RAF – IT IN LOGISTICS

Supplied free of charge to educational and training establishments, from the Inspectorate of Recruiting, Directorate of Recruiting and Selection, PO Box 1000, Cranwell, Lincs, NG34 8GZ.

NOW HERE’S a treat. You may remember some time ago, the RAF released the first in a series of ‘IT in … ‘ packs, aimed at schools, and for free. Being the exception that proves the rule, the first pack, all about air/sea rescue, was worth considerably more than you paid for it. Judging from the mail received by us, you were interested too. So, good news, there’s a second in the series, this time concerned with Operation Bushel conducted by the RAF in Ethiopia in November 1984.

This was no war-time scenario, it was a support and supply project — in the tradition of the Berlin airlift — to provide food and essential materials for famine-stricken communities in the remote countryside.

The pack is in the same style as the first — an A4-size box filled largely with documentation and one disc. As it is aimed primarily at the educational world, it comes as no surprise that there are teacher’s notes and pupil sheets to develop into case study booklets.

The disc has a variety of software on board. There is a database for NE Africa to support research prior to the simulation, a consumables calculator which allows facts about the amount of material needed to support a famine-stricken community to be assessed, a bar code generator, which proves helpful in getting and loading the supplies, and finally ‘The Challenge’.

This last part puts the user in the position of planning a series of relief flights to help feed people in five areas of Ethiopia. Here is the problem as stated:

«Due to a series of bad harvests, the conditions in northern Ethiopia are critical. Relief supplies of food and tents from around the world are delivered to the port of Assab. There is a large store of these supplies there, but transporting them to the regions of greatest need is very difficult.

There is a very large base camp at a place called Bati. This has 30,000 people within its boundary and a further 10,000 waiting outside. The mountainous region near Mekele, Asmera and Ibnat also have an urgent need for supplies to be delivered by aircraft. Finally, the northern region around Akordat has been severely hit by the drought conditions.

You have two Hercules aircraft at your disposal. You must load these with food or tents and then decide where you send them. You are permitted to fly only between certain hours. Your task is to keep the regions supplied with food and tents for the duration of the operation. A successful operation will result in as few deaths as possible, but unfortunately some deaths are inevitable.»

It is most sporting of the RAF to provide better conditions and data than it hod to work with, indeed much of this information was collected as a result of the real operation. In fact, the Case Study booklet gives a fascinating insight into the background to Operation Bushel and some of the problems faced, and solved, during the crisis. Details and illustrations showing the ways that supplies were carried in, and delivered from the Hercules, add to the value of the pack as a whole.

As you can see, this is much more a role playing simulation, than a flight sim. To play it properly, requires considerable preparation so that you are familiar with the conditions that apply. It follows a standard approach of providing data, accepting decisions from the player and then calculating and displaying the new conditions that arose as a result of the last move.

This may not suit a live action armchair pilot, but it enables you to find out a little more about the way the peacetime RAF works, and to have a chance at solving some of the problems faced in reality.

To clarify things even further, the RAF has released a 20-minute video to accompany the first two packs. The first part shows a rescue at sea taking place (filmed as part of a documentary) and creates a feel for the reality of the rescue process, if not conditions — the fire and weather looked a little too tame. In the second — and I think better — part, we are shown footage from the air and ground of low-level drops from Hercules aircraft. This is actuality film, not set up before hand, and looks and feels as if you were there.

Having said that, both sequences certainly serve the purpose for which they were designed, to show school students something of the real world beyond the simulations on the screen.

R J Burstow

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