MoD Boscombe Down
|MOD Boscombe Down|
|Amesbury, Wiltshire in England|
|Type||Military test and evaluation airfield|
|Area||572 hectares (1,410 acres)|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||QinetiQ and Royal Air Force|
|In use||1917 – present|
|Identifiers||ICAO: EGDM, WMO: 03746|
|Elevation||124 metres (407 ft) AMSL|
|Source: MOD Boscombe Down Defence Aerodrome Manual|
MoD Boscombe Down (ICAO: EGDM) is the home of a military aircraft testing site, on the southeastern outskirts of the town of Amesbury in Wiltshire, England. The site is managed by QinetiQ, the private defence company created as part of the breakup of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) in 2001 by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The base was originally conceived, constructed, and operated as Royal Air Force Boscombe Down, more commonly known as RAF Boscombe Down, and since 1939, has evaluated aircraft for use by the British Armed Forces. The airfield has two runways, one 3,212 metres (10,538 ft) in length, and the second 1,914 metres (6,280 ft). The airfield's evaluation centre is currently home to Rotary Wing Test Squadron (RWTS), Fast Jet Test Squadron (FJTS), Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron (HATS), Handling Squadron, and the Empire Test Pilots' School (ETPS).
First World War
An aerodrome opened at the Boscombe Down site in October 1917 and operated as a Royal Flying Corps Training Depot Station. Known as Royal Flying Corps Station Red House Farm, it trained aircrews for operational roles in France during the First World War. Between opening and early 1919 the station accommodated No. 6 Training Depot, No. 11 Training Depot and No. 14 Training Depot. When the United States entered the war in April 1917, the Royal Flying Corps began training groundcrew and aircrew of Aviation Section of the US Army at the airfield. During 1918 the 166th Aero Squadron and 188th Aero Squadron were present. At the end of the war in November 1918, the airfield became an aircraft storage unit until 1920 when it closed and the site returned to agricultural use.
In 1930 the site reopened as Royal Air Force Boscombe Down, a bomber station in the Air Defence of Great Britain command, the fore-runner of RAF Fighter Command. The first unit to operate from the new airfield was No. 9 Squadron which started operating the Vickers Virginia heavy bomber on 26 February 1930. A second Virginia unit, No. 10 Squadron, arrived on 1 April 1931 and also operated the Handley Page Heyford.
The following RAF squadrons were based at Boscombe Down between 1930 and 1939:
- No. 9 Squadron RAF; between 1930 and 1935, with the Vickers Virginia;
- No. 10 Squadron RAF; between 1931 and 1937, with the Virginia
- No. 51 Squadron RAF; between 1937 and 1938, with the Virginia, Avro Anson, and the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley;
- No. 58 Squadron RAF; between 1937 and 1938, with the Anson, and the Whitley;
- No. 78 Squadron RAF; between 1936 and 1937, with the Heyford;
- No. 88 Squadron RAF; between 1937 and 1939, with the Hawker Hind, and the Fairey Battle;
- No. 97 Squadron RAF; between 1935 and 1937, with the Heyford;
- No. 150 Squadron RAF; between 1938 and 1939, with the Battle;
- No. 166 Squadron RAF; between 1936 and 1937, with the Heyford;
- No. 214 Squadron RAF; between 1935 and 1935, with the Virginia;
- No. 217 Squadron RAF; between 1937 and 1937, with the Anson;
- No. 218 Squadron RAF; between 1938 and 1939, with the Battle;
- No. 224 Squadron RAF; between 1937 and 1937, with the Anson.
Second World War
The Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) arrived from RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, on 9 September 1939, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War. The move marked the beginning of A&AEE Boscombe Down and aircraft research and testing at the station, a role which it has retained into the 21st century. About fifty aircraft and military and civilian personnel had arrived by mid-September 1939. The necessary facilities required for the specialist work carried out by the A&AEE were lacking at Boscombe Down, and its expansion resulted in many temporary buildings being constructed at the station in an unplanned manner.
- No. 35 Squadron RAF; during 1940, with the Handley Page Halifax I;
- No. 56 Squadron RAF; during 1940, with the Hawker Hurricane I;
- No. 109 Squadron RAF; between 1940 and 1942, with the Whitley, Anson, and Vickers Wellington;
- No. 249 Squadron RAF; during 1940, with the Hurricane.
Throughout the war, the airfield continued to have only grass runways and remained within its pre-war boundaries.
Boscombe was used to test and evaluate many aircraft flown by the British Armed Forces during the Cold War. First flights of notable aircraft include the English Electric P 1, forerunner of the English Electric Lightning, the Folland Gnat and Midge, Hawker P.1067 (the prototype Hunter), Westland Wyvern, and the BAC TSR.2. Part of the base was also used by the RAF School of Aviation Medicine.
The first hard-surface runway opened in October 1945 and was followed by two more runways with parallel taxiways to create the present-day layout. The runways extend into Idmiston and Allington parishes.
Aviation trial and evaluation centre
With the end of the Cold War, the site was renamed the Aircraft and Armament Evaluation Establishment (AAEE) in 1992. All experimental work was moved to the Defence Research Agency (DRA). Responsibility for the site passed from the MoD Procurement Executive to the Defence Test and Evaluation Organisation (DTEO) in 1993, which was amalgamated into the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) in 1995.
During this period, the station may have been involved in assisting the United States with its black projects. On 26 September 1994, after an aircraft crashed on landing due to a nosewheel collapse, a USAF C5 Galaxy was redirected to the station. It is speculated that the crashed plane was an Aurora, a hypersonic spy plane. Whatever it was, it was disassembled and returned to the US by the C5 Galaxy. Both the British and American Governments have refused to comment on the incident.
Following the creation of QinetiQ in 2001, a 25-year Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA) was established with the MoD, covering 16 sites including Boscombe Down. Under the agreement, Boscombe Down remains a government military airfield, but is operated by QinetiQ on behalf of the MoD. The Joint Test and Evaluation Group (JTEG) was established under the control of RAF Air Command, and together with QinetiQ, forms the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre (ATEC).
From 1 May 2007, Boscombe Down became the home of the Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron (JARTS) which was combined from the two Royal Navy and Royal Air Force elements who were responsible for aircraft moves and post-crash management.
In October 2007, it was announced that RAF Boscombe Down would become a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) airfield from early 2008, offering round-the-clock fighter coverage for the South and South West of UK airspace.
A small part of Boscombe's history is being preserved in the United States. The Anglo American Lightning Organisation (AALO) are returning to flight the former ETPS English Electric Lightning T.5, XS422. The voluntary group, made up of RAF and former RAF engineers, as well as civilian volunteers, has been carrying out a 'floor-up' restoration, and as of spring 2008, were around 80% mechanically complete. The project is currently seeking investors and supporters.
The Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron (HATS) at RAF Boscombe Down was responsible for the flight testing of heavy aircraft (multi-engine types). The department subsequently became known as Fixed Wing Test Squadron (FWTS); however, during the late 1980s, the title once more changed to that of the Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron.
The following units were located at the base at some point:
Royal Air Force
- Air and Space Warfare Centre
- Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre (operated in partnership with QinetiQ) – DA42 Twin Star, JAS 39 Gripen, PC-21, G120TP, RJ70, RJ100
- Support Force
- No. 6 Flying Training School
- "Defence Estates Development Plan 2009 – Annex A". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 July 2009. p. 47. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
- "Boscombe Down (Red House Farm)". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
- "MOD Boscombe Down Defence Aerodrome Manual". Royal Air Force. 1 December 2020. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
- "Empire Test Pilot School contact information". QinetiQ.com. QinetiQ. Archived from the original on 16 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- "MoD Boscombe Down: 1917–2007". Royal Aeronautical Society Boscombe Down Branch. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
- "RAF/MoD Boscombe Down". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
- Jefford 1988, p. 27.
- Jefford 1988, p. 41.
- Jefford 1988, p. 43.
- Jefford 1988, p. 48.
- Jefford 1988, p. 51.
- Jefford 1988, p. 53.
- Jefford 1988, p. 62.
- Jefford 1988, p. 64.
- Jefford 1988, p. 71.
- Jefford 1988, p. 72.
- Jefford 1988, p. 73.
- Mason 2010, p. 6.
- Jefford 1988, p. 37.
- Jefford 1988, p. 55.
- Jefford 1988, p. 78.
- "Boscombe Down, 27 September 1964: The TSR.2's First Flight (Pilot Roland Beamont; Navigator Donald Bowen)."". Flight. 1 October 1964. pp. 637–640.
- "Aviation medics push limits to protect RAF aircrews". Ministry of Defence. 3 November 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
- "Allington". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
- "The Future of DERA". UK Parliament. 3 November 1999. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
- "STEALTH". Key Publishing Air Forces Monthly. 10 June 2016.
- "RAF Boscombe Down's Black Day". Retrieved 14 September 2008.
- Bellamy, Christopher; Walker, Timothy (14 March 1997). "Secret US spyplane crash may be kept under wraps". The Independent.
- "About". LTPA. QinetiQ. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
- Nadin, Michael (October 2009). "Crash and Smash no more" (PDF). RAF.mod.uk. Royal Air Force. p. 38. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 October 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- Air base in front line fully-armed – Salisbury Journal, Monday 29 October 2007
- "Anglo American Lightning Organisation". Lightning422supporters.co.uk. UK: AALO. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
- "End of an era?". Royal Aeronautical Society. 6 February 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
- Lake 1999, p. 26. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLake1999 (help)
- Lake 1999, p. 37. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLake1999 (help)
- Lake 1999, p. 138. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLake1999 (help)
- "MOD Boscombe Down – Who's Based Here". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
- "MOD Boscombe Down". LTPA. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
- "Empire Test Pilots' School (ETPS)". Qinetiq. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
- "744 Naval Air Squadron". Royal Navy. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
- "Royal Air Force Centre of Aviation Medicine" (PDF). RAF Henlow. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
- Jefford, C G (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)
- Mason, Tim. (2010). The Secret Years: Flight Testing at Boscombe Down, 1939-1945. Crowborough, UK: Hikoki Publications. ISBN 978-1-9021-0914-5.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to RAF Boscombe Down.|
- Official website
- MOD Boscombe Down – Long Term Partnering Agreement website
- UK Military Aeronautical Information Publication – Boscombe Down (EGDM)