Interview with Distinguished Flying Cross winning Typhoon fighter pilot

 

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Despite being low on fuel and facing anti-aircraft fire, Squadron Leader Roger Cruickshank led an attack to protect Iraqi soldiers pinned down by Daesh. In 2017 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for this perilous mission. We spoke to Roger about this mission, and what the Typhoon is like to fly and fight in. 

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Which aircraft do you fly and with which unit, how many do you hours do you have on type? I fly the Eurofighter Typhoon as the Executive Officer on II(AC) Sqn and have 860 hours on type. 

 What were you first impressions of flying the Typhoon? The thrust that the Typhoon has is ferocious, something that I don’t personally think you ever get used to though the G Force is brutal. The fact that you can ‘back stick’ the controls and know that the aircraft will limit the G means that you can pull straight to 9 G and trust me – that hurts every single time!

 Which three words best describe the Typhoon? Agile, Powerful, Lethal.

Do the canards obscure the view down? They do though if you need to see beneath them then you just roll upside down! 

How useful is the helmet and how often is it used? What is it used for? The Helmet Mounted Symbology System (HMSS) is exceptional and very useful for all sorts of warfighting. It can be used to see any target or friendly aircraft by using the same symbology that is in the HUD. It is effectively an extension of the HUD which means that you have all the information required wherever you are looking. For Air to Ground missions you have the ability to simply look at where a target is then cue all of the weapons systems to look there, including the Lightening Designator Pod. Due to this capability it means that after identifying a target, you can drop a Paveway IV, 500-lb precision weapon on it in seconds. 

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What was your most notable mission and why?  I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission I flew over Iraq in May 2016 as part of Op SHADER. Allied troops (Iraqi Defence Forces) were pinned down by Daesh fighters and we were called straight onto the tasking by the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC). My wingman and I quickly got our sensors into the area, setting up for the attack as quickly as we possibly could. As I went to release my weapon on the enemies’ location I had a hangup which meant that the aircraft was not allowing me to release the weapon. Fortunately I remembered a brief where I had been taught the procedure if this was to happen though had around 2 seconds to decide based on my location running into the target. I tried the switch selections and the next weapon came off and destroyed the target, saving the lives of many allied troops that day. We then got called into a very similar situation around 60 miles away where we then had the same pressure of trying to save allied troops who were pinned down. However, we were now tight on fuel but, after checking the status of our air to air refuelling aircraft, which was a UK Voyager, we decided it was possible to stay for long enough. However, it was my wingman who was releasing the weapon on this occasion and his weapon was a ‘dud’. It hit the target and there was only a puff of smoke seen. This does happen a small percentage of the time to all weapons though I had a very difficult decision to make as the formation leader and chose to use a different diversion which was a hostile area closer by, which meant we didn’t have to use so much diversion fuel to get to the Voyager. My wingman carried out the attack and this time it successfully destroyed the target and we flew a direct line to the Voyager while asking them to come to us otherwise we were going to have to divert straight away because of our lack of fuel. The JTAC was extremely thankful and I remember him saying, “You guys better go get some fuel before you fall out of the sky…!” It was a very successful mission and was very humbling to find out that due to our teamwork, with the JTAC, my wingman and the UK Voyager, we saved a lot of lives that day. 

Which new piece of equipment would you most like to see integrated on Typhoon? Soon we will have the Brimstone missile integrated onto the Typhoon which will be an excellent capability improvement as well as Stormshadow. 

What are the best and worst things about the Typhoon? The best thing about the Typhoon is its Specific Excess Power (SEP) and the worst would be how quickly you burn fuel when you are in reheat! 

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Squadron Leader Roger Cruickshank topping up his Typhoon FGR.4. This aircraft is armed with Paveway IV bombs, an ASRAAM missile and AMRAAM.

Tell me something I don’t know about the aircraft..

Ha ha, no can do because that would most likely be classified! 

I have been told that nothing can out-climb the Typhoon, would you agree? Absolutely, the Specific excess power of the Typhoon is unmatched. 

What’s the best way to defeat an F-16 in within visual range fight? How difficult is it as an opponent? The Typhoon is a superior fighter within visual range though we must always remember that we are not fighting the aircraft but the pilot.

 Which aircraft have you trained against, which was the hardest opponent and why? I fought a Top Gun instructor out of Nellis Air Force base and he was in an F-16. I was not very experienced at the time though managed to defeat him – he did, however, make it very difficult! 

What’s your favourite piece of equipment on the Typhoon and why? The HMSS because it really makes you feel part of the aircraft. It is awesome when everything is working in harmony. 

It has been said that Typhoon is less proficient at High Alpha fighting than the Hornet and Flanker/Fulcrum series, is this true and, if so, is it an issue in the close-in fight? This is probably true (looking at the open source stats) however, the Typhoon is far more superior in a close in fight because of its SEP but more so because it has care-free handling which means you can pull straight to 9G.   

How good is the Typhoon at super-cruising and how often does this occur? The Typhoon is very effective at super-cruising and it does occur (as) often as the tactical situation dictates.

Does Typhoon offer anything not provided by the teen series (the US F-15/16/18)? In my opinion, we all have different things that we can bring to the fight and that is why we all work together as a team!  

Has the RAF enough Typhoons? (personal opinion) Our resources are very stretched due to commitments to operations and engagements all over the world. We could certainly do with more Typhoons but we need the infrastructure and people to deal with it which would require more money that we aren’t getting from the government. 

What should I have asked you?  What is it like to fly a Performance Departure where you go straight up on take off? It is a bizarre feeling every time we carry out this departure from the airfield though always reminds me of the raw power of the aircraft.

Have you been working on any projects outside of your flying career?

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My mother committed suicide in April 2010 and ever since then I’ve made it my life’s mission to combat the stigma attached to mental health. People should always feel confident to speak to anyone about their own mental health and realise that their mental health should be regarded in exactly the same way as their physical health. I joined forces with a friend of mine, sports psychologist Don MacNaughton who I met after I broke my leg in a ski race and decided to write our book, “Speed of Sound, Sound of Mind” to help raise awareness of mental health by writing about our own experiences. I’ve included photos of the front and back cover of the book which includes a better description of the book. You can either buy the book from Amazon in a Kindle/ electronic version here or if anybody would like a paperback then you can follow us here where you can message me to ask for me to send you a copy.   

Save the Hush-Kit blog. Our site is absolutely free and we have no advertisements. If you’ve enjoyed an article you can donate here. At the moment our contributors do not receive any payment but we’re hoping to reward them for their fascinating stories in the future.

Want to see more stories like this: Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Have a look at How to kill a RaptorAn Idiot’s Guide to Chinese Flankers, the 10 worst British military aircraftThe 10 worst French aircraft,  Su-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 

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