RAF Waddington

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RAF Waddington
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Near Waddington, Lincolnshire in England
E-3D Sentry Aircraft Lands at RAF Waddington MOD 45153679.jpg
An E-3D Sentry lands at RAF Waddington
For Faith and Freedom[1]
RAF Waddington is located in Lincolnshire
RAF Waddington
RAF Waddington
Shown within Lincolnshire
Coordinates53°10′21″N 000°31′51″W / 53.17250°N 0.53083°W / 53.17250; -0.53083Coordinates: 53°10′21″N 000°31′51″W / 53.17250°N 0.53083°W / 53.17250; -0.53083
TypeRoyal Air Force station
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 1 Group (Air Combat)
Site history
Built1916 (1916)
In use1916–1920
Garrison information
Group Captain T Burke
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: WTN, ICAO: EGXW, WMO: 03377
Elevation70.1 metres (230 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
02/20 2,969 metres (9,741 ft) Asphalt
Source: RAF Waddington Defence Aerodrome Manual[2]

Royal Air Force Waddington otherwise known as RAF Waddington (IATA: WTN, ICAO: EGXW) is a Royal Air Force station located beside the village of Waddington, 4.2 miles (6.8 km) south of Lincoln, Lincolnshire in England.

The station is the RAF’s Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) hub and is home to a fleet of aircraft composed of the Sentry AEW1, Sentinel R1, Shadow R1, RC-135W Rivet Joint and operating base for the RAF's MQ-9 Reaper.

The station badge depicts Lincoln Cathedral rising through the clouds with the motto 'For Faith and Freedom emblazoned below.[3]


First World War[edit]

RAF Waddington opened as a Royal Flying Corps flying training station in 1916. Student pilots, including members of the US Army, were taught to fly a variety of aircraft. The station came under the control of the Royal Air Force when it was created on 1 April 1918. It operated until 1920, when the station went into care and maintenance.[3]

During and after the First World War, the following squadrons operated from Waddington.

Interwar period[edit]

As part of the pre-war expansion programme the Waddington site was earmarked for development into a fully equipped bomber station. It reopened as a bomber base on 12 March 1937,[3] with No. 50 Squadron arriving on the same day with their Hawker Hinds and then adding the Handley Page Hampden.[11] No. 110 Squadron arrived 15 days later initially with the Hind before switching to the Bristol Blenheim.[12] On 7 June 1937 No. 88 Squadron reformed at Waddington with the Hind before moving to RAF Boscombe Down in Wiltshire on 17 July 1937.[13] On 16 June 1937 No. 44 Squadron moved in from RAF Andover flying the Blenheim, before switching to the Avro Anson and the Hampden in February 1939.[14] In May 1939 No. 110 Squadron left going to RAF Wattisham in Suffolk and No. 50 Squadron left the following year being moved to RAF Lindholme in South Yorkshire.[11][12]

Second World War[edit]

An Avro Lancaster of No. 463 Squadron RAAF at RAF Waddington in 1944. It completed sixty seven missions and twice returned safely with half the tail plane shot away.
An Avro Lancaster of No. 463 Squadron RAAF at RAF Waddington in 1944. It completed sixty seven missions and twice returned safely with half the tail plane shot away.

RAF Waddington began the Second World War housing the Hampdens of No. 44 Squadron and No. 50 Squadron. Both squadrons were in action on the same day as Britain's war declaration, attacking German naval targets at Kiel.[3][15] Waddington squadrons were also involved during the critical stages of the late summer and early autumn of 1940, attacking barges in the channel ports which were being assembled as part of the invasion fleet.[3]

In November 1940 it was the first station to receive the Avro Manchester heavy bomber.[16]

No. 44 Squadron RAF was the first in RAF Bomber Command to fly operationally with the Avro Lancaster on 2 March 1942 from Waddington.[16] BT308, the first prototype Lancaster (or Mk III Manchester), arrived at Waddington in September 1941 for flight tests. Similar to RAF Scampton, the station was part of 5 Group.

On 7 April 1943, seven Lancasters of No. 44 Squadron took off from Waddington as part of Operation Margin, a bombing raid on the MAN U-boat engine plant in Augsburg in Germany.[17] The squadron subsequently left Waddington on 31 May 1943, moving to RAF Dunholme Lodge, also in Lincolnshire.[14]

During the Second World War the following squadrons are known to have operated from Waddington.

During his visit to RAF Waddington in June 1944, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, meets the crews of No. 467 Squadron RAAF.
During his visit to RAF Waddington in June 1944, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, meets the crews of No. 467 Squadron RAAF.

Cold War[edit]

During the Cold War, RAF Waddington became an Avro Vulcan V-bomber station, with No. 83 Squadron being the first in the RAF to receive the Vulcan in May 1957. It continued in this role until 1984 when the last Vulcan squadron, No. 50 Squadron, disbanded. From 1968, the UK nuclear deterrent was transferred to Polaris submarines, beginning with HMS Resolution.

In August 1960, the station developed the sudsmobile technique to lay a 1,000 yd × 30 yd (914 m × 27 m) carpet of foam in around a half-hour for a wheels-up landing. Previously it had taken around three hours to lay a foam carpet on the runway. An English Electric Canberra from RAF Wyton landed wheels-up on 23 August 1960, with a Handley Page Victor managing the same on 5 December 1960.[24]

Avro Vulcan bombers from RAF Waddington flying in formation in 1957.
Avro Vulcan bombers from RAF Waddington flying in formation in 1957.

The fiftieth anniversary of the RAF was celebrated at the base on 1 April 1968, mainly because the RAF's last flying Lancaster was based at the airfield from the mid-1960s until 1970, when moved temporarily to Hendon.

During the Cold War the following squadrons are known to have operated from Waddington.

Falklands War[edit]

RAF personnel on front of an Avro Vulcan at RAF Waddington prior to the aircraft's deployment to the Falklands.
RAF personnel on front of an Avro Vulcan at RAF Waddington prior to the aircraft's deployment to the Falklands.

During the Falklands War, Operation Black Buck saw three aircraft and crews from Waddington take part in a long-range bombing raid on Port Stanley airfield in the Falkland Islands. The three Vulcan B2s, of No. 44 Squadron, No. 50 Squadron and No. 101 Squadron, were twenty-two years old, and were selected due to their more powerful Olympus 301 engines. The complicated air-to-air refuelling plan, involving fourteen Handley Page Victor K.2 tankers, was only contemplated due to the belief of Sir Mike Beetham, then Chief of the Air Staff, who had developed the RAF's in-flight refuelling capability with Vickers Valiants of No. 214 Squadron at RAF Marham in 1959. Spare parts for the operation were requisitioned from scrapyards in Newark-on-Trent and military museums. Navigation came from the Delco Carousel inertial navigation system, never used previously by the RAF.[citation needed] The Victor tanker aircraft came from No. 55 Squadron and No. 57 Squadron at RAF Marham. Later during 1982, there was a female peace camp outside the base for five months.

Tactical Fighter Meet '86 was held at the base in August 1986, which used RAF Spadeadam as a practice target.[citation needed]

1980s and 1990s[edit]

In the mid-1980s the station became home to NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft operating from their main base (with eighteen AWACS planes) at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The RAF used these aircraft until it had bought its own AWACS fleet, which were due to enter service in 1991.[citation needed]

During the 1991 Gulf War, American casualties were ferried through the base to the USAF Nocton Hall military hospital.[citation needed]

In 1993, the only RAF Avro Vulcan bomber maintained by RAF Waddington for flying displays, XH558, was retired due to budget restraints to Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, Leicestershire. This aircraft returned to display flying following refurbishment and was the only airworthy Avro Vulcan example, operated by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust as a display aircraft, before retiring from flight in October 2015.

The Electronic Warfare Operational Support Element (EWOSE – now known as the Air Warfare Centre) moved from RAF Wyton to Waddington in March 1995.[citation needed]

21st century[edit]

All of the aircraft operating squadrons based at RAF Waddington were dispersed to other airfields in July 2014 when the runway was closed for rebuilding.[30] The project, valued at £35 million and due to take 12 months, actually took 26 months and re-opened to aircraft officially in November 2016. The work was expected to increase the operational capability of the runway and airfield by 25 years.[31]

Role and operations[edit]

The RAF's first Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint arrives at RAF Waddington in November 2013.
The RAF's first Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint arrives at RAF Waddington in November 2013.

RAF Waddington is the RAF’s Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) hub and is home to a fleet of aircraft composed of the Sentry AEW1, Sentinel R1, Shadow R1, RC-135W Rivet Joint and operating base for the RAF's MQ-9 Reaper.

No. 34 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) was formed at Waddington on 1 April 2006, encompassing most of the non-formed unit personnel on station. The EAW does not include the flying units at the station. The station commander is dual-hatted as the commander of the wing.

No. 1 Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing formed on 1 April 2016. It is a mix of the staff and capabilities of the Tactical Imagery Intelligence Wing (TIW) at RAF Marham, No. 54 Signals Unit at RAF Digby and No. 5 (AC) Squadron. Waddington is home to the wing headquarters.[32]

The Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance, flying a AgustaWestland AW169 (previously a MD-902 Explorer), began operating from the station in 1994 and provides a helicopter emergency medical service throughout Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.[33]

RAF Waddington Voluntary Band is one of seven voluntary bands within the RAF. Members of the band include RAF personnel as a second duty, dependants, civil servants and local civilians.

There is an outdoor aircraft viewing area east of the A15 road, close to the northern end of the runway.

Short-term visits from different NATO and Swiss fighter squadrons, in the past, used to generate occasional additional noise and interest because the airfield was conveniently placed for offshore practice firing ranges above the North Sea. However, with the closure of the aforementioned Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) range these visits have ceased.

Amateur radio licensees are not allowed to operate unattended radio beacon transmitters on 28.000 - 29.700 MHz, 10.000 - 10.125 GHz, 24.000 - 24.050 GHz or 47.000 - 47.200 GHz within 50 km of the Waddington airfield, centred on Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SK 985640.[34]

Based units[edit]

A Raytheon Sentinel R1 of No.5 (AC) Squadron at RAF Waddington after a heavy snowfall during November 2010.
A Raytheon Sentinel R1 of No.5 (AC) Squadron at RAF Waddington after a heavy snowfall during November 2010.

The following notable flying and non-flying units are based at RAF Waddington.[35][32][36]

Royal Air Force[edit]

No. 1 Group (Air Combat) RAF

No. 2 Group (Air Combat Support) RAF

RAF Air Warfare Centre

Other RAF Units

The deployable elements of the station structure form the core of No. 34 Expeditionary Air Wing.[33]

British Army[edit]

Royal Engineers (8 Engineer Brigade, 12 (Force Support) Engineer Group)

  • 20 Works Group Royal Engineers (Air Support)
    • 531 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Airfields) (STRE)[37]



The General Atomics MQ-9B, a remotely piloted air system (RPAS), which will be known as the Protector RG1 in RAF service, will be based at RAF Waddington. The first squadron to operate the Protector is expected to be No. 31 Squadron. A new hangar, support facilities and crew accommodation will be constructed at Waddington at a cost of £93 million.[40]

Gate guardian[edit]

  • Avro Vulcan XM607, RAF Waddington's gate guardian.
    The gate guardian at RAF Waddington is Avro Vulcan XM607, one of three Vulcan bombers (XM597, XM598, XM607) which took part in Operation Black Buck raids between April and June 1982 during the Falklands War. XM607 was stationed at Waddington and took part in the raids, captained by pilots Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers (on mission 1 and 7) and by Squadron Leader John Reeve (on mission 2).[41] In 1984, along with all other remaining Vulcans, XM607 was retired from active service, and was preserved as the gate guardian at Waddington.[41]
  • A Hawker Hunter F.6A acts as gate guardian outside the No. 8 Squadron facilities at Waddington. Styled as 'XE620' in No. 8 Squadron markings, the aircraft was originally XE606.[42]

Former Station Commanders[edit]

Previous units[edit]

The following units were stationed at Waddington at some point:[44]

Waddington International Air Show[edit]

Waddington International Air Show
GenreAir show
VenueRAF Waddington
CountryUnited Kingdom

Inauguration in 1995[edit]

The first RAF Waddington International Air Show was staged at RAF Waddington in 1995, after the event was moved down from RAF Finningley - an RAF station located east of Doncaster (now Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield) which was closed down in 1995. Over the following years the RAF Waddington International Air Show developed into the largest of all Royal Air Force air shows. It took place on the first weekend in July, attracting over 140,000 visitors and representatives of Air Forces from all round the world. The main purpose of the show was to raise public awareness and understanding of the RAF and its role today. Eighty five percent (85%) of all proceeds from the event were distributed to the two main Service charities; the RAF Benevolent Fund and the RAF Association; the remaining 15% donated to local worthy causes. Since the inaugural year 1995 the Air Show has raised over £2,700,000 for Service and local charities.

Waddington Air Show in 2002 with the Air Warfare Centre in the distance.


The 2010 Air Show took place over the weekend of 3 and 4 July. The main themes being 90 years since the first ever RAF air show, at RAF Hendon, 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and 35 years of Airborne Early Warning. The flying display included Vulcan XH558, many regular exhibitors and aircraft but also display teams that had never been to Waddington before, including the Turkish Stars and the Czech Saab JAS 39 Gripen and Alca L-159 display.


The 2011 Air Show took place on 2 and 3 July, with the theme of Air Power - Past, Present and Future. Several indoor and outdoor exhibitions reflected this theme, including a new audio-visual experience in the main exhibition hangar. Visitors learned about the RAF's current operations abroad, the RAF's equipment and the RAF's personnel, devoted to their roles within the Royal Air Force. The USAF Display Team, The Thunderbirds, also took part. Displays included the Red Arrows, Team Viper, Belgian F16 solo, Avro Vulcan XH558 and the Royal Jordanian Falcons as well as many others.

Ground displays included over 100 aircraft, 250 trade stands, two exhibition hangars and the Military Village concept where all services display, the Waddington SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract) School display with its close RNLI association. Many clubs also featured in the Village demonstrating the diversity of hobbies and interests available to RAF personnel today.


The 2012 (30 June/ 1 July 2012) airshow attracted over 130,000 visitors to RAF Waddington from across the UK and beyond. Celebrating 100 years of the Central Flying School, Combat ISTAR and the Year of Lincolnshire Aviation the airshow had over 210 aircraft on display. Twenty countries took part in the event, with the first appearance in the UK by a RAAF Boeing Wedgetail and the debut appearance in Europe by the Republic of Korea Black Eagles display team. The team took the best flying display award.


Saab J-29 Tunnan, Swedish Air Force. RAF Waddington Airshow 2013

The 2013 airshow was held over 6 and 7 July 2013 at RAF Waddington and celebrated the 95th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force. The airshow also commemorated 70yrs since the historic and daring raids on the German dams of WW2, the 100th Anniversary of RAF Waddington's own 5(AC) Squadron and looked into the secretive world of ISTAR. Over 150,000 visitors attended the show in 2013, making it the biggest and best attended military airshow in the UK. The show featured the only display in the UK by the Turkish Air Forces Solo Türk F-16 demo as well as participation from the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, France, Italy, Jordan, Czech Republic and many more. The show also featured the Saab 37 Viggen.


The RAF Waddington Airshow of 2014 was also widely regarded as a success. Crowds in excess of 135,000 flocked to the base over the two days of the show helping to generate a sum of £260,000 which was in turn donated to Service and local charities.[45] However 2014 was to prove to be the last time an airshow would be staged at RAF Waddington.[46]

The base was earmarked for development, a significant part of which being concerned with the station's runway with work scheduled for 59 weeks. This therefore ruled out an airshow during 2015.

The timing of the works coincided with a review of the base in general, the continuance of the airshow being also part of the review. The outcome was that having weighed up the content of the report, it was decided that: "significant security risks as well as certain operational risks" resulted from the operation of the RAF Waddington Airshow, and therefore the airshow, for the reasons cited, would not be continued with.[46] These security risks have generally centred around RAF Waddington being used as a base for the operation of Reaper drones.[47]

There was strong public objection to the decision regarding the event. A petition numbering 4,262 signatories was gathered with local politicians also campaigning for the retention of the airshow.

In February 2016 it was announced that following an agreement between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, the venue of the airshow would switch from RAF Waddington to RAF Scampton, with the hope that the airshow will be resurrected in 2017.[46]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2002, the half-hour ITV programme Airbase documented life at the airfield. Elizabeth Simmonds, the Olympic swimmer, trained at the base's pool.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 72. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ "RAF Waddington Defence Aerodrome Manual (DAM)" (PDF). RAF Waddington. Military Aviation Authority. 13 February 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "RAF Waddington Beginnings". Royal Air Force (RAF). Retrieved 19 October 2008.
  4. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p. 50.
  5. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p. 53.
  6. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p. 54.
  7. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 57.
  8. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 58.
  9. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 32.
  10. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p. 68.
  11. ^ a b c d Jefford 1988, p. 41.
  12. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p. 55.
  13. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 51.
  14. ^ a b c Jefford 1988, p. 39.
  15. ^ Gooch, Sam (30 January 2015). Bombers: 44 and 420 Squadrons. Group Captain John 'Joe' Collier DSO, DFC and Bar. Pen and Sword Books. p. 37. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Bomber Command No.207 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  17. ^ "The Ausburg Raids". No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron Association. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  18. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 27.
  19. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 61.
  20. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 69.
  21. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 91.
  22. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p. 94.
  23. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 101.
  24. ^ "Flight - 16 December 1960 - In Brief". Flightglobal.com. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  25. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 28.
  26. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 31.
  27. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 34.
  28. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 43.
  29. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 44.
  30. ^ "RAF Waddington runway repairs". gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. 7 March 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  31. ^ "Surveillance fleet back after runway upgrade". RAF News (1408). 2 December 2016. p. 7. ISSN 0035-8614.
  32. ^ a b "Formation of 1 ISR Wing" (PDF). Insight Magazine: 8–9. March–April 2017.
  33. ^ a b "Number 34 Expeditionary Air Wing". RAF Waddington. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  34. ^ "OFCOM Amateur Radio Licence Section 2 - Terms, conditions and limitations (page 23)" (PDF). OFCOM. p. 22. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  35. ^ "RAF Waddington – Who's Based Here". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  36. ^ "Other Units". RAF Waddington. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  37. ^ "An introduction to...20 Works Group Royal Engineers" (PDF). Wittering View. Lance Publishing Ltd.: 18 Spring 2015.
  38. ^ "Bigger, better, faster! New Ambucopter takes to the skies!". Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance. 14 June 2017. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  39. ^ "RAF Waddington Flying Club". RAF Flying Clubs' Association. Archived from the original on 2008-02-02. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  40. ^ "Waddington to operate Protector, with best of British air power on show at Air Tattoo". Royal Air Force. 13 July 2018. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  41. ^ a b Brookes, Andrew (2009). Vulcan Units of the Cold War. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 94. ISBN 9781846032974.
  42. ^ "Euro Demobbed - Out of Service Military Aircraft in Europe". www.eurodemobbed.org.uk. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  43. ^ "RAF Waddington welcomes new station commander". 29 February 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  44. ^ "Waddington". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  45. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 July 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  46. ^ a b c "Scampton Airshow Confirmed?". EGXWinfo Group. 19 February 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  47. ^ "Air show 'must move to Red Arrows base'". 29 September 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.


  • Halpenny, B.B. Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Patrick Stephens Ltd, 1981. ISBN 0-85059-484-7.
  • 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, 1988. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.

External links[edit]