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From the BE2 to the Typhoon: 6 Squadron today

From the aircraft flown to the technology on board, the pilots of the First World War would be amazed by the progress that has been made and wouldn't recognise the job carried out by the pilots of 6 Squadron today.

The squadron is now equipped with the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, one of the most modern and capable fighter jets in the world. 

Eurofighter Typhoon Where the BE2 biplane was capable of flying at speeds of around 70 mph at heights of up to 12,000 ft armed with one machine gun and 100 kg of bombs, the Typhoon has a top speed of over 1,000 mph, flies at up to 55,000 ft and can carry up to 7,500 kg of external stores. 

Inside the cockpit, the Typhoon is kitted out with colour multi-function displays, a head up display that projects flight symbology on to the windscreen and a Helmet Mounted Symbology System that allows the same symbology to be displayed in front of the pilots's eyes, whatever direction he or she is looking. 

All of the critical controls and switches are mounted on the throttles and control column and this along with Direct Voice Input control means that the pilot can keep flying the aircraft with minimum distraction when operating the weapon systems.

And while First World War Pilots from 6 Squadron focused heavily on reconnaissance, while providing a limited strafing and bombing capability, the emphasis in today’s 6 Squadron is very different. 

Their primary mission is defence of the United Kingdom through the provision of aircraft and pilots held permanently on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA), ready to launch at very short notice should the need arise. This means that the members of 6 Squadron today are holding a posture of readiness day and night, 365 days a year. 

In addition to the QRA task, 6 Squadron constantly trains for contingency operations where they may be called upon to operate the Typhoon in a true "swing-role". 

This means that they may be tasked to bomb a target but can also be expected to use their air to air missiles to fight their way to and from the target when faced with enemy aircraft.  Practising this wide range of roles keeps 6 Squadron very busy and takes them on some interesting overseas deployments. In the past 24 months, these have included detachments to the UAE, Malaysia, Sweden and the USA.

One similarity between 6 Squadron today and 100 years ago, though, is the absolute commitment and professionalism of its pilots and ground crew.  Pilots spend hundreds of training hours learning to pilot their aircraft in all sorts of conditions and scenarios.  Just as in the First World War, the pilots never know what challenges a sortie might bring and must be prepared for anything.

Likewise, the ground crew have an incredible responsibility for the safe operating of the jets in their care.  Just as the BEs and Maurice Farmans of 1914 incorporated the latest and greatest technology of the time, so too do today's Typhoons.

The ground crew and engineers must ensure the aircraft are in perfect working order for the safety of the pilots and the ultimate success of the mission.

The mission and aircraft of today's 6 Squadron are worlds apart from those of the First World War, but the Squadron remains, as ever, prepared to face any challenge that comes its way.

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