Shrivenham February 2007
Shrivenham is a rarely visited location, so the visit here was pretty popular with the membership.
The Defence College here is home to a large variety of establishments, but the Aviation Department was the place that attracted our interest and attention.
The Aviation course is aimed at high ranking Army and naval officers, to give them an insight into what air power can be used for, how to effectively employ it in their operations, and also what type of limitations there are. Army staff being promoted to the rank of Major have to attend the 9 month long course, which should benefit both themselves as well as their new units.
Our visit started off by checking in at the main reception, before driving off to the Aviation Hall. Displayed outside here is a Harrier GR3, serialled XV744. This particular aircraft held the trans-Atlantic world speed record and is shortly due to depart for some renovation work before returning and moving inside the Aviation Hall.
Next, we moved inside the Aviation Hall, where our host provided a very interesting and informative presentation about the Aviation Course, and about air power as well. We were then free to discover the exhibits here at our leisure. Army Air Corps Scout AH1 XT621 is kept here. Its an example of an early generation armed helicopter, and is retained so that the students can see how helicopter flying controls actually operate the rotor blades. The "exposed" nature of a Scout rotor head makes it much easier for the students to visualise how the controls function.
Amongst the aircraft displayed in the hall, there are also some UAVs (becoming increasingly important these days), as well as models, engines, airborne weapons, and systems and components.
Another Harrier GR3 is on display inside the hall. XW919 is a veteran of the 1982 Falklands War against Argentina. Operating from the task force flagship HMS Hermes, it flew ground attack missions against Argentine forces on the islands, before suffering small arms damage on 12th of June whilst attacking Sapper Hill. The aircraft landed back on Hermes despite being on fire, and the conflict ended shortly afterwards.
A later generation of attack helicopters is exemplified by the USArmy Cobra 69-16445. This Bell AH-1F model operated in USArmy service until the 1990's, this example flying into Shrivenham shortly after completing operations in Bosnia.
The final aircraft in the hall is another US model. The Kiowa is based on the highly successful civilian Bell 206 JetRanger series, and is used to show that in some cases civilian aircraft can be modified or updated into useful military aircraft. This particular OH-58C (70-15154) also served with the USArmy for many years in Europe.
Our final aircraft of the visit was another Scout, preserved on site. By now the sun had long since set, so XV122 proved to be a bit of a challenge to us.
So, a superb visit to a fascinating establishment. I must congratulate our host for allowing us to see everything we wanted, he was very patient and understanding. Our thanks go to him for the access we were allowed, and the insight we were given into this interesting and important college.