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|Near Lossiemouth, Moray in Scotland|
Motto: Thoir An Aire
Shown within Moray
|Type||Royal Air Force station|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|Group Captain Mark Chappell ADC RAF|
|Identifiers||IATA: LMO, ICAO: EGQS, WMO: 03068|
|Elevation||13 metres (43 ft) AMSL|
It is one of the RAF's biggest bases and is Britain's main base for Tornado GR4s.
From Summer 2014, the Northern Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) force of Typhoon FGR4 will relocate to Lossiemouth following the closure of RAF Leuchars. This will leave Lossiemouth as the only operational RAF base in Scotland.
Second World War
Royal Air Force Lossiemouth was built during 1938 and 1939 with No. 15 Flying Training School forming in April 1939. The first aircraft to use Lossiemouth regularly were Oxfords and Harvards but, due to the location and good weather, many different types of aircraft were frequently diverted to the station. In April 1940, the station was handed over to RAF Bomber Command and 20 Operational Training Unit was formed. Although mainly a training unit for bomber crews during the Second World War, some operational raids were launched from Lossiemouth, the most important being 617 "The Dambusters" Squadron's successful attack on the Tirpitz, pride of the German battle fleet, on 12 November 1944.
At the end of the hostilities the station became a satellite unit of Milltown in RAF Coastal Command, before being handed over to the Fleet Air Arm in 1946 and becoming RNAS Lossiemouth (HMS Fulmar). The Fleet Air Arm used Lossiemouth as a training station with pilots receiving their basic training here before moving to RNAS Culdrose (HMS Seahawk) for instrument training. The final stage of training, deck-landing, was practised at Milltown before students were allowed to land on HMS Theseus in the Moray Firth. On 28 March 1967 Blackburn Buccaneer planes from Lossiemouth bombed the shipwrecked supertanker Torrey Canyon off the western coast of Cornwall to make the oil burn in order to avoid an environmental disaster.
On 13 November 1971, the Fairey Gannet 849 Naval Air Squadron was redeployed from RNAS Brawdy in Wales to Lossiemouth where it continued in service after the Fleet Air Arm handed the station back to the Royal Air Force on 28 September 1972. 'D' Flight, 202 Squadron, the Helicopter Search and Rescue Flight, was the first RAF unit to return. May 1973 saw the arrival of the Jaguar Conversion Team (renamed 226 Operational Conversion Unit on 1 October 1974) and in August 1973, 8 Squadron Avro Shackleton transferred to Lossiemouth from nearby Kinloss. The Fleet Air Arm Fairey Gannets of 849 Squadron were retired from service in November 1978 and the squadron was disbanded. In December No. 48 Squadron RAF Regiment arrived to provide short-range defence with their Rapier surface-to-air missiles. In July 1979, 2622 (Highland) Royal Air Force Auxiliary Regiment was formed, tasked with the ground defence of the station. From 1978 to 1981, No. 2 Tactical Weapons Unit RAF flew Hawker Hunter from Lossiemouth prior to the reopening of RAF Chivenor.
On 1 July 1991, the Shackletons of 8 Squadron retired from service and on 1 October 1991 237 Operational Conversion Unit was disbanded. In 1992 however, another unit was added to the station strength with the formation of 237 Field Squadron of the Territorial Army responsible for Airfield Damage Repair. This squadron became part of 76 Engineer Regiment (V) RE, responsible for ADR in the North and Scotland. Also during that year, the important links between RAF Lossiemouth and the District of Moray were further strengthened when the station formally received the Freedom of Moray.
Post Cold War
Major changes took place in 1993 with the Blackburn Buccaneer anti-shipping squadrons starting to be replaced by the Panavia Tornado. On 1 October, 12(B) Squadron lost its Buccaneers but kept its squadron number-plate when re-equipped with Tornados. On 1 November, the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit, renamed XV(Reserve) Squadron arrived from RAF Honington in Suffolk.
In April 1994, 208 Squadron was disbanded and was replaced by 617 Squadron, which transferred with their Tornados from RAF Marham in Norfolk. Although 48 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment left Lossiemouth for Honington on 1 July 1996, RAF Lossiemouth continued to be one of the busiest front-line stations in the RAF with 3 Tornado Squadrons, including XV(Reserve) Squadron, 16(Reserve) Squadron (previously 226 OCU) and 'D' Flight, 202 Squadron with their Sea Kings. This line-up continued until July 2000, when the Jaguars left for RAF Coltishall in Norfolk; however, with the increase in size of XV(Reserve) Squadron in 1999 following the closure of the Tri-national Tornado Training Establishment at RAF Cottesmore, the arrival of the Tornados of 14 Squadron from RAF Brüggen in January 2001, RAF Lossiemouth has become the busiest fast-jet station in the Royal Air Force. In May 2001, 51 RAF Regiment Squadron was reformed and now sits with 2622 Auxiliary Squadron under the newly formed 5 Force Protection Wing Headquarters at RAF Lossiemouth.
Threat of Closure
The Strategic Defence and Security Review which was announced by the newly formed Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in May 2010 raised fears in the local community that RAF Lossiemouth could close, with its Tornado squadrons moving to RAF Marham in Norfolk, where engineering work for the aircraft was already based. On 7 November 2010 up to 7,000 people took part in a march and rally in Lossiemouth in support of retaining the RAF station, including Scotland's then First Minister Alex Salmond and other political leaders. Highlands and Islands Enterprise at the time identified that RAF Lossiemouth contributed £90.3m to the local economy and supported 3370 jobs. With Moray being the area of Scotland which had the most dependence on defence spending, it was feared the closure of RAF Lossiemouth as well as the confirmed closure of nearby RAF Kinloss would lead to economic uncertainty and a significant increase in unemployment. A petition with more than 30,000 signatures was delivered to 10 Downing Street by campaign members on 11 January 2011.
After a significant public campaign to retain the airfield the Ministry of Defence accounced on 18 July 2011 that RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Marham would remain open and that RAF Leuchars in Fife would close and transfer to the British Army, with Leuchar's Typoons and responsibility for Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North relocating to RAF Lossiemouth.
The RAF Lossiemouth structure:
- 140 Expeditionary Air Wing
- 1 Group
- 2 Group
- RAF Regiment
In November 2005, it was announced that Lossiemouth would be the main base for the RAF's fleet of F-35 Lightning IIs (designated the Joint Combat Aircraft by the Ministry of Defence). However, in March 2013 a review concluded that RAF Marham in Norfolk would become the main operating base for the F-35 and that Lossiemouth would instead become home to three squadrons of Typhoons.
The President of Virgin Galactic, Will Whitehorn stated in an interview with Space.co.uk on 29 April 2008 that the company was considering flying from RAF Lossiemouth during the summer months only. This option for Virgin Galactic has since been revised and it now seems unlikely that RAF Lossiemouth will be used.
On 18 July 2011, Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced that RAF Leuchars would close, whilst RAF Lossiemouth in Moray would be spared as part of the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review. The recently formed Northern QRA force of Typhoon FGR4s, which was stood up at Leuchars in March 2011, will now be moved to RAF Lossiemouth in 2014. Leuchars will be converted to a British Army base and with RAF Kinloss set for the same fate, RAF Lossiemouth will be the only operational RAF base in Scotland by the mid-2010s. No. 6 Squadron RAF have already moved to Lossiemouth in June of 2014 and No. 1 Squadron RAF in September 2014 No 2 (AC) Squadron has recently been disbanded at RAF Marham as a Tornado squadron and is in the process of forming at RAF Lossiemouth as the fifth RAF Typhoon Squadron, while ex RAF Lossiemouth Squadron, No 12 (B) will assume the responsibilities of 2 (AC) at RAF Marham.
- "Thousands join march to support RAF Lossiemouth". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
- "RAF Lossiemouth to be saved at expense of Leuchars". http://www.telegraph.co.uk/. Telegraph Media Group Ltd. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
- "RAF Lossiemouth petition lands at 10 Downing Street". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
- "RAF to pull out of Leuchars as RAF Lossiemouth stays". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
- "Threatened RAF Marham Tornado base to stay open". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
- Staff (17 November 2005). "RAF Bases Receive Aircraft Boost". BBC News. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- BBC (17 November 2005). "RAF Lossiemouth loses Joint Strike Fighter bid". BBC News. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
- "Defence Estate rationalisation update". Ministry of Defence. Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
- [dead link] "Will Whitehorn (Virgin Galactic) and Heather MacRae (Venture Thinking) at the RAeS". space.co.uk. Retrieved 26 July 2008.
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