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Blue Parrot (1)

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Buccaneer Articles (1)

Blue Parrot

26 June 1989 feels like a somewhat distant memory. That was the day that I crewed into a Buccaneer for the first time and was given the opportunity to operate the Buccaneer’s ARI 5930 ‘Blue Parrot’ Radar. I was fortunate to be posted to RAF Lossiemouth (Moray, Scotland) to undertake conversion training to the Buccaneer directly from Navigator training at RAF Finningley (South Yorkshire); selection for this aircraft was tough, so it was a great privilege to undertake the training alongside a group of very talented colleagues, most of whom are still serving officers. My experience of radars, limited primarily to that of the Dominie trainer, ensured that I was immediately impressed with the capability of the ARI 5930, but if I am truly honest, it was only when I left the aircraft and moved to more modern platforms that I realized just how ‘advanced’ the Blue Parrot was, especially when you consider its integration within the weapon system.

My early experiences of the radar were centred primarily around ergonomics and system management, as Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) flying was primarily focused on ‘dumb bomb’ weapon delivery, a new skill for those of us fresh from initial training, rather than maritime strike tactics, which would expose the superb long-range capabilities of the Blue Parrot. These latter capabilities would become immediately obvious after my arrival on 208 Squadron in November 1989.

So how were the ergonomics of the cockpit?  Apart from the fact that any time spent looking inside the cockpit, especially down to the left, where the radar display was located, ran the risk of disorientation, as the aircraft lacked a rear seat artificial horizon, the Blue Parrot installation worked really well. A great deal of thought had clearly been expended by the engineering team in ensuring an efficient installation, including the radar visor design (which was adequate but not exactly sophisticated!), Martel and Sea Eagle integration, as well as the ‘new’ FIN 1063 Inertial Navigation system and the other elements of the attack system. In a little over a month on the OCU, we were expected to progress from a weapons novice, to a crew that could accurately deliver weapons utilizing a number of profiles, including laydown, academic and maritime bunt, and numerous toss profiles, day and night. This included the need to understand the nuances of coaxing the very best from the Blue Parrot; I never really understood how Monopulse Resolution Enhancement (MRE) worked, I just accepted its effectiveness. At the time, it seemed like a really steep learning curve, but we all coped; testament to the capabilities of the system.


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