|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2012)|
|Near Lossiemouth, Moray in Scotland|
Motto: Thoir An Aire
Shown within Moray
|Type||Royal Air Force station|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
Royal Air Force 1939-1946 and 1972-PresentFleet Air Arm 1946-1972
|Group Captain Mark Chappell ADC RAF|
|Identifiers||IATA: LMO, ICAO: EGQS, WMO: 03068|
|Elevation||13 metres (43 ft) AMSL|
Lossiemouth is one of the largest and busiest fast-jet stations in the Royal Air Force and known for its close proximity to flight training areas in Scotland and it's favourable local flying conditions. It is now the only operational RAF station in Scotland and is one of two main operating bases for the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 in the UK. It is home to three frontline units which operate the Typhoon (No. 1 Squadron, No. 2 (AC) Squadron and No. 6 Squadron) each of which contribute to the Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North capability which provides protection to UK airspace 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Tornado GR4 Operational Conversion Unit, XV(Reserve) Squadron is also based at the station.
The airfield opened in 1939 and was operated by the RAF predominately as part of Bomber Command until 1946 when it was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and became known as RNAS Lossiemouth (HMS Fulmar). The FAA used Lossiemouth as a training station until it was handed back to the RAF in September 1972, after which it has operated largely as fast-jet base.
Group Captain Mark Chappell ADC RAF has been the station commander since November 2013. HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York has been Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Lossiemouth since 1996 and regularly makes formal visits to the station.
- 1 History
- 2 Current structure
- 3 In the media
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
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 RAF 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, No.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.
In July 2000, 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.
Potential use as spaceport
Commercial spaceflight company Virgin Galactic announced in July 2006 that they were interested in using Lossiemouth as a spaceport, with the intention to start flights in 2010. Elected representatives for Moray, Angus Robertson MSP and Richard Lochhead MP lent their support to the proposals and held talks with the Scottish and UK Governments to promote the concept. After a two-year review looking at the potential of commercial spaceflight in the UK, the UK Space Agency announced in July 2014 that Lossiemouth was among eight shortlisted sites throughout the UK that could potentially accommodate a spaceport. However in March 2015, the UK government ruled out Lossiemouth as well as nearby RAF Kinloss as candidates due to opposition from the Ministry of Defence, who cited overriding operational factors. The decision was criticised by local politicians.
F-35 Lightning II and Threat of closure
The Ministry of Defence announced in November 2005 that Lossiemouth would be the main operating base for the RAF's new F-35 Lightning II fleet, which at the time was expected to enter service in 2013.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review, which was announced by the newly formed Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in May 2010, cast doubt on whether the F-35 would be based at Lossiemouth and raised fears in the local community that the station 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 announced on 18 July 2011 that both Lossiemouth and Marham would remain open with Lossiemouth's Tornados moving south to Marham. RAF Leuchars in Fife would close and transfer to the British Army, with the station's Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s and responsibility for Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North (QRA) relocating to Lossiemouth. It was subsequently confirmed by the Ministry of Defence in March 2013 that the F-35 Lighting II would be based at Marham rather than Lossiemouth.
Transition from Tornado to Typhoon
Following the announcement in 2011 that Lossiemouth would remain open, £17 million was spent in 2013 upgrading elements of the airfield in preparation for the arrival of the Typhoon, with a further £70 million set aside for following years. Work included the construction of new Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) facilities in the northern hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) complex, alterations to hangars 1 and 3 and new ground-support IT and communication systems. During March 2014, three Typhoons from RAF Leuchars arrived at Lossiemouth to take part in Exercise Moray Venture, a week long operation to test new facilities ahead of the aircraft's arrival later that year.
In preparation for the phased transfer of Typhoons to Lossiemouth and drawdown of the RAF's Tornado fleet, No.12 Squadron and No.617 Squadron disbanded on 1 April 2014. A fly-past by four Tornados as part of a ceremony to mark the occasion and attended by Prince Andrew, Duke of York was cancelled due to bad weather. The disbandment of the two squadrons left XV(R) Squadron as the only remaining Tornado unit based at Lossiemouth.
The first Typhoon unit, No. 6 Squadron, transferred from RAF Leuchars to Lossiemouth on 20 June 2014. Nine aircraft arrived in formation in the shape of a number 6. No. 1 Squadron, followed on 8 September 2014, at which point the responsibility for Quick Reaction Alert (North) transferred from RAF Leuchars to Lossiemouth.
The third Typhoon squadron based at Lossiemouth, No. 2 (AC) Squadron, arrived in January 2015. The squadron moved into the southern HAS complex, formerly occupied by No.617 Squadron, and began initial operations in March 2015 with the aim of being at full operating capability by the end of 2015. As a result of the move to Lossiemouth, the Tornados that the squadron previously operated were transferred to No. 12 Squadron at RAF Marham, Norfolk, which re-formed in January 2015.
End of search and rescue (SAR) operations
In 2006 the Labour government announced its intentions to privatise the search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service in the UK. A ten year contract worth £1.6 billon was signed in March 2013 with Bristow Helicopters who would run the service from 2015 with new AgustaWestland AW189 and Sikorsky S-92 helicopters. Consequently, SAR helicopter operations in the north east of Scotland ceased at Lossiemouth and moved to Inverness Airport, located 30 miles to the west. 'D' flight of No. 202 Squadron disbanded on 1 April 2015 with its Westland Sea King HAR3s being placed in storage at RAF Valley, Anglesey, bringing nearly 43 years of search and rescue operations at Lossiemouth to an end. Due to their prominent role, the Sea Kings were a familiar sight in the skies above Scotland, having been involved in several high profile incidents such as the Piper Alpha disaster and Lockerbie bombing and regularly appearing in local and national media during search and rescue operations.
Prior to the disbandment, a farewell party to be held by 'D' Flight personnel to thank the local community for their support, was cancelled by RAF officials. There was widespread criticism of the decision; however the RAF considered that the event could contravene campaigning rules for the upcoming UK general election, as it could be perceived as being political in nature.
Local charity, Morayvia, successfully secured the purchase of former Lossiemouth Sea King 'XZ592' from the Ministry of Defence in March 2015. It is intended that the aircraft will be retained in Moray and used as an exhibit as part of Morayvia's planned Science and Technology Experience Project at Kinloss. The Sea King would join Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR2 'XV244' which the group have also purchased.
The RAF Lossiemouth structure:
- 140 Expeditionary Air Wing
- 1 Group
- RAF Regiment
In the media
RAF Lossiemouth has featured in several television documentaries including -
- Shackleton...End of an Era was a 1984 programme produced for Granada TV examining the history of the Shackleton aircraft and featuring No. 8 Squadron at Lossiemouth.
- The Old Grey Ladies of Lossiemouth produced by Grampian TV captured the final months of Shackleton operations in 1990 before their withdrawal from service.
- Rescue was a thirteen part series which followed the Sea Kings of No. 202 Squadron 'D' Flight for a year and was shown on Grampian TV in 1990.
- The BBC TV series Perpetual Motion featured No. 8 Squadron and their Shackletons in an episode of the series in January 1992.
- JetSet was a six-part series produced by STV in 2006 which followed trainee Tornado GR4 crews as they passed through a six-month operational conversion course with No.15 Squadron. The programme was narrated by Scottish actor Ewan McGregor whose brother Colin McGregor was a Tornado pilot at Lossiemouth prior to his retirement in 2007.
The RAF Lossiemouth station magazine is called the Lossie Lighthouse and is distributed to station personnel, their families and the local community. It is also available online at the RAF Lossiemouth web page.
- "RAF Lossiemouth, About Us". RAF Lossiemouth. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
- "RAF Lossiemouth, Station History". RAF Lossiemouth. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
- "New beginnings for RAF Lossiemouth". www.raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
- "The Duke of York: Service Appointments". The British Monarchy. The Royal Household. 20 September 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
- "Space flights 'from Scots base'". BBC News. 3 July 2006. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- Hughes, Mark (9 May 2009). "Branson wants to create a spaceport in Scotland". http://www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Spaceport UK: Locations for launch sites unveiled". https://www.newscientist.com. Reed Business Information Ltd. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Summary and government response to the consultation on criteria to determine the location of a UK spaceport" (PDF). https://www.gov.uk. Department of Transport. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- McArdle, Helen. "Anger as Moray bases axed from spaceport shortlist, as Prestwick remains in the running". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- Staff (17 November 2005). "RAF Bases Receive Aircraft Boost". BBC News. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "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.
- 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.
- "Squadrons Disbanded". Royal Air Force. RAF/MOD. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "1 Squadron arrive at RAF Lossiemouth in formation". https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk. Aberdeen Journals Ltd. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
- Alexander, Michael. "MoD quizzed on £87 million for RAF Lossiemouth". http://www.thecourier.co.uk. DC Thomson & Co, Ltd. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
- Rollo, Sarah. "Early glimpse of RAF Lossiemouth Typhoons". The Northern Scot. Scottish Provincial Press Ltd. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
- "Farewell (for now) to 2 historic RAF squadrons". www.gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
- Copping, Jasper. "Rain on Dambusters parade cancels final flypast". telegraph.co.uk. Telegraph Media Group Ltd. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
- "Typhoons leave RAF Leuchars for Lossiemouth base". bbc.co.uk/news. BBC. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
- "Typhoon aircraft relocate to RAF Lossiemouth". www.gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
- "II (Army Co-operation) Squadron have begun initial operations at their home base of RAF Lossiemouth, following their stand-up as a Typhoon squadron earlier this year". http://www.raf.mod.uk/raflossiemouth. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
- "Private bids plan for air rescue". BBC News. 2006-05-09. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
- "Bristow Group to take over UK search and rescue from RAF". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
- Foote, Chris. "End of an era as last Sea King rescue helicopter leaves Lossiemouth". STV News. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
- "RAF Lossiemouth heroes’ farewell party grounded". www.scotsman.com. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
- "Bid to home retired Sea King in Moray is successful". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
- "Shackleton - The End of an Era (1984)". http://www.bfi.org.uk. BFI. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
- "The Old Grey Ladies of Lossiemouth". Youtube. STV. 1990. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
- "Rescue". Youtube. STV. 1990. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- "Perpetual Motion - Episode List". The Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- "The Highland fliers". www.scotsman.com. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
- "Ewan McGregor's brother - ex-fighter pilot Colin - slams Tory defence cuts". http://www.mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- "Royal Air Force Lossiemouth". http://forcespublishing.co.uk. Forces & Corporate Publishing Ltd. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to RAF Lossiemouth.|