Close Air Solutions Team
Technical Director (Founder) – Tom Ball BEng MRAeS
Tom Ball is a former Tornado GR4 pilot from the lead development Squadron for Close Air Support (CAS) tactics on the Tornado force. He has Supported multinational forces, FACs and JTACs with CAS in a multitude of operational theatres and dedicated training exercises all over the world.
After his operational tours, Tom was selected to become an instructor at the UK’s Joint Forward Air Controller Training and Standards Unit (JFACTSU) where he trained most of the UKs current serving FACs / JTACs, SF and foreign students. Tom was the Chief Air Instructor at the school and personally lead the transition to the current 8 week CQ FAC / JTAC training course incorporating modern simulation systems and scenario based training. He has advised most of the UK’s aircrew training establishments on best practice close air support tactics for their student syllabi. During his tenure as Chief Instructor he was recognised in the Queens Birthday Honours for his transformative work in Air-Land simulation that bridged the training gaps left by a lack of operational aircraft availability for FAC/ JTAC training. As the UK’s subject matter expert in Air-Land simulation, he transitioned to the role of project manager and military capability area advisor in the Flight Simulation and Synthetic Training (FSAST) team at UK Defence Equipment and Support. While there, he acquired yet more expertise in different simulation areas, and his project and programme management work was recognised as best practice by the MOD.
Tom TAP Accredited professional course designer, a qualified PRINCE2 and MSP Practioner, and is trained and experienced in the Defence Systems Approach to Training (DSAT) methodology for training needs analysis, course design and evaluation. Tom left the RAF in 2013 to Co-found Close Air Solutions.
Tom leads the technical team as the Technical Director; he is design architect of Close Air Solutions iCASS Simulation and Training Systems.
Business Director (Founder) –Mike Squires BEng
Mike amassed over 2500 hours flying operational and training aircraft during his 16 year Royal Air Force career. Initially qualifying on the Tornado GR4, he experienced exercises in USA, Canada, France, Norway, Spain and on Operations in Kuwait as part of Op Resinate South and Phase 1 of Op Telic (Iraqi Freedom). He has taught UK and Indian Air Force fighter pilot students air combat and live weapons delivery prior to training the trainer as the lead Weapons Instructor, Advanced Flying Training School, RAF Valley.
He was selected to become the Chief Pilot at the UK Joint Forward Air Control Training and Standards Unit (JFACTSU) where he was an instructor to both Basic and Supervisor FACs / JTACs and delivered Close Air Support (CAS) training to staff pilots and 100 Squadron crews. He has trained all types of NATO soldiers and airman, including many from the Special Forces during his time at the school. Mike also brings a wealth of experience from running overseas FAC/JTAC centric detachments, such as Exercise Flying Rhino in the Czech Republic where he acted as the NATO Close Air Support SME.
Mike is responsible for Business Development, marketing and operational management within Close Air Solutions.
Chief Engineer – Jonathan Owen BEng EngD
Prior to joining Close Air Solutions, Jonathan completed a BEng in Aeronautics and Astronautics, followed by an Engineering Doctorate examining data management techniques within engineering design. He worked as a simulation consultant for seven years, gaining experience on a variety of projects ranging from driving tuition to helicopter tactics training, and from communication systems to gunnery simulation. He now provides integration expertise and develops bespoke applications to meet the unique challenges involved in joint fires training.
Operations Coordinator & Project Manager – Ali Mudford
Software Engineer – Luke Manson BEng
After completing a BEng in Engineering Mathematics, specialising in machine learning and artificial intelligence, Luke started a career in defence, focusing on database architecture and data visualisation. He also has a background in bionic prosthetics and has helped to design and test various models in the field. At CAS Luke is responsible for the development and maintenance of CAS software for simulation and other JTAC Applications.
Training Manager (Joint Fires SME) – Chris Harris
A senior manager for Joint Fires and the integration of airpower; Chris has joined CAS after a 22-year career in the UK’s Armed Forces. Chris’ final tour of duty was as the UK’s Senior Enlisted Joint Terminal Attack Controller at the UK MOD Joint Air Land Organisation, responsible for UK JTAC policy, international standards and doctrine. Chris is skilled in assurance in order to achieve high levels of readiness for operations and multi-national training. A highly skilled practitioner in the application of joint fires and joint terminal attack control being an JTAC Instructor, Evaluator and qualified in Artillery Forward Observation instructor. Chris was the Subject Matter Expert lead on UK Digitally Aided Close Air Support (DACAS) capability. His multiple operational deployments include Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. Chris will be responsible for management of training compliance and assist in business development both in the UK and overseas.
Joint Fires Instructor – Matthew McKenzie
After a 22 year career in the the UK’s 29 Commando Royal Artillery Regiment Matt’s final tour of duty was as Export Support Team Larkhill at UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation. A manager in joint fires and forward air control that supports UK Companies in its exports. Plans, organise and conduct evaluations, demonstrations, visits, sales support and deployment to defence exhibitions, after sales training and provide technical SME support. Matt joined Close Air Solutions as Joint Fires Instructor JTAC with extensive operational experience including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Matt is responsible for Joint Fires Instructional course design and delivery, and simulation scenario design.
Joint Fires Instructor – Dougie Collins
As the senior JTAC(I) in a deploying Brigade he was responsible for all elements of training. This included training to mission ready status for JTAC’s under his command deploying on operations. This role also gave him the opportunity to gain other skill sets such as LSO (Laser Safety Officer) and JFSO (Joint Fires Safety Officer) which enabled him to run live joint fires ranges.