Southampton University Air Squadron

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"SUAS" redirects here. For other uses, see SUAS (disambiguation).
Southampton University Air Squadron
SUAS Diamond.JPG
SUAS Diamond
Founded 15 February 1941
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force Ensign Royal Air Force
Role Officer Training, Ab Initio Flying Training,
Part of 6FTS
Garrison/HQ MOD Boscombe Down
Nickname(s) SUAS
Motto(s) Latin: Fortibus Ardua Cedunt
"Adversity Yields to the Boozed"
Aircraft flown
Trainer Tutor

Southampton University Air Squadron (SUAS, /sˈæs/) is a unit of the Royal Air Force which provides basic flying training, adventurous training and personal development skills to undergraduate students of the University of Southampton,[1] University of Portsmouth, Bournemouth University, Southampton Solent University, University of Chichester and Winchester School of Art. The aim of all University Air Squadrons is to allow those potential RAF officers to experience service life and to allow them to decide whether they are suited to it. There is no obligation to join up, unless an RAF bursary is successfully applied for. SUAS is parented by MoD Boscombe Down[2] where it flies Tutor aircraft. SUAS Town Headquarters (THQ) is in Southampton City Centre, which shares the Southampton UOTC building.

Training nights are held on Monday evenings at SUAS THQ, and are compulsory for Officer Cadets. Christmas (Freshers' Camp), Easter and Summer Training periods, each between a few days and a week long in duration are held at MoD Boscombe Down to further the development of members through flying, adventurous training, sport and force development.

Affiliated Units[edit]

SUAS parents 2 Air Experience Flight with which it shares aircraft to allow local air cadet units the chance to experience powered flying.[3]


Southampton UAS Scottish Aviation Bulldog at RAF Cottesmore in 2000

Students follow a modified form of the Elementary Flying Syllabus covering the basics of flight up to solo navigation exercises. Students that complete this initial syllabus can then progress to the Advanced Flying Syllabus and learn formation flying, aerobatics, and low level navigation skills. Each student is officially allocated 10 hours of flying training each year, though occasionally some flyers exceed this amount. Some individuals apply for a PPL from their flying experience on the UAS.

The flying aspect of the SUAS is overseen by the Commanding Officer (OC SUAS) and the Chief Flying Instructor (CFI), both of whom are RAF Qualified Flying Instructors (QFI). Additional QFIs are sometimes available.

All flying is based at MoD Boscombe Down where the Grob Tutor is used as the instructional aircraft. Previous types operated were the De Havilland Chipmunk and Scottish Aviation Bulldog.

Adventurous Training[edit]

SUAS participates in many forms of adventurous training (AT), including climbing, canoeing, kayaking, mountaineering, sailing, ski touring and mountain biking. The squadron's Ground Training Instructor (GTI) facilitates many of the above activities, but most activities and exercises are organised and led by students.

SUAS relies heavily on student instructors for adventurous training (AT). Qualifications can be gained by attending a Joint Services Adventure Training (JSAT) course,[4] which is usually free. Students attending will be taught the necessary techniques for successful and safe instruction in their chosen discipline, and can then lead others on AT.

MEC Cup[edit]

In 2009, the Southampton Military Education Committee introduced a competition between the four service units based in the city. Organised by the students in the units, Thunderer Squadron (DTUS[5]) contributed a weekend of AT in the Snowdonia National Park. Each unit had the opportunity to enter one or more teams to show off their planning, navigation and expedition skills with an air of friendly rivalry. In 2009 Thunderer Squadron took first place in this event. In 2010, SUAS' two teams took the first two positions. In 2011, once again SUAS prevailed though hardship and sheer determination to win for the second consecutive year. The events were an opportunity for people from the different units to integrate in a very different environment to the comparative comfort of Southampton.

Expeditions Abroad[edit]

SUAS members are fortunate to be in a position to organise and participate in overseas expeditions. In previous years small deployments to Canada, for open canoeing and dog sledding, and skiing in the European Alps have been popular and worthwhile ventures. A week in Germany in the summer of 2010 included rock climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking and paddle sport.

Some students may take the opportunity to travel abroad with regular members of the armed forces. SUAS has been represented in France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy in the last year. Most notably, student instructors have assisted regular forces to mount expeditions overseas, most recently Rock Climbing high in the Italian Dolomites.

With an enhanced emphasis on expeditions, the RAF no longer supports exclusive downhill skiing and instead focuses on the significantly more arduous ski touring. In January 2011, SUAS and Oxford UAS went on a joint expedition to Sainte Foy for this purpose.

Mountaineering and Rock Climbing[edit]

In addition to larger expeditions, weekends in the Snowdonia National Park and Brecons Beacons of Wales to improve climbing and mountaineering skills are a regular occurrence. Organised and led by students, with little staff involvement, these weekends are excellent for fine tuning leadership skills and practising being adaptable and flexible.

Yacht Sailing[edit]

SUAS members have the opportunity to go yacht sailing on a regular basis - students can organise expeditions at any time of the year through the Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre. Student instructors are only too happy to take personnel sailing and teach them how to effectively crew a 34-foot yacht. Apart from teaching the skills required to navigate from one port to another, students become accustomed to living in close quarters with one another with few luxuries, and are often tested by the weather. A high degree of autonomy is enjoyed - improving leadership, communication and awareness skills being the primary objectives. In Summer 2010, a two-week expedition led by a student along the south coast of the UK reached and returned from Dartmouth in challenging weather.


SUAS has been successfully represented at the RAF and Inter Service Climbing Championships in the guest categories.

The squadron also competes in inter-UAS competitions and occasionally provide an RAF presence at major sporting fixtures.


Students can join SUAS in any year at university and usually stay for two years, provided their attitude and commitment are good. Students from the Universities of Southampton, Portsmouth and Bournemouth and other higher education establishments around Southampton may apply to join, but due to time and personnel constraints, SUAS only attends these universities' Fresher's Fairs. Students who are deemed an asset may be invited to continue their careers with SUAS and stay for a further year, subject to them remaining in university and remaining committed to the squadron. To join, simply attend a Fresher's Fair at your university and talk to one of the students. After completing the joining process a successful student would be attested and become a member of the Volunteer Reserve.


Once attested, students have to pass a medical and a fitness test. While general good fitness will improve anyone's quality of life, SUAS requires a minimum standard. Males should aim for at least a 9.10 on the bleep test, 20 press ups and 35 sit ups. While these are the minimum standards for joining, individuals who are fitter tend to benefit more from UAS membership.


Anyone that wishes to apply for a bursary should first go to the RAF website.[6] Bursaries are available for most branches and can be applied for before joining (conferring automatic UAS membership) or after joining a UAS. The current system gives a successful candidate £6,000 over the course of their degree. The application process consists of an informal chat with UAS staff or an interview at a career office, for UAS members and non-members respectively. If successful an invitation for selection at the OASC may follow. Successful applicants will be expected to be an example on their squadron and must join the RAF on completion of their degrees, or return their bursary.


SUAS Ex-Town Headquarters (God rest her soul)

While SUAS is generally operated informally, a command structure does exist. The Commanding Officer (OC SUAS) has overall responsibility, supported by the Adjutant who oversees administrative tasks and is supported by office staff. The student body has a Senior Student, usually an Acting Pilot Officer (APO) who essentially heads up the student body, and aside from the extra commitment organising activities, he or she acts as a liaison to the permanent staff. The Senior Student is supported by a Deputy Senior Student and two Flight Commanders, again APOs, who oversee the two student flights and participate in the running of the squadron.

They are assisted by an executive committee which is chosen from the student body each year. Positions include Adventurous Training Executive, University Services Units Liaison Executive, Reservist Liaison Executive, MT Executive, Airfield Executive, Sports Executive, Computing and Information Systems Executive, Charity Executive, Engagements and PR (Public Relations) and Force Development Executive. There is a Mess Secretary who records the minutes of Executive Committee meetings and assists the Mess Committee (below). A Mess Committee is ratified by the student body each year, positions include Entertainments, Bar, Shop and Digital Media. The above roles serve the function of allowing SUAS to efficiently organise and de-conflict events and activities in a coherent manner.

See also[edit]


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