Published 14 November 2023

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A new simulator complex delivered under DE&S’ Marshall programme has been formally opened at the Defence College of Air and Space Operations (DCSAO).

Dr Simon Dakin, Director Integrated Battlespace at DE&S, was joined by Air Commodore Rich Jacob (Senior Responsible Owner), and Mr Michael Stoller (CEO Aquila Air Traffic Management Services) at the Shropshire-based RAF base to mark the occasion with a ribbon cutting.

The celebration was two-pronged with the first set of students completing six months training on the simulators installed under the £1.9 billion programme to upgrade and support the MODs terminal Air Traffic Management capability at airfields in the UK and overseas.

Dr Dakin said:

“I am privileged to be at RAF Shawbury for the official opening of this world class training facility and for the graduation of the first cohort from the Joint Air Traffic Control Course, helping to ensure the future of safe UK military air traffic management.”

The simulators at RAF Shawbury replicate the new equipment being rolled out across the Defence estate under the Marshall programme. The training suite comprises more than 180 individual operator positions spread across multiple simulators and training devices.

The new equipment can recreate ultra-realistic airfield scenarios to provide trainee air traffic controllers with an extremely realistic operational experience in the safety of a virtual environment, thus reducing the time taken for “on the job” training.

It’s expected that up to 120 students will pass through the DCASO every year.

Michael Weedon, Marshall Delivery Team Leader, said:

“This is an important milestone for the Marshall Programme, marking a big step forward in the improvement of services we are providing to Defence. The investment in the DCASO training establishment at RAF Shawbury brings Military Air Traffic Controller training up to modern industry standards and aligns with the ongoing rollout of new equipment across the estate.”

The £1.9 billion investment in Military Air Traffic equipment is designed to ensure safe and resilient flying operations for both military and civilian aircraft operating around and in and out of government aerodromes. This will see new equipment installed across more than 60 MOD sites in the UK and overseas by 2024, including Cyprus and Gibraltar.

Air Cdre Jacob said:

“Today marks another significant milestone for Programme MARSHALL, ensuring that those going through the Air Traffic course at RAF Shawbury are best prepared for the controlling demands of the front line by training on the latest equipment.”

Mr Stoller of Aquila said:

“Introducing these new state-of-the-art ATM simulators into DCASO Operations has been the result of a strong collaborative effort involving Aquila, our partners, and our customer the MOD. We are very proud that through this new capability, Aquila will support improvements in the training and throughput of military air traffic controllers, today and into the future.”

The programme includes a £400 million investment in advanced surveillance radars, ground to air radio voice communication and control systems, record and replay equipment, air traffic simulators, navigation aids and deployable air traffic management systems, ensuring legislative compliance whilst guaranteeing safe military operations are maintained at all times.

The 22-year programme allows Air Traffic Controllers improved situational awareness, enhancing flight safety and combines into a single deal what was previously more than 70 individual contracts in the Defence Air Traffic Management sector.