RAF Brize Norton
|RAF Brize Norton|
|Near Carterton, Oxfordshire in England|
A400M Atlas at RAF Brize Norton
Shown within Oxfordshire
|Type||Royal Air Force station|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|Controlled by||No. 2 Group (Air Combat Support)|
|Group Captain Timothy T Jones BSc(Hons) MA RAF|
|Identifiers||IATA: BZZ, ICAO: EGVN, WMO: 03649|
|Elevation||88 metres (289 ft) AMSL|
Royal Air Force Brize Norton or RAF Brize Norton (IATA: BZZ, ICAO: EGVN) in Oxfordshire, about 65 mi (105 km) west north-west of London, is the largest station of the Royal Air Force. It is close to the settlements of Brize Norton, Carterton and Witney.
The station is home to Air Transport, Air-to-Air refuelling and Military Parachuting, with aircraft operating from the station including the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, Airbus A400M Atlas and Airbus A330 MRTT Voyager which replaced the now decommissioned Vickers VC10 in September 2013 and the Lockheed TriStar in March 2014.
By the end of June 2011 all flying units from RAF Lyneham had moved to RAF Brize Norton.
- 1 History
- 2 Operations
- 3 Current units
- 4 Previous units
- 5 Airlines and destinations
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Royal Air Force
RAF Brize Norton was opened in 1937 as a training station, with No. 2 Flying Training School (2 FTS) transferring from RAF Digby on 7 September 1937. On 10 October 1938, 2 FTS was joined by No. 6 Maintenance Unit. The station was originally to be named RAF Carterton, given its proximity and relationship with the town of the same name, but was instead named RAF Brize Norton to avoid possible confusion with RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire.
One of the first operational squadrons to use the airfield was No. 110 Squadron RAF which was mainly based at RAF Wattisham but a detachment used Brize Norton from June 1939 with the Bristol Blenheim Mks I and IV. 2 FTS was renamed No 2 Service Training School (2 SFTS) in September 1939, when it re-equipped with the Airspeed Oxford. No 16 Service Training School, equipped with North American Harvards moved to Brize Norton in June 1940. On 16 August, the airfield was attacked by German bombers, with 35 Oxfords and 11 Hawker Hurricanes destroyed. 16 SFTS left later that year, but 2 SFTS and 6 MU continued to use the airfield, with No. 1525 Beam Approach Training Flight moving there in February 1942.
The 110 Squadron detachment left Brize Norton on 17 March 1942, when the squadron left for the Far East. The two flying training units left on 16 July 1942 to make way for a new user, the Heavy Glider Conversion Unit, equipped with Whitley glider tugs and Horsa gliders. 296 Squadron and 297 Squadron both moved in on 14 March 1944 with their Armstrong Whitworth Albemarles, displacing the Heavy Glider Conversion Unit (HGCU), which moved to RAF North Luffenham. The two Squadrons took part in the Invasion of France on 6 June 1944 and Operation Market Garden in September 1944, before 296 Squadron added the Handley Page Halifax V to their inventory and moved to RAF Earls Colne on 29 September 1944 and 297 Squadron moved to the same place a day later.
The HGCU (soon renumbered 21 HGCU) returned on 15 October 1944, remaining at Brize Norton until 31 December 1945. The Transport Command Development Unit (TCDU) moved in in 1946, operating a variety of equipment until it moved out in June 1949. 297 Squadron returned after the Second World War had ended, on 5 September 1946 with the Halifax Mks A.7 and A.9 from RAF Tarrant Rushton before leaving during the summer of 1947 on 21 August moving to RAF Fairford. After the TCDU left in June 1949, 2 Squadron of the Central Flying School, equipped with Harvards, moved in, followed by No. 204 Advanced Flying School, equipped with de Havilland Mosquitos, staying at Brize Norton until March and June 1950 respectively.
United States Air Force
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By 1950 elements of Strategic Air Command (SAC) were based at RAF Lakenheath, RAF Marham, and RAF Sculthorpe. The increasing tension of the Cold War led to a re-evaluation of these deployments. By 1953 SAC bombers began to move further west, behind RAF fighter forces, to Brize Norton, RAF Greenham Common, RAF Upper Heyford, and RAF Fairford. As with the other stations it occupied, SAC invested heavily in extending the runway (6,000 to 9,000 ft (1,829 to 2,743 m)), taxiways and dispersals, as well as constructing accommodation and weapons handling facilities. This work was completed in April 1951.
The station was transferred from USAFE to SAC effective from 8 December 1952. 30th Air Depot Wing became the 3rd Air Force unit responsible for control of all personnel at Brize Norton, upon receipt of instructions to control base functions. The station was assigned to the 7th Air Division and operated by the 3920th Air Base Group, which was renamed as the 3920th Combat Support Group, and then the 3920th Strategic Wing in 1964. The 3920th ceased operations in 1965.
The first major USAF deployment was that of 21 Convair B-36 Peacemaker strategic bombers of the 11th Bomb Wing for eight days in June 1952. Boeing B-29 Superfortress and the KB-29 tanker variant of the 301st Bombardment Wing were based at Brize Norton on temporary duty from December 1952 to April 1953.
From September 1953, units equipped with the Boeing B-47E Stratojet six-engined bombers began to be deployed to Brize Norton on 90-day temporary deployments, with boom-equipped Boeing KC-97G Stratofreighters also being deployed in support from December 1954. Brize Norton was closed for runway repairs in 1956. B-47 Stratojets returned in July 1957. Later deployments included KC-97 and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker and the first Convair B-58 Hustler and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers to land in the United Kingdom.
From 1958, B-47 deployments changed from 90-day temporary deployments to 30-day Reflex Alerts, in which the aircraft did little flying, but were held at a high degree of readiness (armed with nuclear bombs) on special aprons on the south side of the airbase. In September 1964, the USAF announced that Reflex operations would cease and that Brize Norton would be handed back to the RAF. While the base was formally returned to the RAF on 1 April 1965, the last SAC aircraft, a B-47E of the 380th Bombardment Wing left the base on 3 April, while USAF personnel finally left on 31 May.
Back to Royal Air Force control
In 1965 the RAF returned to Brize Norton and both 10 Squadron, equipped with the Vickers VC10 C.1 jet transport and 53 Squadron equipped with the Short Belfast C1 heavy lift turboprop freighter moved from RAF Fairford in May 1967. As facilities at Brize Norton were still unfinished, they used RAF Lyneham as a passenger terminal until October 1968.
In 1970 two squadrons 99 Squadron and 511 Squadron operating the Bristol Britannia moved from RAF Lyneham. Both squadrons were disbanded in 1976, along with 53 Squadron, operating the Short Belfast C1 heavy lift turboprop freighter. In the same year, 115 Squadron moved from RAF Cottesmore operating the Hawker Siddeley Andover in the radar calibration role. The squadron moved to RAF Benson in 1983.
101 Squadron reformed at Brize Norton on 1 May 1984, 101 Squadron flew converted civil VC10s, heavily modified and updated by British Aerospace for military service as aerial refuelling tankers between 1983 and 1993. Of the 39 airline aircraft acquired by the RAF, 13 were converted, while the remainders were used for spare parts. These converted VC10s were all 3-point tankers; capable of refuelling one aircraft (typically another large aircraft) using the main hose or two smaller aircraft using the underwing pods. The variants were known as K.2, K.3 and K.4.
Following the Falklands War, the RAF found itself lacking in the strategic transport capabilities required to sustain the expanded military presence there. As a result, 216 Squadron was reformed at Brize Norton in November 1984, initially flying six ex-British Airways TriStars, followed by three more from Pan-Am.
10 Squadron's VC10 C.1s were later modified with underwing AAR refuelling pods, and were redesignated On 14 October 2005, 10 Squadron was disbanded, the aircrew and aircraft were merged with 101 Squadron.
With the closure of RAF Lyneham taking place in late 2011, the repatriation of British personnel was relocated to Brize Norton on 8 September 2011. To accommodate the repatriation services, a purpose-built centre has been constructed, and an exit gate has been refurbished, formally named the Britannia Gate.
Programme of future Brize redevelopment
Brize Norton is already a major airbase for the RAF's transport fleet. However, the end of flying from RAF Lyneham in September 2011 will signal Brize Norton becoming the sole "Air Point of Embarkation", the main operating base for RAF air transport and in-air refuelling aircraft, and home to 15% of RAF uniformed manpower. All the RAF's fixed wing transport assets will then be consolidated at Brize Norton, with the transfer of the entire Hercules force, together with the entry into service of the Airbus A400M and the Voyager.
To accommodate this expansion (with the number of aircraft stationed at Brize Norton increasing from 28 to 67), a major infrastructure redevelopment, "Programme Future Brize" was established in 2009. The project involves the overhaul of virtually every element of the airfield's infrastructure, including IT, engineering, housing and personnel.
By March 2011, 70 buildings had been refurbished on the station. As part of work to prepare for the introduction of Voyager aircraft into active service, a new hangar and office complex was opened in the same month.
The Hercules fleet at RAF Lyneham officially moved to Brize Norton on 1 July 2011. The final four aircraft flew to the station, conducting a flypast over Wiltshire. Group Captain John Gladstone, Station Commander of RAF Lyneham, flew the lead Hercules, which carried the standards of the Hercules squadrons. These were presented to the Station Commander of RAF Brize Norton, Group Captain Dom Stamp in a welcoming ceremony.
On 12 August 2006, campaigners restricted access at the main entrance for several hours in a protest against British policy in the Middle East.
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The station is home to the Administrative Wing, Airport of Embarkation Wing, Depth Support Wing, Forward Support Wing and Operations Wing. Lodger units are the RAF Police, Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit (JADTEU) - a tri-service unit that tests and evaluates air transportation methods, No.1 Parachute Training School RAF and No 1 Air Mobility Wing - An air combat support unit on high readiness to deploy specialist Movements personnel worldwide.
RAF Brize Norton Flying Club resides at the station providing low cost flying for MOD personnel and training to PPL level and above. Initially operating two Cherokee aircraft today, the fleet consists of two Piper Warriors painted in pseudo-"training black" (actually dark blue) to enhance visibility in line with RAF training aircraft policies.
Royal Air Force
- No.10 Squadron - Voyager KC2/KC3
- No. 24 Squadron - Hercules C4/C5 and A400M Atlas - Operational Conversion Unit (OCU)
- No. 30 Squadron - Hercules C4/C5
- No. 47 Squadron - Hercules C4/C5
- No. 70 Squadron - A400M Atlas
- No. 99 Squadron - C-17 Globemaster III
- No. 101 Squadron - Voyager KC2/KC3
- No. 622 (Reserve Aircrew) Squadron (Royal Auxiliary Air Force)
- Airborne Delivery Wing
- Airport of Embarkation Wing
- No. 38 Expeditionary Air Wing Deployable Command and Control HQ to support Air Mobility Operations
- No. 4 RAF Force Protection Wing HQ RAF Regiment
- No. 2624 (County of Oxford) Squadron (Royal Auxiliary Air Force) Regiment
- Defence Movements School (Tri-Service)
- No. 2267 (Brize Norton) Squadron (Air Training Corps)
- No. 1 Air Mobility Wing
- No. 501 (County of Gloucester) Squadron (Royal Auxiliary Air Force)
- No. 4624 (County of Oxford) Movements Squadron (Royal Auxiliary Air Force)
- RAF Medical Operations
- Tactical Medical Wing
- Headquarters Tactical Medical Wing
- Aeromedical Evacuation Control Centre
- Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
- Capability and Sustainment Squadron
- Operations Squadron
- Training Squadron
- No. 4626 (County of Wiltshire) Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (Royal Auxiliary Air Force)
- Tactical Medical Wing
- No. 206 (Reserve) Squadron - Test and Evaluation of A400M Atlas & Hercules C4/C5
- Joint Air Delivery Test & Evaluation Unit (JADTEU)
- 47 Air Despatch Squadron
- RAF Brize Norton Flying Club - Piper PA-28 Warrior
A partial list of units previously based at Brize Norton.
- No. 53 Squadron RAF (1967–1976) - Short Belfast C1.
- No. 115 Squadron RAF (1976–1983) - Armstrong Whitworth Argosy, Hawker Siddeley Andover.
- No. 296 Squadron RAF (1943–1944) - Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle.
- No. 297 Squadron RAF (1944) - Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle.
- No. 511 Squadron RAF (1970–1976) - Bristol Britannia.
- No 241 Operational Conversion Unit RAF - Training and checking crews for Belfast, Britannia and VC10.
- No. 216 Squadron RAF (1975-2014) - TriStar K1, KC1 & C2/C2A
Airlines and destinations
|AirTanker||Charter: RAF Ascension Island, RAF Akrotiri, Calgary, RAF Mount Pleasant, Camp Bastion|
|Kalitta Air||Dover, Fairfield, McGuire AFB|
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