Defence chiefs have backed a multi-million pound package to extend cyber training at RAF Waddington until 2019.
The training package, known as Exercise Mountain Dragon, trains real pilots to fly simulated missions in support of real soldiers in contact with computer generated enemy forces on the ground.
Since April 2008, it has focused on giving service personnel the best possible preparation they can get for operations in Afghanistan without ever having to leave the UK.
The move means soldiers and airmen will continue to train to fight together on modern computer systems at the Air Battlespace Training Centre (ABTC) at the airbase near Lincoln for at least the next five years.
This is the last year the centre will run the Afghanistan-orientated Exercise Mountain Dragon which, from 2015, will be renamed Exercise Steel Dragon and focus on developing similar military skills for a range of different operations.
Since the first Exercise Mountain Dragon, in 2008, around 3,500 troops have received training.
Britain’s top soldier and airman, Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Peter Wall and Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, visited the centre at the airbase after hearing the news.
The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, said: “Air Land integration has been a vital aspect of our operations in Afghanistan; the Air Battlespace Training Centre’s simulated environment has ensured that our aircrew, soldiers, sailors and marines all have the prerequisite training and understanding of this important aspect of modern military operations.
“As we drawdown in Afghanistan the Centre will continue to play a vital role in developing our understanding of Air Power and Air Land integration.”
One of the ways the centre does this is by training the military Fire Support Teams which co-ordinate the Army’s artillery, mortars and attack helicopters and the bombs and missiles used by RAF fast jets to engage the enemy without endangering their own comrades, allies or civilians.
Sir Andrew’s comments were echoed by of the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Peter Wall, who said: ”Recent operations have depended critically on the nature of our Army to RAF relationship; what we call Air Land Integration.
“The Air Battlespace Training Centre at Waddington is world class. It is a key part of our preparation for future operations.”
Officer Commanding Air Battlespace Training Centre Wing Commander Steve Chapman said: “While this year’s final Exercise Mountain Dragon marks the end of a chapter in the ABTC’s history, the next chapter is well under way. The facility is already delivering training for other operations.
“It remains an honour to command this small but incredibly relevant unit. With funding approved for a five year extension, the unit will continue to punch above its weight in its contribution to training and developing the tactics, techniques and procedures of our front-line troops and airmen.”