Formula One technology and the British Army 18 Jul 2003
The British Army's Apache helicopter came to Silverstone on Thursday to celebrate the successful completion of a project that has seen Formula One technology used to halve the time taken to refuel the military aircraft.
On hand to witness the spectacular flypast and landing were Jaguar drivers Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia; the Rt. Hon. Geoff Hoon MP, Secretary of State for Defence; Max Mosley, President of Formula One's governing body, the FIA; Brigadier Richard Folkes, Director Army Aviation and Nick Wirth, FIA consultant engineer.
For more than ten months now the United Kingdom's Formula One community and the British Army Air Corps have been involved in an unprecedented joint initiative to improve the operational efficiency of the British Army's new fleet of Augusta Westland Apache helicopters.
On active service, cutting the Apache's rearming and refuelling time is crucial. The faster the procedures, the more missions the Apache can fly each day.
In 2002, Brigadier Richard Folkes, Director of Army Aviation, decided to investigate if techniques from Formula One pit stops could be applied at an Apache Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP). An FIA consultant engineer, Nick Wirth, visited the School of Army Aviation at Middle Wallop in Hampshire to study ground crews in action. This was followed by reciprocal visits to Formula One events by Army personnel to observe pit stop procedures during races.
These exchanges led to a number of relatively minor changes which when implemented together have made the complete procedure more efficient contributing towards cutting the rearming and refueling time for an Apache by 50%. The shortened turnaround time will allow the Apache to maintain enhanced forward pressure in contact with a potential enemy, thus significantly increasing overall available combat power.
In addition to the time savings, Formula One racing has provided the Army Air Corps with valuable insights into novel types of lightweight yet highly protective safety clothing such as safer flash hoods, gloves, suits and face masks for Apache ground crews.
Rt. Hon. Geoff Hoon MP, Secretary of State for Defence said of the project: "I am delighted that cutting edge motor sport is able to offer significant technology transfer to the British Armed forces. I would like to thank Max Mosley and all of those involved from Formula One for their interest and help".
Brigadier Richard Folkes, OBE ADC, Director of Army Aviation, added: "We are extremely grateful for the positive support and assistance we have received from Formula One during this project. Professionalism, innovation and disciplined drills are key to success for both of us.
"This collaboration has significantly improved the operational capability and cost effectiveness of the Apache."
In summary, Max Mosley, FIA President commented: "The success of this project shows how efficient and professional Formula One now is."