Aerospace Battle Managers of the Air Surveillance and Control Systems Force (ASACS) at RAF Boulmer have completed their final deployment to the Tactical Air Operations Centre (TAOC) in Afghanistan.
For the last four years, ASACS Force personnel have worked in coalition with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in the TAOC controlling aircraft across the South Battle Management Area (SBMA) of Afghanistan.
Responsible for air-to-air refuelling, airspace de-confliction, close air support missions and supporting troops in contact and priority missions, the TAOC has controlled over 320,000 fixed wing operations, 80,000 aerial refuelling events and 7,000 rotary-wing operations since it replaced the RAF’s No 1 Air Control Centre in November 2009.
This includes over 60,000 operations in support of civilian air traffic movements.
The TAOC handed over control of the SBMA to 71 Expeditionary Air Control Squadron in Al Udeid with airspace gradually being handed over in instalments to allow familiarisation and maintain high standards of safety.
During this period, USMC and RAF personnel worked tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition.
The culmination of the successful collaboration between the RAF and the USMC was brought to an end with a ceremony attended by the ASACS Force Commander, Group Captain Paul Atkinson and Chief of Staff Operations ASACS Operations, Wing Commander Steve Blockley.
Also in attendance was Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Smith USMC, Marine Air Control Group 28 (Forward) Commanding Officer.
Group Captain Paul Atkinson said: “During the last four years, the partnership between the RAF and the USMC has been a great success, leading to a relationship of mutual respect and friendship.
“RAF personnel deployed to the TAOC have played an essential role on operations and are respected for their professionalism and high standards of airspace control and management.
“Relationships and ties forged over the course of the period hold much promise for future coalition operations and training.”
The last detachment of RAF personnel consisted of Flight Lieutenant Rob Slater, Flying Officer Dan Brown, Flying Officer Mark Hobson, Senior Aircraftman Matthew Wilkinson and Senior Aircraftman Scot Main.
As well as assisting with the drawdown and handover of the airspace, RAF personnel have been compiling lessons learned throughout the process, to bring back to the UK Air Surveillance and Control Systems Force in order to assist in planning and preparation for future operations.