Operational Conversion Unit

An Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) is a unit within an air force whose role is to support preparation for the operational missions of a specific aircraft type by providing trained personnel. OCUs teach pilots how to fly an aircraft and which tactics best exploit the performance of their aircraft and its weapons. The Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force, among others, practise this method of training. The United States Navy calls its units in this role "Fleet Replacement Squadrons".

An example of an OCU is No. 29 Squadron RAF, which was the second RAF squadron to receive the Eurofighter Typhoon. The squadron is currently training pilots in order to establish an initial operational capability with the aircraft around 2006.

The Royal Australian Air Force has a number of OCUs. These include No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit, No. 6 Squadron and No. 292 Squadron. These units are responsible for converting aircrew to the F/A-18 Hornet, F-111 and P-3C Orion aircraft respectively.

RAF OCUs have their origin in the post-war period. Before the Second World War, operational training was carried out in the squadron itself. With the coming of war, this method of training was no longer possible and some squadrons were reassigned to training duties. These were later renamed as Operational Training Units (OTUs) and in practice were larger than operational squadrons.

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