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Scene around the UK

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28 April 2008 - Mildenhall

Currently on detachment with the 95th RS at Mildenhall is 63-9792. It was the first RC-135 example to be re-engined with CFM-56s, and is the first time it has been in the UK since 2003 - one of the more illusive RJs! It also sports the 'Lets Roll' nose art. Courtesy Matthew Clements


24 April 2008 - Lossiemouth & Kinloss

Running from 19 April to 2 May, Exercise 'Joint Warrior' NW08/1 involves units from all three British military services, predominantly maritime and air. Its aim is to provide collective training in a multi-threat environment for UK units and invited NATO and allied units and their staffs. Previously known as 'Neptune Warrior', it provides joint collective training in a multi-threat environment for UK, NATO and Allied units and their staffs, enabling them to operate together in tactical formations as preparation for employment in a component of a Joint Combined Task Force.

Thirty-eight ships, two submarines and around forty-five aircraft plus a small number of land units will be involved. To maximise training benefit for aircrew and ground forces, sorties take place in Scotland and the north of England, many foreign aircraft (mostly French) operating out of Lossiemouth and Kinloss. NW08/2 will follow later in the year, running between 4 - 17 October. Pictures courtesy Bill Cardno


18 April 2008 - Leuchars

On an overcast and bleak morning, 56(R) Squadron was preparing for its final nine-ship formation farewell as a Squadron unit. At 10:00 the nine aircraft took off and disappeared for forty-five minutes before returning in a diamond nine for two flypasts. After disappearing into the distance, the aircraft returned in twos to beat up the airfield at low level, in only the way the 'Firebirds' can.

As the last aircraft landed and taxied in for the last time, the Station Commander met all crew members for a toast of the Squadron's Royal Air Force career. It had been decided that the pilots and crews would be amalgamated into an enlarged 43 Squadron to increase the RAF's efficiency, but 56 will live on as the ASTOR OEU at Waddington. The OC, Wg Cdr David Hazell, stated "It's a very emotional day", but he was proud to have spent time with a Squadron with so much history behind it. Look out for a full report next week. Courtesy Bob Franklin


18 April 2008 - Woodvale

Four F-16s from the 322 Squadron, Dutch Air Force performed a flypast over Woodvale to celebrating the unit's 65th anniversary of its founding at Woodvale in 1943 as a RAF squadron. It was initially 167 Squadron but renumbered on 12 June 1943 as 322, flying Spitfire Vbs. It remained on the type throughout the war, ending up in Wunstorf where it disbanded in October 1945. The squadron was revived as a unit in the fledgling Dutch Air Force in 1947. Picture courtesy Ed Evans

17 April 2008 - Newark

MiG makeover

Despite a slight delay due to the recent poor weather work has recently started on repainting the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23M 'Flogger' 024003607/07, a former Soviet Bloc jet fighter that is currently on loan with the Newark Air Museum. A significant amount of surface preparation has already taken place and the first primer coat applied.

The work is being undertaken by a group of local aviation enthusiasts who approached the museum via its website and Air-Scene UK. The enthusiasts are painters by trade, working for a company based in Nottingham. Whilst initially they are working on the MiG-23 they eventually they hope to move on to the MiG-27 that is also on loan at the museum.

The MiG-23 will be painted in the markings of a Polish Air Force squadron to reflect the museum’s strong Second World War connections with Poland (the first operational squadrons at RAF Winthorpe in 1941 were 300 & 301 Polish Squadrons; Newark Cemetery has a large Polish war grave section; and the museum has Polish memorials displayed in its Exhibition Hall).

The repainting team have liaised closely with the museum’s Restoration Manager to establish the framework for the project, which is working to similar standards as those employed by the regular volunteer workforce at the museum. Prior to commencement of work the airframe was surveyed and full details of the stencil markings were recorded. The museum trustees are known to be “…very appreciative of the offer that was made to undertake the work on the MiGs”. Courtesy Howard Heeley - Down To Earth Promotions


16 April 2008 - Cottesmore

Departing after successful compass swing tests was Vulcan B2 XH558/G-VLCN, now in the flight test phase of acquiring its CAA permit to fly. Arriving on Monday, the two flight tests have shown a couple of minor snags, most noticeably today when one undercarriage door refused to close due to a microswitch. This hasn't dented the optimism of the team who are now focussing their efforts on obtaining the Display Authorisation before the start of the airshow season. Look out for a much bigger feature next week...


15 April 2008 - Mildenhall

The current closure of Incirlik AFB for runway maintenance has seen an increase of activity at RAF Mildenhall, most noticeably with C-17s. It has also meant a near daily movement of US civil cargo haulers, namely World, Atlas, Kalitta and Evergreen. These ageing frames rarely seen away from Prestwick, have added some 'colour' amongst the grey of the USAF aircraft at Mildenhall. Tuesday 15th April was no exception, with the sight of this once water bomber, N470EV of Evergreen, now converted back to being a freighter. Courtesy Colin Cooke


8 April 2008 - Wattisham

The rare sight of an Antonov Design Bureau An-124 (UR 82009) freighter was to be seen at Wattisham Airfield this morning, returning three Army Air Corps Apache attack helicopters from exercises in the USA. The aircraft type was seen at Wattisham last year and is the largest type to ever land at this airfield. Courtesy Dave Eade/DEltafoto

7 April 2008 - Brize Norton

Fifth C-17A Delivered to 99 Squadron

At 10:05 ZZ175, the first C-17A to be purchased outright by the Ministry of Defence for the Royal Air Force, landed at Brize Norton following its delivery flight from the Boeing plant in San Antonio, Texas. ZZ175 is the 185th C-17 to be delivered from the Boeing production line in Long Beach, California. If flew for the first time on 4 February 2008 and then spent time at the San Antonio works for post delivery work, including the fitting of the infra-red security sensors.

The first four RAF C-17 aircraft were delivered in 2001 on a seven-year lease from Boeing but it has since been decided that these aircraft, which have now flown in excess of 41,000 hours, will be retained with the leases being 'bought out' later in 2008. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, said: “This fifth Royal Air Force C-17 will increase our ability to rapidly transport troops and heavy equipment to operations, and significantly enhance our overall logistics capability. C-17s are robust, capable and flexible and have proven their worth on UK Operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan and more widely when we flew them in support of humanitarian operations following the Tsunami in South East Asia and the earthquake in Pakistan”.

The crew for the delivery flight of ZZ175 from San Antonio to Brize Norton were Wg Cdr John Gladston - OC 99 Squadron (pilot), Sqn Ldr Paul Wyatt (co-pilot), Flt Sgt Stephen Lloyd (ALM) and SAC(T) Mathew Moore (SVC). Wg Cdr Gladston explained that the Globemaster is “Enormously important” to the RAF. “It is the backbone of the operational airbridge – we go into both operational locations several times a week,” he said.

The sixth C-17A for the RAF, UK6, will be delivered to 99 Squadron in the Summer of 2008. Courtesy Roger Cook/Pynelea Photo Bureau


5 April 2008 - Luton

Departing carrying a VIP was Italian Air force A319 MM62174, from 306 Gruppo, based at Roma - Ciampino airport in Italy. Picture courtesy Kevin Russ

4 April 2008 - Mildenhall

Arriving at Mildenhall after dark was 'Open Skies' OC-135B 61-2670 from the 55th RW. Departing on the morning of Monday 7th, the OC-135 was bound for Kubinka Air Base in Russia for the commencement of a 96-hour 'live mission' overflying Russian military facilities. Courtesy Kevin Wright

4 April 2008 - Leeming

The end of a week during which the RAF celebrated its 90th Anniversary also saw the demise of one of its most illustrious squadrons; 25 (or XXV for the more classically inclined) Squadron at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire. This was an event which had been long in the planning, having been promulgated as long ago as 2005 when its then sister squadron, 'Legs Eleven', was disbanded. Hence the Squadron decided, in words of its OC Wing Commander John Prescott, "that the disbandment will not be a sad occasion, but a celebration of a proud and historic Squadron". Given the media coverage of the event, at least in Yorkshire and the North East, there can be no doubt that the aim was achieved. There was more of a party atmosphere than is usual on these occasions and a good turn out of VIPs in their dress uniforms with almost enough gold braid to gild one of her Majesty's coaches. Naturally a goodly share of this adorned the Reviewing Officer, Chief of the Air Staff ACM Sir Glenn Torpy, but there were other Air Marshalls in attendance too. More than one could shake a baton at in fact - there is no doubt that they had come to wave off a very special squadron.

25 Squadron's day

The flypast was impressive too for these stringent times; a six-ship launched from RAF Leuchars comprising aircraft in an assortment of markings from across the F3 force, including a schizophrenic one in the markings of both 25 and 111 squadrons, the explanation being of course that the squadron's aircraft were already being prepped for their new owners. However, at least two jets remained in full 25 Squadron markings; the flagship 'XXV' and 'FZ', which formed an impressive backdrop to the parade. Even the weather caught the party mood with a Spring sun blazing down on the parade, giving a glint to medals and the band's instruments.

Although a mischievous wind tried to blow away some of the empty seats at the end of the ceremony this was a big improvement on the weather for either of the previous disbandment parades held at Leeming. In his speech Sir Glenn was fulsome in his praise of the Squadron, referring to it having done "a wonderful job of maintaining the integrity of the UK's airspace" and thanked them for "an outstanding contribution of ninety-three years loyal and dedicated service". As the standard was marched off to the strains of Auld Lang Syne, many had a tear in their eye, especially the local aircraft enthusiasts who have made regular visits to the viewing enclosure to watch the flying. Courtesy Mick Britton & Bob Franklin


1 April 2008 - Coningsby

Typhoon assumes permanent defence role

In the week the Royal Air Force celebrated its 90th birthday, Britain's newest combat aircraft, the Eurofighter Typhoon, took over for the first time permanent defence of the United Kingdom's southern airspace.

Typhoon, which entered operational RAF service during 2006 with 3(Fighter) Squadron at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, took on shared Quick Reaction Alert (Southern) (QRA(S)) cover at the end of June 2007.

This duty has been performed since then alternating with the RAF's Tornado F3s from RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, and RAF Leuchars, Fife, until this week, when Typhoon assumed full responsibility. This is part of the planned replacement by Typhoon of the roles previously carried out by the RAF's Tornado F3 and Jaguar fleets.

QRA defence of the UK's northern airspace will continue to be provided by the Tornado F3s of 43(F) and 111(F) Squadrons at RAF Leuchars. Courtesy Air Command and Damien Burke


1 April 2008 - Campaign for Battle of Britain hero's statue

"If any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did." - Lord Tedder, GCB, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, 1947.

A campaign to erect a statue of Battle of Britain hero Sir Keith Park on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square is underway on the 90th anniversary of the RAF. Supporters of the campaign include politicians Boris Johnson MP, Brian Paddick and Tony Benn; historians Dr Stephen Bungay and Antony Beevor; former senior military officers Field Marshall Lord Bramall and General Lord Guthrie; and broadcaster Sir Patrick Moore.

New Zealander Sir Keith Park played a crucial role in winning the Battle of Britain. As Air Vice-Marshal, Park commanded the RAF squadrons which defended London and the South East of England in 1940. He then led the defence of Malta in 1942 and reached the rank of Air Chief Marshal.

After the war, Lord Tedder, GCB, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, said of Park: "If any one man won the Battle of Britain, he did. I do not believe it is realised how much that one man, with his leadership, his calm judgement and his skill, did to save, not only this country, but the world."

At the photo call to launch the campaign in Trafalgar Square, former Battle of Britain pilots joined senior serving RAF officers, a great-great-niece of Sir Keith Park, politicians and many other supporters of the campaign from across the country. A full-size replica of a Spitfire formed the backdrop for the launch.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy KCB CBE DSO ADC BSc (Eng) FRAeS FCGI RAF, said: "The plan to erect a statue of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park to commemorate his contribution to the Royal Air Force is particularly timely in this the ninetieth year since its formation. A statue situated in an appropriate location in London would be a fitting memorial to this World War I fighter ace and highly decorated airman. Sir Keith's illustrious military career spanned over thirty years during which he progressed from being an enlisted soldier to Air Chief Marshal. This very public acknowledgement of in particular Sir Keith's leadership of Number 11 Group Fighter Command in the defence of South East England and London is perhaps over due. It is an appropriate tribute to a man whose courage and resourcefulness were central to victory during the Battle of Britain and whose accomplishments are in the finest traditions of the Royal Air Force."

A spokesperson for the New Zealand High Commission said: "The New Zealand Government recognises the vital contribution made by Sir Keith Park during World War II in defence of the United Kingdom. This initiative should contribute to informing people about Sir Keith's life and achievements."

The campaign for a statue of Sir Keith was initiated by Terry Smith, a businessman and keen historian. Terry Smith said: "Trafalgar Square commemorates Nelson, who defended England in her hour of need. Yet, amazingly, there is no public memorial to Sir Keith Park. It is hard to imagine that the Fourth Plinth could serve a greater purpose than commemorating a man who did so much for this country. Hitler's failure to beat the RAF in 1940 forced him to call off his plans for invading Britain. Had Park lost, think what our future might have been."

"Such a memorial would help keep both his memory alive, and also help educate the young and all visitors to London of the incredible sacrifices made in that epic battle which raged above London and the South East in 1940."

The campaign is encouraging visitors to its website, www.sirkeithpark.com, to sign an online petition calling for the memorial. Dr. Stephen Bungay, historian and author of 'The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain', said: "Like Wellington, Park was never defeated in Battle. His record makes him, without rival, the greatest operational commander in the short history of air warfare".

A bronze statue of Sir Keith is in the process of being commissioned from the leading New Zealand sculptor, Roderick Burgess.

For further information please contact:

Karl McCartney, Campaign Director, Tel. 020 7200 7332, 07970 039767

Pascale Davies, Tel. 020 7200 7130


1 April 2008 - Around the UK!

Flypast fever as the RAF celebrated its 90th birthday - the Red Arrows and four Typhoons overflew central London and a number of RAF airfields, while nine Typhoons overflew the RAF Museum at Hendon in the early evening. Pictures courtesy Bob Franklin, Simon Partington, Gary Stedman & Gary Parsons



1 April 2008 - Heathrow

Security to tighten at UK airports?

Plans to implement greater security measures for the City of London, Gatwick and Heathrow Airports and the skies of southern England to guard against possible terrorist attacks could be on their way. 'Behind closed doors' discussions concerning the use of Heathrow Airport by the RAF have reportedly been taking place - the proposals could see hangars once used by British Airways' Concordes being modified and upgraded to house two (or perhaps four) fully-armed Tornado F3s as part of a London and Southern England QRA detachment plan. RAF Northolt was a possibility for this proposal, but this option was ruled out due to the increase in general light aircraft activity at nearby Denham Airfield, at times unpredictable.

Although the Typhoon has recently taken over QRA duties at RAF Coningsby, there have been concerns that in the event of the London area being threatened the Typhoons may not be able to respond quickly enough to counter the threat - with surplus Tornado F3 aircraft from RAF Leeming now being transferred to other F3 units or placed into storage, the lower-hour airframe aircraft could be considered for the Heathrow QRA role, initially for a six-month detachment after which the Typhoon will take over the duties.

The hangars at Heathrow are ideally placed for Tornado F3 QRA operations; the aircraft could taxi straight out to the runway at speed with no hindrance and with only minimum or no delay to the daily operations of the airport and commercial airliners either on the ground or in the air. One main concern would be the reaction of the local residents and environmental groups, who already strongly voice their concerns about the current noise pollution levels at Heathrow. Tornado F3 operations would certainly see these levels increase and this will outrage many of these people. If the plans are to go ahead, airport perimeter security would be tightened and there would be "Zero tolerance" shown to aviation photographers and plane spotters who are seen around the perimeter fence and in the areas they currently frequent in pursuit of their hobby. Neither the RAF, British Airways nor BAA were available for comment on the speculation. Courtesy Paul Tiller


1 April 2008 - Coningsby

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight to be deployed to Afghanistan?

It is rumoured that full frontline offensive status is to be accorded to the affectionately known Battle of Britain Memorial flight as part of a package of measures to bolster the UK's commitment to NATO forces in Afghanistan and provide a "more cost-effective in-theatre weapons platform". Some of the finest bombers, fighters and training aircraft that have ever served in the RAF, will once more be deployed to a war zone.

To be formally redesignated 44(R) Squadron, the squadron is quietly preparing its work-up for possible deployment later in the year. It had been hoped that 11 Squadron would deploy with the Typhoon FGR4, but continuing software issues have delayed its operational deployment to early 2009.

Interviewed this morning, Lancaster pilot Captain Damon Ringer (call-sign 'Hells Bells'), was chomping at the bit at the opportunity. "We will show these Al Queda people what a good old British bomber can do to their afternoon tea party!" It would seem a recently found cache of Second World War 'Tallboy' bombs at nearby Faldingworth has been deemed suitable for operations, and will be fitted with GPS-controlled JDAM technology for precision bombing missions. Operating at medium altitude, the Lancaster will be above small arms fire, and the gun turrets will be unoccupied to save weight as there is no air threat in theatre. Spitfires and Hurricanes will be used in the Close Air Support role, using a mix of traditional and modern weapons systems.

Hurricane pilot Major Geraldine Fotheringay-Fortesque-Smyth-Pritchard (call-sign 'Jane') was more sanguine, saying that she hoped these sixty-year old aircraft would serve their roles well, and "Show these boundahs we really mean business!"

Deployment could start as early as July, seriously affecting the later part of the airshow season, although 11 Squadron has reportedly offered a nine-ship Typhoon display to fill the gap as it seems they won't be as busy as they first thought this year. Courtesy Alistair Maclean & Guy Harvey


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