Directing Staff on the AeroSystems Course
“When one of our graduates walks into a briefing with senior officers, everyone in the room knows that what they are about to hear comes from a position of expertise. That’s the level of confidence our students gain from training with us,” says Squadron Leader Jon Thompson, AeroSystems Course (ASC) Directing Staff (DS) at the Defence Academy.
A highly regarded qualification, ASC prepares both UK and allied armed forces personnel to work in areas such as flight trials, requirements management and air capability development.
Many will take up test and evaluation roles within the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Air Force (RAF), working on projects that ensure defence equipment is fit for purpose.
Translating academic theory into relevant military application is where ASC students thrive.
From processes and procurement to finance and operations, the course helps students understand how equipment procurement reflects and supports government policy, and how the UK will operate in future.
“We take what students have learned in their deep-dive academic modules with Cranfield University and apply what we call ‘military contextualisation’ around that. Essentially, it’s about asking, ‘so what?’ You’ve learned about radar fundamentals – how a radar works and what it does – but why have you learned that?”
As a DS with service experience and expertise, Squadron Leader Thompson can demonstrate how a concept works within that all-important military context and why students need to know about it.
“We challenge them: how would you manage a capability acquisition project? You’ve got the background and fundamentals of the system, but how is it going to work in reality?”
Squadron Leader Thompson joined the Defence Academy to deliver the ASC in 2020, having returned to military service following a 12-year stint in industry.
His career began with the RAF in 1991. After completing officer and navigator training, he undertook an exchange tour flying with the RN.
Then came operations around the world, including six years on Nimrods as an aircraft captain and a second tour with the RN. Following promotion to squadron leader, Jon completed tours with Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) and also in MOD’s Main Building in London.
The ASC is playing a vital role in shaping talent, preparing future practitioners and leaders, and advancing the fifth generation of air platforms.
For Squadron Leader Thompson, guiding students to the QAS qualification and equipping them with the technological edge is one of the most fulfilling roles of his career:
“I really enjoy the variety of instruction we deliver here, and the feeling of satisfaction when you know your students ‘get it’; that they have understood what you’re teaching and, more importantly, why. It’s incredibly rewarding.”