RAF Odiham

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RAF Odiham
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Near Odiham, Hampshire in England
RAF Chinook Mark 6 Helicopter MOD 45158788.jpg
An RAF Chinook HC6 based at Odiham.
RAF Odiham crest.png
Promise and fulfil
RAF Odiham is located in Hampshire
RAF Odiham
RAF Odiham
Shown within Hampshire
Coordinates 51°14′03″N 000°56′34″W / 51.23417°N 0.94278°W / 51.23417; -0.94278Coordinates: 51°14′03″N 000°56′34″W / 51.23417°N 0.94278°W / 51.23417; -0.94278
Type Royal Air Force station
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Controlled by Joint Helicopter Command
Website www.raf.mod.uk/rafodiham
Site history
Built 1925 (1925)
In use 1925-Present
Garrison information
Group Captain Lee Turner BEng Hons RAF
Airfield information
Identifiers IATA: ODH, ICAO: EGVO, WMO: 03761
Elevation 123.5 metres (405 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
09/27 1,838 metres (6,030 ft) Asphalt
Number Length and surface
09/27 905.2 metres (2,970 ft) Grass
05/23 496.9 metres (1,630 ft) Grass
Source: RAF Odiham Defence Aerodrome Manual[1]

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. Its current station commander is Group Captain Lee Turner BEng Hons RAF.[2]


Aircraft operations began from the site in 1925 but it was not until October 1937 that it was opened as a permanent airfield.[2]

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War North American Mustangs and Hawker Typhoons were flown out of the base. After the Allied invasion of Europe the site became a prisoner of war camp.


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,[24] 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."[citation needed] 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.

No. 618 Volunteer Gliding Squadron which operated the Grob Vigilant T1, was disbanded in November 2016.

With the Lynx reaching the end of its operational life in January 2018, No. 657 Squadron of the Army Air Corps and their Lynx AH9A disbanded in May 2018.[11]

Current role[edit]

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.[2][12] In 2009, orders were placed for additional aircraft, but this is subject to the Strategic Defence Review due to be published in late 2010.[13] The Mk6 is a new buy of 14 aircraft differing in structure to the previous marks.[14] They incorporate a new Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS) and the updated cockpit of the Mk4 and 5. They arrived in the UK in 2013. 6 additional aircraft are based at nearby RAF Benson for crew conversion and training prior to the crews joining operational units at Odiham.

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).

Other users[edit]

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 down.[15]

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.

List of station commanders[edit]

  • 1938–1940: Group Captain Freddie West; recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • 1949–????: Acting Group Captain Deryck Stapleton
  • 1950–1952: Group Captain Harold Maguire
  • 1952–????: Group Captain John A. Kent
  • 1955–????: Group Captain Ken Gatward
  • 1981–1983: Group Captain Sandy Hunter
  • 1985–1987: Group Captain Timothy Garden
  • 1987–1989: Group Captain John Day
  • 1989–1991: Group Captain Joe French
  • 2001–2003: Group Captain Andrew Pulford; later Chief of the Air Staff
  • 2005–2007: Group Captain Sean Reynolds
  • 2007–2009: Group Captain Paul Luker
  • 2009–2011: Group Captain Steve Shell
  • 2011–2013: Group Captain Dom Toriati
  • 2013–-2015: Group Captain Richard Madison
  • 2015–2017: Group Captain Philip Robinson
  • 2017–present: Group Captain Lee Turner

Based units[edit]

The following flying and notable non-flying units are based at RAF Odiham.[16][17]

Royal Air Force[edit]

Joint Helicopter Command

No. 22 Group (Training) RAF


  • Kestrel Gliding Club



  1. ^ "RAF Odiham Defence Aerodrome Manual (DAM)" (PDF). RAF Odiham. Military Aviation Authority. 1 March 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b c RAF Odiham website
  3. ^ a b Jefford 2001, p. 23.
  4. ^ a b c Jefford 2001, p. 24.
  5. ^ a b Jefford 2001, p. 28.
  6. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 42.
  7. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 43.
  8. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 45.
  9. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 50.
  10. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 53.
  11. ^ Banner, David (17 January 2018). "Pride and sadness as Lynx bows out at RAF Shawbury". Shropshire Star. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  12. ^ MoD chiefs unveil upgrade - RAF News[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ MoD announces 22 new Chinooks - Defence Management Journal Archived 9 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ here, RAF Details. "RAF - Chinook". www.raf.mod.uk. Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  15. ^ Brazier MP, Julian. "Air Cadet Aviation Relaunch: Written statement". parliament.uk. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  16. ^ "RAF Odiham – Who's Based Here". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Kestrel Gliding Club". Kestrel Gliding Club. Retrieved 17 July 2017.


  • 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.

External links[edit]