No. 216 Squadron RAF

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No. 216 Squadron RAF
216 Squadron badge
Active5 October 1917 – 1 April 1918 (RNAS)
1 April 1918 – 27 June 1975 (RAF)
1 July 1979 – 20 March 2014
1 April 2020 – present
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
TypeDrone swarm technology
RoleTest & Evaluation
Home stationRAF Waddington
Motto(s)CCXVI dona ferens
(Latin for '216 bearing gifts')[1]
Battle honours * Honours marked with an asterisk may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Squadron badgeAn eagle, wings elevated, holding a bomb in its claws. Approved by King Edward VIII in May 1936.[2]
Squadron codesVT (Apr 1939 – Sep 1939)
SH (Sep 1939 – Sep 1941)

Number 216 Squadron is a squadron of the Royal Air Force based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, since reforming on 1 April 2020 and is tasked with testing future drone swarm technology. It had previously operated Lockheed TriStar K1, KC1 and C2s from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, between November 1984 and March 2014.


First World War[edit]

No. 216 Squadron's beginnings can be traced back to August 1917 when No. 7 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) sent a detachment of four Handley Page O/100 to Redcar in order to fly anti-submarine missions. Moving to Manston in October, the unit was re-designated as 'A' Squadron.[3] At the end of October, 'A' Squadron was deployed to Ochey, France, joining No. 41 Wing as a strategic night bomber squadron.[4] On 8 January 1918, 'A' Squadron was re-designated as No. 16 Squadron (RNAS).[5] In March, the squadron began to convert to the Handley Page O/400.[6] On the night of 24/25 March, an aircraft from the squadron carried out an 8 and a half hour attack on Cologne.[3] On 1 April, while operating out of Villeseneux (south east of Reims), No. 16 Squadron (RNAS) became No. 216 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.[5]


Between the two World Wars the squadron used Vickers Vimy, Vickers Victoria and Vickers Type 264 Valentia aircraft on transport duties around the Middle East. No. 216 Squadron had their squadron badge approved by King Edward VIII in May 1936.[5]

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War, with a few exceptions, such as the attacks from 17 to 21 June 1940 by a single aircraft of No. 216 Squadron on the airfields of El Adem and Tobruk,[7] the unit was principally a transport squadron, operating the Vickers Type 264 Valentia, Bristol Bombay, de Havilland DH86, Lockheed Hudson and Douglas Dakota. It spent a lengthy time deployed to Cairo from November 1942 to July 1945.[8]


No. 216 Squadron leaving RAF Fayid (Egypt) for the UK in 1955.

In late 1949, the Dakotas were replaced by Vickers Valettas transport aircraft; in 1955 the squadron moved to RAF Lyneham from RAF Fayid in Egypt to operate the De Havilland Comet C.2 jet airliner until 27 June 1975, when No. 216 Squadron disbanded after 58 years of service.[5]

The squadron reformed at RAF Honington on 1 July 1979 as a maritime strike squadron assigned to Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) with twelve Blackburn Buccaneer S.2[9] aircraft transferred from the Fleet Air Arm's 809 Naval Air Squadron. These aircraft had been embarked on HMS Ark Royal[10] until flying off for the last time in November 1978 for a delivery flight from the carrier in the Mediterranean to RAF St Athan. Designated Buccaneer S2A by the RAF, they were equipped with twelve WE.177A nuclear bombs,[11] free-falling conventional HE bombs and Martel missiles for non-nuclear strike. However, on 7 February 1980, a No. XV Squadron Buccaneer crashed after a wing failed in flight during the Red Flag exercise in the USA.[12] The resulting grounding and inspections saw the size of the Buccaneer fleet reduced, with the result that No. 216 Squadron had its assets merged with No. 12 (Bomber) Squadron barely a year after its reformation, however the squadron was not officially disbanded.[5][13]

Lockheed TriStar (1984–2014)[edit]

No. 216 Squadron TriStar K.1 ZD949 departing from Kemble Airfield, June 2005.

Following the Falklands War, the RAF found itself lacking in the strategic transport capabilities required to sustain the expanded military presence there; this shortfall was filled initially by chartered British Airways Boeing 747s and Britannia Airways Boeing 767s. To address this, in December 1982 the RAF purchased six former British Airways Lockheed TriStar 500s. The first TriStar (ZD949) was leased back to British Airways on 29 March 1983 until November, eventually undergoing conversion at Cambridge Airport by Marshall Aerospace in 1986.[14] In 1984, the RAF purchased a further three TriStar 500s from Pan-Am.[15]

No. 216 Squadron was reactivated on 1 November 1984 at RAF Brize Norton to operate the Lockheed TriStar.[5] The aircraft were operated initially in the air-transport role but the fleet's role was eventually expanded to Air-to-Air Refuelling.[16] On 24 March 1986, TriStar KC.1 ZD953 became the first aircraft to be handed over to the squadron.[17]

No. 216 Squadron deployed the TriStar fleet in support of many high-profile missions including the Gulf War (for which the aircraft received a desert paint scheme), Operation Allied Force (Kosovo), Operation Veritas and Operation Herrick (Afghanistan), Operation Telic (Iraq 2003) and Operation Ellamy (Libya).[18]

The squadron was disbanded on 20 March 2014 at RAF Brize Norton,[19] with the last Tristar sortie being flown on 24 March.[20] On 11 October 2017, it was announced that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had approved the award of 'Iraq 2003-2011' and 'Libya 2011' Battle Honours to No. 216 Squadron (without the right to emblazon).[21]

Drone Swarm (2020–present)[edit]

On 17 July 2019, at the Air & Space Power Conference, the RAF announced that No. 216 Squadron would reform to become an experimental unit that will test future drone swarm technology.[22] The squadron is expected to reform on 1 April 2020, initially based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.[23][24][25] No. 216 Squadron formally stood up on 1 April 2020.[26]

Aircraft operated[edit]

De Havilland Comet C.2 XK697 operating a VIP flight from London Heathrow Airport, June 1965.

Aircraft operated include:[27][28][14][29]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 59. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ "216 Sqn". RAF Heraldry Trust. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Squadron History". 216 Squadron Association. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  4. ^ "No 216 Squadron Aircraft & Markings". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "216 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 8 February 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Squadron History". 216 Squadron Association. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  7. ^ Playfair, Vol. I, page 113.
  8. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 71
  9. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1980
  10. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1977–78
  11. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1981
  12. ^ "1980 losses". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  13. ^ Weapon overview @ Carriage
  14. ^ a b "Displaying Serials in range ZD". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  15. ^ Frawley, Gerard (2002). The International Directory of Military Aircraft, 2002-2003. Fyshwick, ACT, Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd. p. 44. ISBN 1-875671-55-2.
  16. ^ "RAF TriStars to be scrapped after US sale falls through". Flight Global. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  17. ^ Tanner, Richard (2006). History of Air-To-Air Refuelling. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Aviation. pp. 89–90. ISBN 1844152723.
  18. ^ Military Operations news (20 March 2011). "Updated: British Armed Forces launch strike against Libyan air defence systems". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  19. ^ "The disbandment parade of 216 Squadron took place yesterday at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire". Royal Air Force (Facebook). 21 March 2014. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  20. ^ Hoyle, Craig (24 March 2014). "RAF TriStars to fly final sortie". FlightGlobal. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  21. ^ "Royal Air Force squadrons recognised for gallantry". Ministry of Defence. 11 October 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  22. ^ Jennings, Gareth (17 July 2019). "RAF announces AEW&C, space, 'drone' test squadrons". IHS Janes. London. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  23. ^ Trevelyan, Anne-Marie (27 January 2020). "216 Squadron:Written question - 5351". UK Parliament. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  24. ^ Trevelyan, Anne-Marie (27 January 2020). "216 Squadron:Written question - 5352". UK Parliament. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  25. ^ Jennings, Gareth (22 January 2020). "UK targets April for 'swarming drones' unit". Jane's Defence Weekly. Vol. 57, no. 4. Coulsdon: Jane's Group UK Limited. p. 13. ISSN 2399-8334.
  26. ^ Jennings, Gareth (31 March 2020). "UK stands-up 'swarming drones' development unit". IHS Janes. London. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  27. ^ "No 216 Squadron". Air of Authority. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  28. ^ "No.216 Squadron". Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  29. ^ "Displaying Serials in range ZE". Retrieved 10 May 2020.


  • Flintham, V. (1990) Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present. Facts on File. ISBN 0816023565
  • 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 Publishing. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; with Flynn, Captain F.C. (R.N.) & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2009) [1st. pub. HMSO:1954]. Butler, Sir James (ed.). The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume I: The Early Successes Against Italy, to May 1941. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 978-1-84574-065-8.
  • E.D Harding 1923. A history of Number 16 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service - Revised 2006 Peter Chapman

External links[edit]