Two Fleetwood airmen from a Typhoon fighter squadron have just returned from the Middle East as part of a major Royal Air Force exercise.
Wing Commander Chris Moon, who went to Fleetwood High School, and Warrant Officer Glen Hadgraft, from Baines School in Poulton – a former Town player who appeared in the club’s first Wembley final in 1985 – are both serving on Number 3 (Fighter) Squadron at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
They and their Typhoon fighter squadron spent several weeks on Exercise Magic Carpet in the Middle East.
Both men still class Fleetwood as their home and are passionate supporters of Fleetwood Town FC.
Chris said: “We both go to see Fleetwood Town as often as we can; we’re both keen supporters of the Cod Army, but operational commitments prevent us watching every game.
“I’m proud to see our home club flying high in League One after a record breaking number of promotions over the past few years”.
While the pair first met during a tour at British Aerospace Engineering’s Warton plant in Lancashire when working on the development of the Typhoon project, Chris first remembers Glen from his playing days at Fleetwood: “I was in the crowd in 1985 when Glen was playing semi-professional for Fleetwood Town in Fleetwood’s first appearance at Wembley.
“When Fleetwood Town next got to Wembley in 2014 for their promotion to League One we were both in the crowd together”.
After his spell at Fleetwood Town Glen continued to play for the RAF from 1984 to 1999 before going into management; serving four years apiece as the manager of the RAF Coningsby and RAF Leeming station teams.
For the past four years he has been head coach of the RAF u23 development squad and is in his third year as assistant manager/head coach on the senior men’s team.
Their paths crossed again in October last year when Chris took command of No 3 (Fighter) Squadron where Glen was already serving as the engineering warrant officer, making the Fleetwood pair the senior pilot and the senior engineer on the unit.
Magic Carpet has been one of the RAF’s most important exercises in recent years, with more than 300 people deploying to the Middle East to fly and support the Typhoon squadron.
With a wide variety of trades from cooks to clerks, and engineers to meteorologists this was the closest thing possible to an actual operation.
Speaking after the final sortie, Chris said: “It has been a huge success and we have worked very well with the host nation.
“It has given us a great opportunity to practise day and night flying, close air support to ground troops and live weaponeering.
“There have been a number of challenges we’ve overcome, particularly with engineering, which have included the heat and a huge sandstorm”.
This year promises to be another very busy year for the Typhoon force.
Aside from two overseas exercises each year that train the squadron to operate in the Middle East, they will also take several turns as the Quick React Alert Squadron defending the UK.
Chris said: “The jets make the headlines but it’s the people, their determination, professionalism and pride in the Squadron that make it possible.
“There are some superb people in the Royal Air Force and it’s a privilege to work alongside them”.