sgt Air Traffic Control (ATC), who is the Air Weapons Range Controller (AWRC). My main role entails assisting the AWRC, which includes operating the Bomb Score Computer to score bombs and aircraft strafeing, doing the hourly met observations, booking aircraft and Joint Terminal Air Controllers (JTAC’s) onto the range and compiling range statistics.

Reading the weather

“To become an MTA I was required to do a Met Office Aeronautical Meteorological Observer (AMO) Course at the Met Office HQ in Exeter. After passing the course exam, as a qualified AMO I have to ensure that an accurate weather (wx) observation, which includes the current wind speed and direction, cloud height and amount and barometric pressure, are passed hourly to the AWR Controller and RAF Coningsby Met Office. This is my biggest daily challenge – at ten to the hour, every hour, a weather (wx) observation has to be completed and entered into the Met Office Record of Observations Book.

“The information is then passed to the Range Controller so he can pass it to any aircraft joining the Range and also telephoned to RAF Coningsby Met Office to be included in the Met Office System – that’s how the TV wx presenters get their wx data!

Plotting the fall of bombs

“I am also trained as a Quadrant Operator. The Quadrant Operators plot the fall of the bombs. Each AWR has three or four Quads (two or three storey high towers), with each assigned a number of targets to score. To score a bomb, a lone operator mans a Quad and using binoculars, coupled with a Bomb Score Control Unit, he lines his sights on to where he saw the smoke or flash of the bomb strike the target or near the target and presses a button. The Bomb Score Control Unit converts this bearing to a co-ordinate and sends a signal to the Bomb Score Computer in the tower. Two Quads are used to score a bomb and the Bomb Score Computer is pre-programmed with all the distances between the Quads and the targets so when it receives the two co-ordinates it instantly converts them into a clock bearing i.e. the bomb was either a direct hit (DH) or for example hit 30ft away at 7 o’clock. Another important task for the Quadrant Operators is looking out for range infringements.

“I am trained to use the various tools and machinery to maintain the range including deploying the acoustic strafe scoring equipment, deploying the target night lights when night flying, deploying Figure 11 targets onto the range, ensuring all the range warning/danger signs are legible and not overgrown, grass cutting and weed spraying.

Plane spotting

“The range is used by all UK aircraft and UK based United States Air Force (USAF) aircraft and I have seen many different types such as RAF Tornados, Typhoons, Hawks, Chinooks and Pumas (Harriers and Jaguars in the past). I’ve also spotted Army Air Corps Apaches, Navy/Marines Merlin and Wildcat/Lynx as well as USAF F15 Eagles and Strike Eagles, A-10 Thunderbolts, CV-22 Ospreys and HH-60 Pavehawks. The Range is sometimes used by aircraft from overseas visiting the UK and I have seen USAF B-52s, B-1, B-2s and F-16s, Indian Air Force SU-35s and Belgian Airforce F-16s amongst others.

“The most enjoyable part of my job is working with my colleagues and outdoor training area maintenance, especially in the summer. I enjoy working for a good employer – from my experience I would say if you’re into aircraft and bird spotting you can’t beat working for Landmarc at an Air Weapons Range. Seeing the different aircraft and facilitating in their training, often for pre-deployment, is the most rewarding aspect of my job”.