RAF Lossiemouth

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RAF Lossiemouth
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
Near Lossiemouth, Moray in Scotland
Tornado aircraft above RAF Lossiemouth.jpg
A Tornado GR4 of 617 Squadron (Dambusters) over RAF Lossiemouth.
RAF Lossiemouth crest.png
Thoir An Aire (Be Careful)
EGQS is located in Moray
EGQS
EGQS
Shown within Moray
Coordinates 57°42′19″N 003°20′21″W / 57.70528°N 3.33917°W / 57.70528; -3.33917Coordinates: 57°42′19″N 003°20′21″W / 57.70528°N 3.33917°W / 57.70528; -3.33917
Type Royal Air Force station
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator

Royal Air Force 1939–1946 and 1972–Present

Fleet Air Arm 1946–1972
Website RAF Lossiemouth
Site history
Built 1938 (1938)/9
In use 1939–Present
Garrison information
Current
commander
Group Captain Paul Godfrey OBE MA RAF
Occupants
Airfield information
Identifiers IATA: LMO, ICAO: EGQS, WMO: 03068
Elevation 13 metres (43 ft) AMSL
Runways
Direction Length and surface
05/23 2,756 metres (9,042 ft) Asphalt
10/28 1,851 metres (6,073 ft) Asphalt

Royal Air Force Lossiemouth or more commonly RAF Lossiemouth (IATA: LMOICAO: EGQS) is a military airfield located on the western edge of the town of Lossiemouth in Moray, north east Scotland.

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 its 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.[1]

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.[2]

History[edit]

Construction (1938–1939)[edit]

Construction started during the summer of 1938 when 220 hectares of agricultural land was acquired in order to accommodate the air station. The land was cleared of vegetation and buildings and by the spring of 1939 several wooden huts were present. Group Captain P.E Maitland AFC MVO was the first station commander and took up post in March 1939, with the station formally opening on 1 May 1939.[3] The first unit to take up residence at Lossiemouth was No. 15 Flight Training School,[4] initially equipped with thirteen Airspeed Oxfords and five Hawker Harts. Aircraft were stored in the open until the first hangars were completed in August 1939. That same month tragedy struck when three crew members were killed during a mid-air collision between two Oxfords.[5]

Second World War (1939–1945)[edit]

At the outbreak of the Second World War a detachment of Seaforth Highlanders was sent to Lossiemouth to guard the station and anti-aircraft defences installed. Flying activity increased with 15 FTS receiving further Oxfords and Harts and the introduction of the North American Harvard. Eleven Fairey Battles were also delivered for storage. The first front-line aircraft to operate from Lossiemouth were a detachment of twelve Vickers Wellington bombers belonging to No. 99 Squadron. They arrived for a short period in November 1939 to take part in attack missions targeting the German cruiser Deutschland which was operating between Iceland and Shetland.[5]

January 1940 saw a detachment of No. 44 Squadron and No. 50 Squadron Handley Page Hampdens arrive to take part in offensive patrols over the North Sea. However the operation was short-lived as a result of bad weather, with the aircraft returning to their home base in mid February.[5]

Vickers Wellington bombers of No. 9 Squadron.

A detachment of No. 9 Squadron spent a short period of time operating Wellingtons during April 1940 before being replaced by No.107 Squadron and No. 110 Squadron which were equipped with Bristol Blenheims. During this period the first loss to enemy action of an aircraft operating from Lossiemouth occurred when three Blenheims were shot down over Norway.[6]

It soon became apparent that the frequent detachments of bomber aircraft were disrupting the training programme at Lossiemouth and therefore, due to the strategic importance of the station as a base for bomber aircraft, it was decided to relocate 15 FTS to RAF Middle Wallop in Hampshire. On 27 April 1940, after the unit’s departure, Lossiemouth transferred to No. 6 Group of RAF Bomber Command and No. 20 Operational Training Unit (OTU) was established, initially operating Wellingtons and Avro Ansons.[7]

46 Maintenance Unit (MU) was also formed in April 1940. 46 MU’s role was to modify and fit-out new aircraft before being forwarded to front-line squadrons. A variety of aircraft were serviced including Hawker Hurricanes, de Havilland Tiger Moths, Hawker Audaxes, and a de Havilland Hornet Moth. The unit primarily used six Robin and eight Super Robin hangars, however due to a shortage of space many aircraft were stored in fields outside the station.[7]

Lossiemouth's first satellite airfield, located at Bogs of Mayne 10 miles to the south and known as RAF Elgin, opened in June 1940.[7]

One officer and two aircrew were killed on 26 October 1940 when RAF Lossiemouth was attacked by the Luftwaffe for the first time. The attack by three Heinkel He 111s resulted in the destruction of two Blenheims and damage to two Miles Magisters, two Moths and a Hurricane. Three hangars were also damaged, the resultant holes from cannon fire still visible today. One of the Heinkels crashed on the airfield, having either been hit by ground fire or destroyed by its own bombs. All four Luftwaffe pilots are buried in a Lossiemouth churchyard.[8] As a result of the raid, Hurricanes of No. 232 Squadron were moved to RAF Elgin to protect the area from future attacks.[9]

Flying activity in early 1941 was limited due to the poor condition of the airfield, however improved weather in the Spring increased activity from No. 20 OTU and 46 MU as well as continued bomber detachments. Operational sorties were predominately undertaken by Blenheims of No. 21 Squadron, No. 82 Squadron, No.110 Squadron and No. 114 Squadron. However, by the winter of 1941 the airfield had become so muddy that the Wellingtons of No. 20 OTU were temporarily relocated to RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.[10] The increased activity by 46 MU resulted in two satellite landing grounds (SLG) being established to store aircraft off-site. These were at RAF Black Isle (No. 42 SLG) where Bristol Beaufighters were kept and RAF Leanach (No. 43 SLG) near Culloden, where Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires were stored.[9]

20 OTU Memorial at Bogs of Mayne.

Lossiemouth was used during 1942 as a base to launch several unsuccessful missions to sink the German battle ship Tirpitz, which at the time was operating in Norwegian fjords.[11] The first missions were undertaken in January 1942 by a detachment of thirteen Shorts Stirlings of No. 15 Squadron & No. 149 Squadron and thirteen Handley Page Halifaxes of No. 10 Squadron & No. 76 Squadron. Further attempts were made during March by Avro Lancasters of No. 44 Squadron and Halifaxes of No. 10 Squadron. Lancasters of No. 9 Squadron later joined the operation. 1942 also saw numerous accidents involving No. 20 OTU aircraft, many of which resulted in death and serious injuries. These accidents were attributed to a combination of fatigued aircraft, inexperienced crews and poor weather.[11] Wellingtons of No. 20 OTU were also involved in strategic bombing raids on German cities throughout 1942, the training aircraft being required to help reach the target number of 1000 bombers per raid.[12] The airfield’s first surfaced runways were constructed by an engineering battalion of the US Army Air Force in late 1942 and helped to reduce interruptions to flying as a result of the grass strips being affected by poor weather. The three runways were 1828m (runway 06/24), 1371m (09/27) and 1280m (01/19) in length. A new control tower was also constructed.[11]

In September 1943, Wellingtons of No. 20 OTU's 'C' Flight moved to the second of Lossiemouth's satellite airfields, RAF Milltown, located 3 miles to the south east.[13] By now 46 MU were concentrating their work on Bristol Beaufighters and Lancasters and the SLG at RAF Leanach had been replaced with a new site at Dornoch golf course, which became known as RAF Dornoch (No. 40 SLG). 20 OTU received its official crest in 1943, with two examples cast in concrete being constructed at Lossiemouth and RAF Elgin. Although little now remains of the airfield at Elgin, the concrete crest is still in situ and acts as a war memorial for those who served there.[14]

Further operations against the still active Tirpitz took place between September and November 1944. Operation Catechism finally resulted in the German battleship being sunk near Tromsø on 12 November 1944. A total of 38 Lancasters of No.9 Squadron and No. 617 Squadron launched from Lossiemouth, Kinloss and Milltown and successfully destroyed the vessel with their Tallboy bombs.[15] Nearly 50 years later No. 617 Squadron transferred to Lossiemouth and was permanently based there between 1993 and 2014. Examples of the Tallboy, Grand Slam and Up Keep bouncing bomb were on display within the squadron site during this time.

In July 1945, after the end of hostilities in Europe, No. 20 OTU was disbanded and No. 46 MU continued to prepare aircraft for operations in the Far East where the war continued. After the war 46 MU began the enormous task of breaking-up surplus aircraft for scrap. At one point there were around 900 aircraft present at the airfield awaiting disposal. On 28 July 1945 Lossiemouth was transferred to No. 17 Group of RAF Coastal Command, with the arrival of No. 111 OTU from the Bahamas shortly thereafter. By August 1945 the units were operating 41 Consolidated B-24 Liberators, 10 Halifaxes and a single North American B-25 Mitchell. The units continued operating until July 1946 before it was disbanded.

Fleet Air Arm Years – HMS Fulmar (1946–1972)[edit]

Lossiemouth transferred from the Royal Air Force to the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) on 2 July 1946 and became known as Royal Navy Air Station (RNAS) Lossiemouth or alternatively as HMS Fulmar.[16] On the FAA taking control, No. 46 MU moved to RAF Elgin. The Fleet Air Arm used Lossiemouth as a training station with pilots receiving their basic training there before moving to RNAS Culdrose (HMS Seahawk) in Cornwall for instrument training. RAF Milltown also transferred to the FAA and became known as HMS Fulmar II. It operated as a Deck Landing Training School and it was here that the final stage of training was practised before students were allowed to land on HMS Theseus in the Moray Firth.[17] The first FAA squadron, No. 766 Naval Air Squadron, arrived in August 1946 and predominately operated Supermarine Seafires and Fairey Fireflies until its departure to RNAS Culdrose in 1953.[18] In order to replace poor quality war-era facilities, seven hundred new married living-quarters were constructed in Lossiemouth and Elgin in the late 1940s, with the first opening in September 1949. This arrangement differed from the RAF, who typically constructed living-quarters within their airfield boundaries. In 1952 and early 1953 Lossiemouth's runways were upgraded and extended to their present lengths and during that time aircraft temporarily operated from Milltown.[19] Over the next decade a wide variety of aircraft operated from Lossiemouth including Supermarine Sea Fires, Fairey Fireflys, Hawker Sea Hawks, Hawker Sea Furys, Supermarine Scimitars, De Havilland Sea Venoms, and Hawker Hunters.[20] In 1958 it was announced that station facilities were to be upgraded at a cost of £3 million, including the refurbishment of living accommodation and the creation of the Fulmar Club social club. Princess Alexandra opened a new officers mess in July 1965.[21]

Blackburn Buccaneer S.1 of No. 700Z Squadron at RNAS Lossiemouth circa 1961.

The Blackburn Buccaneer arrived in in March 1961 when No. 700Z Naval Air Squadron was created as an Intensive Flying Trials unit, with the first operational squadron (No. 801 Naval Air Squadron) being established on 17 July 1962.[20] The Buccaneer was capable of delivering nuclear weapons as well as conventional weapons for anti-shipping warfare, and was typically active in the North Sea area during its service. Buccaneers also embarked on aircraft carriers HMS Victorious, Eagle, Ark Royal and Hermes.[22] On 28 March 1967 Buccaneers 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.

Return of the Royal Air Force[edit]

An Avro Shackleton AEW2 of 8 Squadron.

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.

Panavia Tornados landing at RAF Lossiemouth

Post Cold War[edit]

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.

21st Century[edit]

A SEPECAT Jaguar T4 of 16(R) Squadron landing at Lossiemouth.

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[edit]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] The decision was criticised by local politicians.[27]

Tornado GR4 ZA602 F 'MacRoberts Reply' of 15(R) Squadron taxiing at Lossiemouth.

F-35 Lightning II and threat of closure[edit]

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.[28]

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.[29] 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.[30] A petition with more than 30,000 signatures was delivered to 10 Downing Street by campaign members on 11 January 2011.[31]

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.[32][33] 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.[34][35]

RAF Lossiemouth Mountain Rescue Team (MRT)[edit]

With the closure of nearby RAF Kinloss and transfer of the station to the British Army in July 2012, the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) became the RAF Lossiemouth MRT. The team continued to operate from their existing purpose built base at Kinloss Barracks for over two years, until they moved into a 'D' Flight No. 202 Squadron hangar in February 2015.[36][37]

Transition from Tornado to Typhoon[edit]

A Typhoon FGR4 in 6 Squadron markings taking off from runway 23.

As a further consequence of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, No. 14 Squadron disbanded on 1 June 2011, reducing the number of Tornados based at Lossiemouth.[38]

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.[39][40] 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.[41]

In preparation for the phased transfer of Typhoons to Lossiemouth and draw-down 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.[42][43]

2 (AC) Squadron building and flight-line.

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.[44] No. 1 Squadron, followed on 8 September 2014, at which point the responsibility for Quick Reaction Alert (North) transferred from RAF Leuchars to Lossiemouth.[45]

The third Typhoon squadron based at Lossiemouth, No. 2 (AC) Squadron, arrived in January 2015.[46] In preparation for the squadron's arrival, work commenced in October 2014 to refurbish the southern HAS complex, which was formerly occupied by No.617 Squadron. At a cost of £23 million, the work involved the refurbishment of all nine aircraft shelters, construction of a hard-standing to create a new flight-line capable of accommodating eight aircraft, provision of new flood-lighting and the upgrading of dining facilities. A new headquarters building was constructed on the site of a World War II era K-type hangar (K20) which was demolished in 2010. The building features space for engineering and logistics facilities, a survival equipment section, classroom facilities and office space. The work was completed ahead of schedule in January 2016 and allowed No. 2 (AC) Squadron to operate independently from other squadrons at Lossiemouth.[47]

In May 2015 construction began on a new 250m x 16m section of taxiway to provide improved access between the QRA facilities in the northern HAS site and runway 23/05. The new taxiway was constructed by 53 Field Squadron, part of 39 (Air Support) Engineer Regiment of the British Army, based at nearby Kinloss Barracks.[48] The project was completed in September 2015 with the new section now designated as 'taxiway Q'.[49]

The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced at the Scottish Conservative Conference on 4 March 2016 that Lossiemouth was a preferred option to accommodate an additional Typhoon squadron and 400 personnel.[50] The squadron would be one of two extra Typhoon squadrons for the RAF which were announced as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.[51]

End of search and rescue (SAR) operations[edit]

Two 'D' Flight 202 Squadron Sea Kings outside their hangar at Lossiemouth.

In 2006 the Labour government announced its intentions to privatise the search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service in the UK.[52] 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.[53] '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.[54]

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.[55]

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.[56]

Maritime patrol aircraft announcement[edit]

On 23 November 2015 Prime Minister David Cameron announced to the UK parliament that the RAF would be purchasing nine new Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.[57] The aircraft and 400 extra personnel are to be based at Lossiemouth and at least three aircraft would be operational by 2020.[58] At the Farnborough Air Show on 11 July 2016 the Ministry of Defence and Boeing confirmed the a deal had been agreed and that they intend to work together to build a new £100m P-8A operational support and training base at Lossiemouth, creating more than 100 new jobs.[59][60]

Facilities[edit]

The RAF Lossiemouth site extends to 580 hectares[61] and accommodates two runways, the main runway (05/23) is 2756m long and the secondary runway (10/28) is 1851m long.[62]

Hangars at Lossiemouth date from World War II and comprise three C-type, one J-type, six L-type, four K-type and a Bellman type. The northern hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) complex has nine shelters and QRA facilities and the southern complex has a further nine shelters. Both HAS complexes were constructed in the 1970s.[63]

The airfield boundary has changed over time and several Super Robin hangars still exist out-with the airfield boundary. Examples include one at Silverhills Farm, one at Salterhill Farm and a third within the grounds of Gordounston School. Former airfield dispersals are also still evident in the same vicinity.[64] Hangar K20 which was located beside the southern boundary of the airfield was demolished in 2010. One L-type at the north of the airfield and a Bellman type (hangar 5) were demolished in the 2000s. Lossiemouth is also home to two Tornado GR4 flight simulators which are operated by Thales UK and utilised for training aircrew.[65]

Aviation fuel is supplied to Lossiemouth through a 40.6 mile stretch of the CLH Pipeline System which connects the airfield to a fuel depot in Inverness.[66]

In common with other defence establishments in Scotland and Northern Ireland, CarillionAmey, a joint venture between Carillion and Amey, provide hard facilities management and maintenance at Lossiemouth.[67]

As the only RAF base left in Scotland, RAF Lossiemouth is home to the Air Cadet Wing for the north of Scotland. It also has a residential area on base for both ATC and CCF sections to take part in summer camps, as well as numerous other activities.

Replacement control tower project[edit]

In August 2010 the Ministry of Defence published an invitation to tender for a contract to replace Lossiemouth's existing air traffic control tower. The potential contract included the construction of a visual control room approximately 20m high with integral two storey office building to accommodate air traffic control, meteorological and ground radio section personnel. The demolition of the existing 1940's control tower would take place four months after the opening of the new tower.[68] In September 2015 an environmental impact assessment (EIA) screening opinion for construction of a replacement control tower up to 25m in height was submitted to Moray Council in its role as the local planning authority. Four possible locations within the airfield were considered, one of which was the site of the existing tower. Moray Council determined that the project did not trigger the requirement to go through the EIA process.[69] As of February 2016 construction has yet to commence.

Structure and operations[edit]

The current RAF Lossiemouth structure comprises:

Three wings support the flying squadrons and the RAF Regiment.[72] The Engineering & Logistics Wing is responsible for maintaining engineering support and supply including weapons and survival equipment on aircraft. It is also responsible for the maintenance and repair of aircraft not currently flying on squadrons and the station support equipment and vehicles.

The Operations Wing plans and controls all flying and major exercises on station and manages all activities that have a direct impact on flying operations. This includes intelligence gathering, weather forecasting and communications systems.

The Base Support Wing manages all support functions for the station’s infrastructure and personnel, such as health and safety, medical centre, non-flying training, accommodation, family support and the deployment of Station personnel.

A 6 Squadron Typhoon intercepts a Russian Bear aircraft.

Typhoon Operations[edit]

The Typhoon FGR4 provides the RAF with a multi-role combat capability which can be deployed on range of operations such as air policing, peace support and high intensity conflict. Lossiemouth Typhoon squadrons have seen active duty against ISIS in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Shader[73] and have also participated in the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission where they operated from Ämari air base in Estonia.[74]

Quick Reaction Alert[edit]

Lossiemouth’s three Typhoon squadrons are responsible for maintaining the Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North mission (QRA(I)N). Aircraft and crews are held at high states of readiness 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to unidentified aircraft approaching UK airspace. QRA missions range from civilian airliners which have stopped responding to air traffic control to Russian aircraft such as the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack testing NATO air-defences.[75]

Tornado Operational Conversion Unit[edit]

No. 15(R) Squadron is the RAF's Tornado GR4 Operational Conversion Unit which trains pilots and weapon systems operators before sending them onto front-line Tornado squadrons at RAF Marham. The squadron accepts aircrew straight from advanced flying training at RAF Valley and RAF Leeming and provide refresher courses for experienced aircrew returning to the Tornado GR4 following other tours of duty. The squadron also trains aircrew officers from other nations who are posted to the UK on an overseas 2–3 year exchange tour.[76]

51 Squadron patrol the perimeter of Camp Bastion, Afghanistan in 2014.

5 Force Protection Wing[edit]

5 Force Protection Wing HQ provides operational planning and command and control to the two field squadrons attached to the wing, No. 51 Squadron RAF Regiment and No. 2622 (Highland) Squadron's (RAuxAF), whose purpose is protecting RAF bases at home and abroad from ground attack.

No. 2622 Squadron consists primarily of RAF Regiment gunners trained in infantry skills, but it also has a limited number of personnel in support duties. The unit’s role is to provide officers and gunners to supplement the regular RAF Regiment, on worldwide operations and exercises. It is the only squadron in the RAF or RAuxAF to have its own Pipes and Drums band, which formed in 1999 and is open to both Service and civilian members. It is also the only operational squadron to have spent its entire existence based at Lossiemouth.[77]

Both squadrons have seen action on Operation Telic in Iraq and Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, with No. 51 Squadron also involved in Operation Shader against ISIS.[78]

Squadrons and aircraft[edit]

List of past, present and future flying units and major non-flying units permanently based at Lossiemouth.

Source: Hughes, Jim. (1993). Airfield Focus 11:Lossiemouth. Peterborough, GMS Enterprises. ISBN 1 870384 24 5

Service Unit Aircraft / Role From Date From Date To To
RAF No. 15 Flight Training School (15 FTS) North American Harvard,Airspeed Oxford, Hawker Hart, Miles Master Formed 1 May 1939 20 April 1940 RAF Middle Wallop
RAF No. 46 Maintenance Unit Various Formed 15 April 1940 15 February 1947 Disbanded
RAF No. 20 Operational Training Unit Vickers Wellington, Avro Anson, Westland Lysander, Miles Martinet Formed 27 May 1940 17 July 1945 Disbanded
RAF No. 57 Squadron Bristol Blenheim RAF Wyton 24 June 1940 13 August 1940 RAF Elgin
RAF No. 21 Squadron Bristol Blenheim RAF Watton 24 June 1940 29 October 1940 RAF Watton
RAF No. 82 Squadron Bristol Blenheim RAF Bodney 18 April 1941 3 May 1941 RAF Bodney
RAF No. 21 Squadron Bristol Blenheim RAF Watton 27 May 1941 14 June 1941 RAF Watton
RAF No. 21 Squadron Bristol Blenheim RAF Watton 7 September 1941 21 September 1941 RAF Watton
RAF No. 111 Operational Training Unit Consolidated Liberator, Handley Page Halifax, Vickers Wellington The Bahamas 27 July 1945 1946 Disbanded
FAA Station Flight Various Formed June 1946 February 1973 Disbanded
FAA No. 766 Naval Air Squadron Fairey Firefly, Hawker Sea Fury, Supermarine Sea Fire, North American Harvard, Miles Martinet RNAS Rattray 4 August 1946 3 October 1953 RNAS Culdrose
FAA No. 764 Naval Air Squadron Supermarine Sea Fire, Fairey Firefly Re-formed 18 May 1953 23 September 1953 RNAS Yeovilton
FAA No. 804 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk RNAS Lee-on-Solent 30 October 1953 10 May 1955 HMS Eagle (R05)
FAA No. 736 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk, Supermarine Scimitar RNAS Culdrose 4 November 1953 26 March 1965 Disbanded
FAA No. 738 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Fury, Hawker Sea Hawk, De Havilland Sea Venom RNAS Culdrose 9 November 1953 1 January 1964 RNAS Brawdy
FAA No. 802 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk RNAS Lee-on-Solent 23 November 1953 13 September 1956 RNAS Ford
FAA No. 759 Naval Air Squadron Supermarine Sea Fire, Hawker Sea Fury, Gloster Meteor, De Havilland Sea Vampire RNAS Culdrose 28 November 1953 12 October 1954 Disbanded
FAA No. 801 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk Re-formed 14 March 1955 10 October 1956 HMS Centaur (R06)
FAA No. 811 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk Re-formed 16 March 1955 16 May 1956 Disbanded
FAA No. 810 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk Re-formed 4 July 1955 6 August 1956 HMS Bulwark (R08)
FAA No. 804 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk Re-formed 6 February 1956 27 January 1958 HMS Ark Royal (R09)
FAA No. 803 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk Re-formed 14 January 1957 31 March 1958 Disbanded
FAA No. 806 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk Re-formed 14 January 1957 13 April 1959 HMS Eagle (R05)
FAA No. 764 Naval Air Squadron Hawker Sea Hawk, Westland Wyvern, Supermarine Scimitar, Hawker Hunter RNAS Ford 24 June 1957 27 July 1972 Disbanded
FAA No. 803 Naval Air Squadron Supermarine Scimitar Re-formed 3 June 1957 1 October 1966 Disbanded
FAA No. 807 Naval Air Squadron Supermarine Scimitar Re-formed 1 October 1958 15 May 1961 Disbanded
FAA No. 800 Naval Air Squadron Supermarine Scimitar Re-formed 1 July 1959 25 February 1964 Disbanded
FAA No. 804 Naval Air Squadron Supermarine Scimitar Re-formed 1 March 1960 15 September 1961 Disbanded
FAA No. 700Z Naval Air Squadron Blackburn Buccaneer Formed 7 March 1961 15 January 1963 Re-designated 809 NAS
FAA No. 801 Naval Air Squadron Blackburn Buccaneer Re-formed 17 July 1962 27 May 1965 Disbanded
FAA No. 809 Naval Air Squadron Blackburn Buccaneer Former 700Z NAS 15 January 1963 26 March 1965 Re-designated 736 NAS
FAA No. 800 Naval Air Squadron Blackburn Buccaneer Re-formed 18 March 1964 23 February 1972 Disbanded
FAA No. 800B Naval Air Squadron Supermarine Scimitar Formed 9 September 1964 25 May 1965 HMS Eagle (R05)
FAA No. 764B Naval Air Squadron Supermarine Scimitar Formed 26 Match 1965 23 November 1965 Disbanded
FAA No. 700B Naval Air Squadron Buccaneer Formed 9 April 1965 30 September 1965 Disbanded
FAA No. 750 Naval Air Squadron Sea Venom RAF Hal-Far, Malta 23 June 1965 26 September 1972 RNAS Culdrose
FAA No. 801 Naval Air Squadron Blackburn Buccaneer Re-formed 14 October 1965 21 July 1970 Disbanded
FAA No. 809 Naval Air Squadron Blackburn Buccaneer Re-formed 27 January 1966 5 October 1971 RAF Honington
FAA No. 803 Naval Air Squadron Blackburn Buccaneer Re-formed 3 July 1967 18 December 1969 Disbanded
FAA No. 849 Naval Air Squadron Fairey Gannet RNAS Brawdy 19 November 1970 15 December 1978 Disbanded
FAA No. 849D Naval Air Squadron Fariey Gannet RNAS Brawdy 9 December 1970 26 January 1972 Disbanded
FAA No. 849B Naval Air Squadron Fariey Gannet RAF Luqa, Malta 16 December 1970 15 December 1978 Disbanded
RAF Jaguar Conversion Unit SEPECAT Jaguar Formed 30 May 1973 1 October 1974 Re-designated No. 226 OCU
RAF No. 8 Squadron Avro Shackleton AEW2 RAF Kinloss 14 August 1973 1 July 1991 RAF Waddington
RAF No. 226 OCU SEPECAT Jaguar Former Jaguar Conversion Unit 1 October 1974 November 1991 Re-designated as No. 16(R) Sqn
RAF No. 6 Squadron SEPECAT Jaguar Re-formed 2 October 1974 15 November 1974 RAF Coltishall
RAF No. 2 Tactical Weapons Unit Hawker Hunter, Hawker Siddeley Hawk Formed 31 July 1978 1 August 1980 RAF Chivenor
RAF No. 202 Squadron (D Flight) Westland Whirlwind HAR10, Westland Sea King HAR3 RAF Finningley August 1978 1 April 2015 Disbanded
RAF Regt. No. 48 Squadron (RAF Regiment) BAe Dynamics Rapier Anti-Aircraft Missile Re-formed December 1978 1 July 1996 Disbanded
RAuxAF No. 2622 RAuxAF Squadron Airfield Ground Defence Formed July 1979 Present
RAF No. 12 Squadron Blackburn Buccaneer, RAF Honington 1 November 1980 1993 Disbanded
RAF No. 208 Squadron Blackburn Buccaneer RAF Honington July 1983 31 March 1994 Disbanded
RAF No. 237 OCU Blackburn Buccaneer RAF Honington 18 October 1984 1 October 1991 Disbanded
RAF No. 16(R) Squadron SEPECAT Jaguar Former 226 OCU November 1991 2000 RAF Coltishall
TA No. 237 Field Squadron (Territorial Army) Airfield Damage Repair Formed 1992 21 May 1999 Disbanded
RAF No. 12 Squadron Panavia Tornado GR1B/4 Re-formed September 1993 31 March 2014 Disbanded
RAF No. 15(R) Squadron Panavia Tornado GR1/4 Former 45(R) Squadron at RAF Marham 1994 Present
RAF No. 617 Squadron Panavia Tornado GR1B/4 RAF Marham April 1994 April 2014 Disbanded
RAF No. 14 Squadron Panavia Tornado GR4 RAF Brüggen, Germany January 2001 1 June 2014 Disbanded
RAF Regt. No. 51 Squadron (RAF Regiment) Airfield Ground Defence RAF Honington June 2001 Present
RAF No. 6 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 RAF Leuchars January 2015 Present
RAF No. 1 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 RAF Leuchars September 2014 Present
RAF No. 2 Squadron Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 Re-formed 12 January 2015 Present
RAF RAF Lossiemouth Mountain Rescue Team Mountrain Rescue Team RAF Kinloss February 2015 Present
RAF To be announced (TBC) Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 TBC Announced March 2016
RAF TBC Boeing P-8 Poseidon TBC (Expected prior to 2020) Announced November 2015.

Station commanders[edit]

An partial list of RAF Lossiemouth station commanders.[79]

  • Group Captain Percy E Maitland AFC MVO, (1939)[3]
  • Group Captain J F Hobler (1944–1945)
  • Group Captain M M J Robinson (29 September 1972 – 8 October 1974)
  • Group Captain Raymond J Offord (8 October 1974 – July 1975)
  • Group Captain J R Walker (July 1975 – 13 February 1976)
  • Group Captain R I Stuart-Paul (13 February 1976 – 1978)
  • Group Captain D E Caldwell (1978 – 8 August 1980)
  • Group Captain R A F Wilson (8 August 1980 – 8 October 1982)
  • Group Captain P D Oulton (8 October 1982 – 30 November 1984)
  • Group Captain K B Latton (30 November 1984 – 1986)
  • Group Captain B E A Pegnall (1988–1990)
  • Group Captain J A F Ford
  • Group Captain Graham A Miller
  • Group Captain A T Hudson
  • Group Captain Chris M Nickols CB CBE, February (2000–2003)
  • Group Captain Stephen J Hillier KCB CBE DFC (2003–2004)
  • Group Captain Russ J Torbet CBE (2004 – 8 December 2005)
  • Group Captain M L Roberts MBE MA MBA RAF (8 December 2005 – October 2007)
  • Group Captain Al Monkman DFC ADC MA BA RAF (October 2007 – 5 October 2009)[80]
  • Group Captain Andy C Hine OBE MA RAF (5 October 2009 – 24 November 2011)[81]
  • Group Captain Ian Gale MBE MA RAF (24 November 2011 – 8 November 2013)[82]
  • Group Captain Mark W J Chappell ADC RAF (8 November 2013 – 27 November 2015)[82]
  • Group Captain Paul A. Godfrey OBE, MA, RAF (November 2012 – present)[83]

HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York has been Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Lossiemouth since 1996 and regularly makes formal visits to the station.[84]

In the media[edit]

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.[85]
  • The Old Grey Ladies of Lossiemouth produced by Grampian TV captured the final months of Shackleton operations in 1990 before their withdrawal from service.[86]
  • 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.[87]
  • The BBC TV series Perpetual Motion featured No. 8 Squadron and their Shackletons in an episode of the series in January 1992.[88]
  • 'Gloria Hunniford at RAF Lossiemouth' was a BBC Radio 2 programme broadcast in 1993 in which TV and radio presenter Gloria Hunniford talked to personnel from Lossiemouth and accompanied a helicopter crew on an air sea rescue training exercise.[89]
  • 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.[90][91]

The RAF Lossiemouth station magazine is called the Lossie Lighthouse, in reference to the nearby Covesea Skerries Lighthouse. The magazine is distributed to station personnel, their families and the local community. It is also available online at the RAF Lossiemouth web page.[92]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "RAF Lossiemouth, Station History". RAF Lossiemouth. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 15 September 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Hughes 1993, p. 4-6.
  4. ^ Smith D J 1983, p. 142.
  5. ^ a b c Hughes 1993, p. 6.
  6. ^ Hughes 1993, p. 6-7.
  7. ^ a b c Hughes 1993, p. 7.
  8. ^ Hughes 1999, p. 110.
  9. ^ a b Hughes 1993, p. 9.
  10. ^ Hughes 1999, p. 111.
  11. ^ a b c Hughes 1993, p. 10.
  12. ^ Hughes 1999, p. 112.
  13. ^ Hughes 1993, p. 11.
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  16. ^ Hughes 1993, p. 13.
  17. ^ "RAF Lossiemouth – History". RAF Lossiemouth. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 21 December 2015. 
  18. ^ Hughes 1999, p. 116.
  19. ^ Hughes 1993, p. 15.
  20. ^ a b Hughes 1993, p. 22.
  21. ^ Hughes 1993, p. 16.
  22. ^ Bishop and Chant 2004, p. 65, 71-72, 74.
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Bibliography[edit]

  • Bishop, Chris and Chris Chant (2004). Aircraft Carriers: The World's Greatest Naval Vessels and Their Aircraft. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Zenith Imprint. ISBN 0 76032 005 5
  • Hughes, Jim (1993). Airfield Focus 11:Lossiemouth. Peterborough, GMS Enterprises. ISBN 1 870384 24 5
  • Hughes, Jim (1999). A Steep Turn to the Stars. Peterborough, GMS Enterprises. ISBN 1 870384 71 7
  • Smith, David. Action Stations 7; Military airfields of Scotland, the North-East and Northern Ireland Cambridge, UK: Patrick Stephens Publishing, 1983. ISBN 0-85059-563-0.

External links[edit]