Gary Parsons reports from Coningsby as the first Typhoon flies sorties from the base. Pictures by the author and Patrick Day
The residents of Coningsby and Tattershall got their first warning of Typhoon power during the week of 29 March - 2 April as T1 ZJ803/AA flew test sorties across the Lincolnshire countryside. The exact nature of its missions was classified, but it is known that noise profiles around the base were evaluated. Flying sorties each day (callsign 'Monkey 3') during Monday to Wednesday, the Typhoon operated from the main Aircraft Servicing Platform (ASP) where 56(R) Squadron Tornado F3s used to line. It was originally thought that the Typhoon was to undertake some Hardened Aircraft Shelter (HAS) testing but it seems not to be the case. It isn't the first Typhoon to visit the base, but the first to stay and fly return sorties.
17(OEU) Squadron now has four Typhoon T1s operating from Warton, but the move to Coningsby is still some way off. Further visits to its future home will no doubt follow in the near future, but more immediately Coningsby is gearing up for the permanent move of the Strike Attack Operational Evaluation Unit (SAOEU) from Boscombe Down, combined with the return of the F3 OEU from its temporary home of Waddington. The merged Fast Jet OEU is set to become a familiar sight in the eastern skies, providing a variety of types other than Typhoon - with ASTOR set to enter service at Waddington, Lincolnshire will certainly be able to boast the widest range of RAF aircraft in the country!