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|Near Odiham, Hampshire in England|
RAF Chinook HC.6, based at Odiham
Shown within Hampshire
|Type||Royal Air Force station|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|Group Captain Philip J Robinson OBE DFC RAF|
|Identifiers||IATA: ODH, ICAO: EGVO|
|Elevation||123 metres (404 ft) AMSL|
|Approach 131.30 Mhz, Tower 119.225 Mhz.|
Royal Air Force Odiham or more simply RAF Odiham (IATA: ODH, ICAO: EGVO) is a Royal Air Force station situated a little to the south of the historic village of Odiham in Hampshire, England. It is the home of the Royal Air Force's heavy lift helicopter, the Chinook HC2, HC2A and HC3. Its current station commander is Group Captain Philip J Robinson OBE DFC** MA RAF.
Second World War
- No. 2 Squadron RAF operated the Mustang I between 7 August 1943 and 22 September 1943 and again between 6 October 1943 and 14 November 1943.
- The squadron returned on 27 June 1944 with the Mustang II before leaving on 29 July 1944.
- No. 4 Squadron RAF using the Hawker Hector and the Westland Lysander I between 16 February 1936 and 24 September 1939.
- No. 13 Squadron RAF with the Westland Lysander Mk III and the Bristol Blenheim Mk IV between 17 July 1941 and 1 August 1942 with detachments at RAF Detling, RAF Wattisham and RAF Thruxton.
- The squadron returned on 10 August 1942 again with the Blenheim IV and for the first time the Mk V version. They left on 15 November 1942.
- No. 53 Squadron RAF with the Hawker Hector and the Blenheim IV between 8 April 1938 and 20 September 1939.
- No. 59 Squadron RAF operated the Blenheim IV between 6 June 1940 and 3 July 1940.
- No. 63 Squadron RAF using the Mustang Mk I between 21 November 1942 and 27 July 1943 with a detachment at RAF Macmerry.
- No. 82 Squadron RAF with the Blenheim IV between August 1939 and 21 March 1942 as an detachment from RAF Watton.
- No. 96 Squadron RAF operated the de Havilland Mosquito XIII between 24 September 1944 and 12 December 1944 before being disbanded here.
Following the end of the War RAF Fighter Command assumed control of the base and operated Supermarine Spitfires, Hawker Hunters and Gloster Javelins. No. 54 Squadron RAF moved in 1949, flying de Havilland Vampires,i before being reequipped with Meteors The squadron once again re-formed, this time at RAF Odiham on 15 August 1954 as a night fighter unit equipped with Meteor NF12s and 14s. Training began almost immediately, but it took until the end of October for the squadron to reach a strength of 12 NF12 or 14s and one Meteor 7 for training and categorisation.
When Wing Commander Birchfieldh with 46 squadron took over as commanding officer from Squadron Leader Ross, the manpower situation was improving, but mechanical-transport shortages caused problems for the squadron, whose dispersal was on the opposite side of the airfield from the rest of the station. By June 1955, the squadron had received "some Meteor 8s for target towing" and its strength had reached 48 officers and 110 airmen. By August, when the squadron went to Acklington for its armament practice station, there were 16 aircraft.
Javelins of 46 squaudron
In January 1956, the unit began converting to Javelins, and the first arrived in February, together with eight Meteor NF 11s: the NF 12s were sent off to No. 72 Squadron RAF. By May, all squadron pilots had converted and 15 Javelins were held; eight were earmarked for intensive flying trials whose target was 1,000 hours in two months — a feat believed by some to be impossible, but achieved in fact by "a wartime spirit." On 15 June, the squadron lost its commanding officer, Wing Commander Birchfield, in a Javelin crash. He was replaced by Wing Commander H. E. White.
Over the years, the squadron continued to train by participating in many exercises such as Halyard, Cold Wing, Kingpin Adex, Ciano and Bombex, and it took part in various trials, including those of new pressure suits and helmets. The problem of poor serviceability and lack of spares continued when the Mk 2 Javelins replaced the Mk1s in 1957.
In April 1959, the squadron sent six Javelins to the French Air Force 1/30 Squadron at Tours, whilst the French sent Sud Aviation Vautour aircraft to Odiham. In June the squadron won the Ingpen Trophy after being third in 1957 and second in 1958. On 30 June 1961, the squadron was disbanded again and being relocated to RAF Stradishall in 1959. As part of her coronation celebrations Queen Elizabeth II reviewed the Royal Air Force at Odiham in 1953.
After a short period in "care and maintenance" status the base was reopened as part of Transport Command. In this role Westland Whirlwind and then Bristol Belvedere helicopters were operated from the base. From 1961 to 1981 the Westland Wessex was based here, joined by the Aérospatiale Puma of 33 Squadron and 230 Squadron in 1970. 230 Squadron moved to RAF Gutersloh in Germany in 1980.
In 1981 the Wessex helicopters of 72 Squadron moved to RAF Aldergrove, followed by 33 Squadron's Pumas in 1997 to RAF Benson. The Wessex moved to RAF Benson and continued to support SHFNI at RAF Aldergrove.
The first Chinook HC.1s were delivered to the RAF in 1980 and arrived at Odiham in 1981. The first HC.2 arrived in 1993. The RAF ordered the Chinook HC.3, a special forces variant, in 1995. After being in storage for eight years due to avionics certification problems, the HC.3 airframes were retro-fitted with HC.2 avionics during 2009 and 2010, to enable them to finally enter RAF service. In 2009, orders were placed for additional aircraft, but this is subject to the Strategic Defence Review due to be published in late 2010. 6 additional aircraft are to be based at nearby RAF Benson for crew conversion and training prior to the crews joining operational units at Odiham.
Odiham is the sole UK base for the Chinook—three frontline Squadrons are stationed at the airfield—and the Chinook Display Team is also based at the Station. Odiham is also the headquarters for the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing, which provides support to the United Kingdom Special Forces (along with other assets, including transport aircraft from RAF Brize Norton), and No. 657 Squadron Army Air Corps is based at Odiham with the Lynx AH.9A, alongside the Chinooks.
618 Volunteer Gliding Squadron arrived in July 2000. The Unit operated the Vigilant T Mk 1 self-launching glider, providing basic flying and gliding training to members of the Air Cadet Organisation. Due to a fleet-wide airworthiness issue, the Vigilant (and its cousin, the Viking conventional glider) were grounded in April 2014. Ongoing issues with the recovery of the aircraft led to a Ministerial announcement in March 2016 which stated that the Vigilant fleet would be withdrawn by 2019, with many VGS squadrons, including 618 VGS, being shut downs.
The subsequent recovery to Air Cadet flying will focus mainly on the Viking conventional fleet, paired with the Grob Tutor currently operated by the mainstream RAF as an elementary trainer, alongside the University Air Squadrons and the Air Experience Flights. While Odiham does not currently have any Tutor units, it has been suggested that a Defence Estate review due to report in the Summer of 2016 could well base a UAS/AEF unit at Odiham, although whether this will be a new AEF (two further squadrons are to be stood up by 2018) or a move by an existing squadron remains to be seen. 618 VGS will continue to exist for a few months, but the unit is no longer operational at the Station.
In 2010 it was announced that Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire Police would share Air Support. RAF Odiham will house one of two helicopters covering the three counties, the other being based in Shoreham in Sussex.
The Kestrel Gliding Club continues to fly from Odiham at weekends, having become part of the Royal Air Force Gliding and Soaring Association in 2006.
- Headquarters, Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing
- 7 Squadron - Chinook
- 18 Squadron - Chinook
- 27 Squadron - Chinook
- 18/27 (Engineering ) Squadron - Ground crew element of 18 and 27 Squadron, maintaining and repairing the 60 Chinook HC.2/2A/C.3 aircraft the flying squadrons operate.
- Joint Helicopter Support Squadron
- No. 618 Volunteer Gliding Squadron (to stand down in 2016)
- No. 657 Squadron Army Air Corps flying Lynx AH.7 helicopters
- 1827 (Odiham) Squadron Air Training Corps
- RAF Odiham website
- Jefford 2001, p. 23.
- Jefford 2001, p. 24.
- Jefford 2001, p. 28.
- Jefford 2001, p. 42.
- Jefford 2001, p. 43.
- Jefford 2001, p. 45.
- Jefford 2001, p. 50.
- Jefford 2001, p. 53.
- MoD chiefs unveil upgrade - RAF News
- MoD announces 22 new Chinooks - Defence Management Journal
- Brazier MP, Julian. "Air Cadet Aviation Relaunch: Written statement". parliament.uk. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
- Jefford, C.G, MBE, BA, RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
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