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BRITAIN'S WAR SCHOOL
School of Land-Air Warfare at RAF Old Sarum assigned new and important role.
(Flying Review April 1963)
 

School of Land-Air Warfare at RAF Old Sarum

Brunei--a name that until recently was unknown to many people in Britain. Yet overnight it became as familiar as Kuwait and in a short while was spread across newspapers throughout the world. The story of how our troops and aircraft were used to defeat the rebel forces is now stale news, but what has not been revealed is that one of the first observers to reach Brunei was an officer from the School of Land-Air Warfare, RAF
Old Sarum, Wiltshire.

His job was to make a careful study of how British forces had been deployed in the campaign and report his findings to the joint-Services SLAW. Once these on-the-spot comments reached England they were carefully analysed by the school's staff and finally a report sent to the Ministry of Defence.

This report may never be made public but one thing is certain—should another local war such as Brunei occur the views, ideas, and criticisms of the SLAW will undoubtedly have a marked effect on how a similar engagement is fought.

actical Air Operations, and Air Transport exercise at RAF Old Sarum 1963 Cold War


Two Types of War
Today there are only two types of war, local and global. It is a small flare-up such as Kuwait or Brunei that may one day lead to a total global conflict which, as everyone realises, would be catastrophic for both East and West. That is why Britain retains mobile conventional forces and places great importance on having
an effective hard-hitting go-anywhere force capable of controlling any local war. The SLAW, acknowledged to be one of the best in the world, ensures the utmost use is achieved from our air, land, and sea forces. It achieves this goal by instructing officers from all three Services, including pupils from many NATO coun-
tries, in modern warfare methods. Great emphasis is placed on air power at this tri-Services establishment and the fact the RAF is second to none in the evolvement on new ideas and techniques in fighting small wars has largely been due to the streamlining that has stemmed from the SLAW.

In fact, the SLAW has been such a great success that it is soon to enlarge the scope of its activity by amalgamating with the Amphibious Warfare School, at Poole, Dorset, to become the Joint Warfare
Establishment. There will be administrative changes but the " new look " school will remain at RAF Old Sarum with the RAF continuing to have a big say in the running of the new JWE. " This amalgamation will mean a few
new courses, but I doubt if the number of personnel at the school will increase by any substantial number," said the Commandant, Air Vice-Marshal C. T. Weir. CB, CBE, DFC. " Our job is to teach officers from the three Services to work as one unit when fighting local wars," he added.

At the SLAW there is an Assistant Commandant (Army) and also an Assistant Commandant (Navy). As well.
the U.S. have a staff officer attached who keeps the school informed of new land-air warfare matters which have been developed in America and also passes on some of the ideas of the SLAW to Service chiefs in the United States.Like anything else there is a right and wrong way of fighting a local war and whether it is now best to rush 500 men of the Strategic Reserve to the other side of the world or when to use low-level strike aircraft, the school provides all the answers.

A good example of some of the school's theory being put into practice occurred at the height of the Brunei fighting when a squadron of Hunter jet fighters dislodged a strong force of rebels from a town without firing a shot. Rebels were known to be lurking in the vicinity of a small town but, due to poor communications it was not certain if they had actually captured the town.  Rather than strafe the town with cannon fire in order to kill any rebels that may have penetrated the defences, and in doing so kill many innocent civilians, it was decided the Hunters should make a low-level surprise pass and try and frighten rebel soldiers that might be in hiding.

This ruse was a complete success and although the RAF pilots did not know at the time they also saved the life of an important local dignitary who literally had a noose around his neck when the Hunters flashed over the main square.

Much of the work carried out at the school is. of course. theory and this is taught at the three instructional wings—Tactical Development, Tactical Air Operations, and Air Transport. The Tactical Development wing, which has Gp. Capt. J. W. Allan as Director, is divided into two sections, Air Support Tactical Investigation and the Joint Short Range Tactical Support Development Unit. Formulating new ideas and doctrines is the responsibility of the former while the latter part of the wing concerns itself with the particular problems con-
cerning the tactical employment of helicopters of all three Services, whether for logistic support. tactical mobility, arms carrying. reconnaissance. or any other role.

A small helicopter flight is directly connected With the Joint Short Range Tactical Support Development Unit, so that the ideas of this unit can be tried out in practice. It is believed that today Britain is the only nation with a joint-Services unit studying the application of the helicopter in tactical support roles.The Tactical Air Operations wing, under the command of Gp. Capt. P. R. Walker, teaches everything from counter air
operations—offensive and defensive-- with nuclear as well as conventional weapons, air reconnaissance, interdiction and close air support. Regular courses for British, Commonwealth, and NATO students are held, each lasting a fortnight. Also. this wing provides specialised courses for Army officers being trained as Ground Liaison Officers: also for officers who will eventually become Forward Air Controllers.

At the Air Transport Wing many 'dummy operations are planned and this provides pupils with the opportunity of
conferring, discussing the project and realising the difficulties of the other Services. Here there are regular courses for short range transport pilots, taking in RAF aircrew and for pilots of Naval helicopters, to enable them to fully understand how the Army is organised, how it works, how it thinks, and what it requires in a big airlift.

As at the other wings, lectures are given in well-appointed rooms with the emphasis always on informality. If
pupils put forward ideas, as often happens. lectures dissolve into discussion groups. Staff are keen to allow pupils to express opinions and views as, says Gp. Capt. E. W. Merriman, the Air Transport Wing's Chief Instructor, " we often learn something ourselves."

Today, it is particularly refreshing to find that Britain leads the world in one aspect of modern warfare—the local war —and judging by the backing this unusual school is being given we shall continue to stay second to none in this sphere for many years.