Introduction to the new OC 3(F) Sqn, Wg Cdr Sonny Roe:
Dear Association Members,
Having taken over from Wg Cdr Frankie Buchler on 27 October 2023, I’m delighted to be writing to you all as the first Typhoon ‘only’ squadron OC. Having joined the Typhoon Force (TyF) in 2008 as a 24-year-old Flying Officer, I have had the privilege to serve on XI(F) Sqn twice; both as a Junior Pilot and a Qualified Weapons Instructor (QWI); on 29 Sqn as a QWI course instructor; and as a Flight Commander on 6 Sqn. Whilst this is my first time on 3(F) Sqn, I did have the privilege of deploying with the Sqn on Operation ELLAMY back in 2011, so I’d like to claim at least a degree of prior allegiance! Having recently left the Combat Air Force HQ as SO1 Operations and Training, I am very aware of how 3(F) Sqn has been at the forefront of the TyF for several years, with the engineering cadre specifically highlighting themselves as being truly world-class.
The Sqn that I inherit has recently returned from RAF Akrotiri, where its task has been much wider than the role of conducting Operation SHADER alone. The scope of the deployment has broadened considerably over the past year and a half and 3(F)’s four months saw them regularly escorting ISR assets over the Black Sea, as well as supporting multiple coalition exercises spanning from the near-Middle East to Germany. It is no longer the case that a sqn can deploy to Akrotiri and just focus on a sole mission-set, instead those participating must be able to exercise the full and varied plethora or roles that Typhoon is able to fulfil. That 3(F) Sqn conducted everything it was tasked to, without missing a beat is a fitting testament to how Frankie led the team. The unit that I am fortunate enough to now call my own is robust, driven and highly competent. My task is made all the easier due in no small part to Frankie’s and his Execs’ team continued efforts.
The turn-round post-Akrotiri is a sharp one, particularly with the Sqn Execs cadre mostly changing over; Sqn Ldr Brian Christy (the much loved SEngO) is due to depart in the New Year; Sqn Ldr Mike ‘Brucey’ Forsyth has just left the Service; Sqn Ldr Sqn Ldr Si ‘Jessy’ Jessett will move sqns in the coming months after being nominated as the future OC Battle of Britain Memorial Flight; and Sqn Ldr Chris ‘Gonzo’ Gonzalez is heading out to be OC 1435 Flt in the Falkland Islands, before being posted to the USA soon after his return. All have served the Sqn impeccably well and will leave some large shoes to fill. The Sqn also has a number of new pilots that all require ‘working-up’ to Combat Ready status, as well as multiple further ‘upgrades’ being required to ensure that the Sqn is well structured to deploy and succeed on UK Combat Air’s most coveted exercise in early January; Ex RED FLAG in Las Vegas, USA. This iteration of the exercise will see us redeploy to March Air Force Base for the final week to test Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concepts in a coalition setting. The plan will bring many challenges but the opportunities for learning are unparalleled within the current Air Exercise Plot, and as you’d expect, the Sqn is raring to test itself in such a complex, ambiguous environment. I look forward to updating you all further on our return.
The plan for the rest of 2024 remains uncertain but 3(F) Sqn will be spending most of it at either a High or Very High readiness level. With multiple Op SHADER deployments, a deployment to Op BILOXI (NATO Air Policing) and considerable activity in support to Op ALUMINIUM (support to the Ukraine conflict) over the past few years the Sqn is overdue some consolidated UK based training opportunities so perhaps a bit of time at home will welcome by all. With the fast pace of the current operational tempo, we shan’t yet count on a summer at home though.
I very much look forward to meeting many of you at the Association reunion in May of next year and to keeping you updated throughout my tour.
Wg Cdr Sonny Roe
OC 3(F) Sqn
Message from the new OC 3(F) Sqn, Wg Cdr Frankie Buchler To all 3(F) Sqn Association Members
I’m privileged to have been passed the baton of command from Wg Cdr Steve Kenworthy on Fri 16th Jul 21, fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine. I’m exceptionally lucky to have inherited a Sqn that is in fine shape at the moment, where the engineering team continues to be the envy of the Typhoon Force, consistently generating more aircraft on the line than any other Sqn. I shall be eternally grateful for the hard work Steve has done over the last 2 ½ years to ensure 3(F) Sqn remains the finest in the RAF.
Undoubtedly, recent times have been challenging for everyone but hopefully we are coming out of the back of it now and can start to generate some social events where the Sqn and the Association can meet with each other. We have our first all ranks dining-in night for nearly 2 years coming up in late Jul, and Sqn beer-calls have recently commenced again in our new Sqn bar “Bunney’s”.
I previously served on 3(F) Sqn from 2007-08 having crossed over from the Jaguar shortly after the stand-up of the Typhoon Front-Line, and have fond memories of the shenanigans we got up to in the early days of Typhoon. The Sqn has just completed its period of R2 (Very High Readiness), and we are now working up to deploy to Op SHADER in the Autumn for 4 ½ months. The Sqn is diverse at the moment with a multitude of pilots from very different backgrounds; from helicopter crewmen to RN rotary pilot, and Reaper Operator to GR4 navigator crossover. We even have two re-joiners from the Harrier Force; Si Jessett (last OC IV Sqn when the OCU disbanded), and Rich Walker (previous Harrier QWIC staff). Our diverse experience leaves us well placed to with the new weapons and capabilities Typhoon has received since I’ve been away; Meteor, Storm Shadow, and Brimstone. The jet continues to evolve at pace and we are without doubt the Combat Mass Workhorse of the RAF these days!
The Exercise plot for next year remains fluid as we wait to see what travel restrictions will remain. However, I expect the Sqn to be home in Coningsby next summer and look forward to arranging a date to invite the Association and our other affiliations to join on the Sqn for a day of entertainment and education. I shall keep you updated on the Sqn’s progress over the coming months and look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming years. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me directly anytime if there is anything you would like to discuss.
Wg Cdr Frankie Buchler OC 3(F) Sqn
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Message from the new OC 3(F) Sqn, Wg Cdr Steve Kenworthy:
To the 3(F) Sqn Association.
Five weeks after taking command of 3(F) Sqn I currently find myself sat on one of the RAF’s Voyagers with the rest of the Sqn, taking them to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for Exercise GREEN FLAG. Our jets are already there but what lies ahead over the next 4 weeks should be some excellent Close Air Support training with the US Army, some great socialising in Las Vegas for all ranks, including me getting to know the Sqn better, followed by the trail home. What could possibly go wrong??
I have a previously served on 3(F) Sqn as a sqn ldr, so it’s great to be back, although I must admit it is a little strange to now have my own office and for everyone to call me “Boss.” The Sqn was undoubtedly my first choice of commands, not only because of my previous time served, but also because I live in Stamford, from which many of you will work out that I was also part of the Harrier Force. Although I served on IV(AC) and 20(R) Sqns rather than 3(F), the Sqn’s connection with the Harrier Force remains strong, for me at least – I suspect that with me being the fourth successive ex-Harrier Boss of 3(F) Sqn, the junior pilots are probably getting tired of endless Harrier stories!
The Sqn that I have just taken over is in a good place – morale is high (and not just because we are en route to Las Vegas) and the people are performing extremely well with the Sqn’s engineering team; arguably the envy of the rest of the Typhoon Force. Life on the Sqn remains busy though – success on Op SHADER in the middle of last year has been followed by a period of consolidation back at home and we now see ourselves working-up towards holding the Force’s Very High Readiness commitment over the coming summer months. This period will culminate in the Sqn returning to Oman in Sep 19 for Exercise MAGIC CARPET, and we will then see out the final few months of 2019 preparing to deploy for the third time to Op SHADER in Jan 20.
I am very much looking forward to the 2 ½ years I should have in command of 3(F) Sqn and part of that is undoubtedly to be involved with you, the Association. I shall, therefore, endeavour to keep you up-to-date with what is going on, as well as inviting you to the Sqn’s functions, and (assuming I’m invited) attending the Association’s annual dinners to reaffirm old connections and forge new ones.
Wg Cdr Steve Kenworthy
OC 3(F) Sqn
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Wing Commander Lewis Cunningham MA BA(Hons) RAF
OC 3 Pic
Wing Commander Lewis Cunningham grew up in south London and was educated at Dulwich College. After school he taught Maths and Biology for a year at a school in northern Namibia, before returning to the UK and reading English Language and Literature at Leeds University. His military experience began as a member of Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron, where he learnt to fly the Bulldog and gained a bursary to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot.
On completion of flying training, Lewis was selected to fly the Harrier GR7 and post-OCU was assigned to 1(Fighter) Squadron at RAF Cottesmore in 2005. Over the next 4 years, he amassed over 1000 flying hours in the Harrier, flew on four tours of Op HERRICK, became a Qualified Weapons Instructor and was awarded a Mention in Despatches for a moving target strike against a high value target in southern Afghanistan. He also completed 2 detachments flying from HMS Illustrious and helped bring the Paveway IV bomb into operational service on the Harrier.
On promotion to Squadron Leader, Lewis was posted to the Land Warfare Centre in Warminster, where he worked for 2 years advising and teaching deploying Land units how to use air power on Op HERRICK. During this staff tour he also managed to sneak away now and again to fly cadets on air experience sorties from RAF Colerne in the Grob Tutor.
In mid-2012, Lewis was posted to RAF Leuchars as part of the growth of the newly reformed 1(Fighter) Sqn, now flying Typhoon. During this tour, he organised a detachment to Malaysia for Ex BERSAMA SHIELD, helped to move the sqn to RAF Lossiemouth and led a team introducing the Phase 1 Enhancement (P1E) capability to Tranche 2 Typhoons in front-line service.
In 2015 Lewis was promoted to Wing Commander and selected for the Advanced Command and Staff Course at Shrivenham. On completion, he was selected to command 3(Fighter) Sqn at RAF Coningsby. Lewis and his partner Anna live near Cranwell with their elderly greyhound Millie. He enjoys most outdoor pursuits with a particular enthusiasm for cross-country running and fell-walking in the Lake District.
From the new CO of 3(F) Sqn, Wg Cdr C Moon RAF:
5 October 2014
Sincerest greetings to all members of the 3(Fighter) Sqn Association from the new Officer Commanding. You won’t be surprised to learn that as I write this, at the end of my first week in command of No 3(Fighter) Sqn, it is the proudest moment of my RAF career; as I return for my fourth tour on the Fighting Third. I couldn’t think of any other ‘job’ in the world, which I would rather do.
My first task, on day one in command, was to take the Sqn to the other side of the world for Exercise BERSAMA LIMA, in Malaysia. This Ex demonstrates the UK’s commitment to the regional Five Powers Defence Arrangement (FPDA) and will include working with the armed forces of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore. Despite having spent a great deal of time away from home already this year the Sqn has been looking forwards to this deployment for a long time. The journey to Malaysia has included the longest and most challenging Trail which most of us have ever taken part in; through the Mediterranean into the Middle East and then a final night stop in New Delhi, India. The aircraft performed remarkably well, but as ever, it was the performance of our people, which ensured we arrived in Malaysia within a day or two of the initial plan. There will be many stories to share when we next meet.
On the eve of commencing this Exercise I see a Sqn which is in great shape and good spirits, testament to the efforts of my predecessor, Wg Cdr Townsend, who I know is extremely envious of me right now sat at his desk in High Wycombe. I very much look forwards to getting to know the serving members of the Sqn as well as meeting friends old and new either out here in Penang or for most back in the UK on our return. Rest assured that I will do all I can to ensure the Fighting Third retains its reputation as the finest Front Line Sqn in the RAF, if not the world.
Tertius Primus Erit.
Wing Commander Chris Moon
70th Officer Commanding No 3(Fighter) Sqn
No 3 Newsletter
OC 3(F) Sqn Update
On Monday, 3(F) Sqn launched 4 fully loaded aircraft heading to the Lithuanian airfield of Siauliai (pronunciation ‘cholet’ as in Madame Cholet from the Wombles). The deployment (Op AZOTIZE) is the UK’s contribution to the ongoing Baltic Air Policing mission acting as a reassurance measure to the Baltic states. Our deployment of 4 aircraft is modest but the capability of the Typhoon acting alongside NATO partners from Poland (MiG29), Denmark (F16) and the US (F15C) is a powerful enough signal to those that may need one!
The preparation for the deployment has engendered the usual spirit of excitement and expectation. Not many (none!) of the team are familiar with Lithuania and the chance to operate and live in another foreign country remains a key part of what makes Service personnel ‘tick’. Although 3(F) Sqn have the lead for the deployment, we have been and continue to be very well assisted by a wide cross section of the Typhoon Force and a mixture of Coningsby and Leuchars-based personnel have deployed under the command of Sqn Ldr Billy Cooper (XO, 3(F) Sqn). Having spoken to Billy earlier, he has experienced all those ‘challenges’ you will recall from all of your collectives deployments (ie food, power, weapon storage, dealing with the locals). I am very pleased to say that the team in Lithuania have settled in quickly and are already contributing to the operational task. Billy has already played host to the Secretary of State for Defence and AOC 1 Gp…he’s only been there a week! However, it’s a great privilege to be able to host a former OC 3(F) Sqn and see his unit on operations once again.
This week has also seen the Sqn participate in the rededication of The Airman’s Cross at the Visitor Centre at Stonehenge. This is the second time the Cross has been rededicated and this event, warmly supported by English Heritage, was attended by the Earl and Countess of Wessex, a range of senior military VIPs including AOC 1 Gp and, of course, the Chairman and Vic Lorriman. It was very pleasing to see the Earl sporting a 3(F) Sqn tie! Despite the very inclement weather, the ceremony was a huge success capped fittingly by a flypast by a 3(F) Sqn Typhoon bringing a very broad smile across the Countess’ face. When I depart the Sqn, it is my involvement with these type of events that I shall cherish the most being such an obvious part of what sets 3(F) Sqn apart from its supposed rivals.
Looking a little further ahead into 2014 and we will begin to see the RAF commence its World War 1 commemorative events. For our part, we intend to take a small team to France and Belgium in August and retrace the footsteps of the Sqn during the opening phase of the War. This will act as a neat follow-on from our work with the Airman’s Cross and continue to embrace the Sqn’s heritage and history across a wide section of Sqn personnel.
Our routine flying from Coningsby has been as busy and varied as usual with more QRA duties than usual as we covered for XI sqn as they conducted an exercise in Oman. We have also conducted a significant amount of Close Air Support helping improve our air-to-surface skill set and understanding thereby improving our credentials as a multi-role Sqn. We also hosted our biennial Standardisation Visit which, I am pleased to say, went very well. It was notable as it reflected our commitment to delivering a real multi-role capability with Staneval conducting his first multi-role flavoured ‘tac check’. He also conducted his very first ‘tac check’ in the simulator. This is a significant milestone for not only the Typhoon Force but also the RAF as a whole. For those unfamiliar with the simulator devices at Coningsby, I can report that they are first class allowing my pilots to conduct a very wide range of training which is often not able to be conducted ‘live’ (eg due to weather or lack of role equipment such as targeting pods). The simulators can be linked (allowing us to fly up to 4 aircraft in the same mission) and the debriefing capability is superb. The whole capability is so good that we treat synthetic flying exactly the same as a live mission (plan, brief, outbrief, fly, in-brief and debrief) and, on 3(F) Sqn, we even wear our full flying kit for the final touch of reality and immersion. This really is a glimpse of our future as synthetic training will take an ever-more prominent part of our overall capability.
And finally…the hot posting news. Most of you will already know that Duncan Olsen has left us and taken up the post of Warrant Officer II(AC) Sqn based at RAF Lossiemouth. This is a brilliant posting for Duncan and our loss is very much II(AC) Sqn’s gain. I feel a history lesson is about to take place but ask you all to be vigilant lest Duncan goes ‘native’! I am also about to welcome Sqn Ldr Simon Devenish onto the Sqn who will be the very first Typhoon Force sqn Uncle. For those of you who recall Bob Wilkey, I anticipate Simon taking up a similar role and will be the first point of contact for all Association matters. A former OC Ops Wg at RAF Waddington, I am looking forward to having Simon on the Sqn.
And, of course, my 2 years must be almost up as the next (70th) OC 3(F) Sqn has been nominated and Wg Cdr Chris Moon, former 3(F) Sqn pilot and XO, takes Command on Fri 26 Sep 14. Not only does he have 3(F) Sqn pedigree but he is also another ex-Harrier mate. Perfect!
No 2 Newsletter
It seems a long time since we departed the UK, bleary-eyed, on a cold 2 Jan heading to the ever-cheerful South Cerney mounting centre and then on to RAF Brize Norton. Our journey to the UAE started in style and 3(F) Sqn were treated to a ride in our new Voyager aircraft and if this is the future, the future is bright. Big aircraft, well informed and enthusiastic crew, clean, comfortable and, well, really very good. Refuelling clearance to come!
Our first 2 weeks were spent at Al Minhad Air Base which is about 40 minutes east of Dubai. I think Minhad was a bit of a surprise to those who hadn’t been there before. Domestically it was better than I think many expected and our wooden accommodation was comfortable enough. The support we received by the resident Australians was superb; great food and access to fast internet/WIFI. For those ‘old hands’ out there, I cannot stress enough how important WIFI/internet connectivity has become for the sustainment of morale for our personnel. Many of us took the opportunity to sample the delights of Dubai and take in the odd water park, shopping mall or Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building.
But, as I tell Jo, this was not a holiday and our time at Minhad allowed us to start a sustained period of excellent multi-role training allowing the entire Sqn to get to grips with operating Typhoon in the desert. The airspace available to us in the UAE was superb and we managed to conduct a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-ground training exposing all Sqn pilots to the full gamut of multi-role activities. The Exec and I also managed a quick trip into Bahrain to allow a group of VIPs the chance to see Typhoon, a very rewarding sortie.
Oman continued the theme of multi-role and we flew a myriad of missions with and against our Omani hosts. The Omanis are very hospital people and increasingly capable with F16 and, by 2017, a sqn of Typhoons. They still operate the Jaguar which, although still eye-watering on take off in the desert, was a pleasure to see still in operation and flown by some very capable pilots. Socially, Oman provide to be a little more relaxed than the UAE and the Sqn indulged in a couple of those ‘nights to remember’! The camel racing night will stay with me and the Miss Oman competition bore no resemblance to the quaint military cross-dressing common in the BBC series ‘It ain’t half hot, Mum’!
Post-Oman, half the Sqn returned to Minhad a further period of Middle Eastern ‘presence’ but now we are all back, multi-role capable (and credible) and ready for a summer of core skills training. I hope we will find more time to get together as a Sqn and Association throughout this year. Our first opportunity is on Sun 12 May when we will lay-up the retiring Sqn Standard. The Exec and Mr Olsen are finalising details and will be promulgated soon. Broadly speaking, there will be a church service at Chitterne, near Salisbury, where Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Johns can reside over this iconic piece of Sqn history on our behalf. I very much hope to meet some of you there and trust 2013 has begun as successfully as it has for the serving members of Number 3 (Fighter) Squadron.
OC 3(F) Sqn
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No 1 Newsletter
I am delighted to write to you as the 69th Officer Commanding No 3 (Fighter) Sqn having taken Command from Dickie Patounas in Sep 12. It is, of course, a tremendous privilege to be given the chance to lead such an historic and successful Sqn. I am relishing the prospect of developing the Sqn over the next 2 years as the Typhoon Force continues to expand.
From a personal perspective I have 2 immediate challenges. Firstly, I am still learning to fly Typhoon and trying to ‘unlearn’ all the Harrier-isms of my youth. The aircraft is simply outstanding and the novelty of having a RADAR and 2 engines is yet to fade. I admit, I miss VSTOL and the unique capabilities of the Harrier but Typhoon is such an incredible aircraft, I can’t help but smile every time I see or fly it
My second challenge is to be the Boss and run the Sqn whilst getting up to speed and reaching Combat Ready status. There’s about 150 new faces to put names to and I suspect I’ll never reach a point at which my INBOX is empty. But each day presents something new and within the first 4 weeks of Command I have had the full spread of, what I believe AVM Atha described as, ‘Command Challenges’!
For my part I hope the Sqn, under my Command, can be ‘Three’s Company’, a coherent set of men and women working together to deliver effective Combat Air power. I also hope that we can continue to be an effective part of the Typhoon Force and ‘team players’ on a wider scale. I intend to build on the experience of Typhoon operations in Libya and contribute to the continued expansion of the aircraft’s multi-role capability. I am also extremely keen to continue to promote the heritage of this, the most historic of air squadrons, and I hope to be an avid supporter of the Association.
For now, we have a period of consolidation in the UK where we have a number of Combat Ready workups underway. Our next big event is a deployment to the Middle East where we hope to refine our multi-role skills and continue to foster relationships with our friends in the region. In the meantime we continue to sustain the key QRA roles in the UK and Falkland Islands.
Before I sign off, a note for your diaries. I intend to lay the old Sqn Standard to rest on Sun 12 May 13 in ACM Sir Richard John’s local church near Larkhill, Salisbury. Precise details to follow but I sincerely hope we, members of 3(F) Sqn past and present, can do our bit to celebrate the ‘retirement’ of this iconic symbol of Sqn history.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can during my tenure as the Boss and please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish to visit or find out more about current 3(F) Sqn activity,
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