RAF Westcott

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RAF Westcott
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Near Westcott in Buckinghamshire, England
View Across Westcott Venture Park - geograph.org.uk - 880111.jpg
View across the Westcott Venture Park, situated on the former RAF base
RAF Westcott is located in Buckinghamshire
RAF Westcott
RAF Westcott
Location within Buckinghamshire
Coordinates51°50′46″N 000°58′15″W / 51.84611°N 0.97083°W / 51.84611; -0.97083
TypeRoyal Air Force Station
Site information
OwnerAir Ministry
Operator Royal Air Force
Site history
Built1942 (1942)
In use1942-1945 (1945)
FateTransferred to the Ministry of Supply in 1946 and became the home for the Rocket Propulsion Establishment
Battles/warsSecond World War

RAF Westcott is a former Royal Air Force station located near Westcott in Buckinghamshire, England. The site fully opened in September 1942 and was the base of No.11 Operational Training Unit (OTU) flying the Vickers Wellington medium bomber until the RAF moved out in August 1945, the station was officially closed on 3 April 1946.[1]

The airfield was then transferred to the Ministry of Supply and became the home for the Rocket Propulsion Establishment until the mid 1990s.

The site is now the Westcott Venture park, which is the registered address for 37 companies.[2]

History[edit]

World War II[edit]

RAF Westcott opened in September 1942 along with its satellite station RAF Oakley. The airfield was equipped with 3 concrete runways.[3] Shortly after its opening, No. 11 Operational Training Unit (OTU) moved in from RAF Bassingbourn operating the Vickers Wellington bomber. The OTU played a major part in the training of bomber crews during World War II, as part of this training, trainees would be sent on air navigation and leaflet dropping exercises.[1]

During and after the last few days of fighting in May 1945, No. 11 OTU and the airfield were involved in Operation Exodus: repatriation flights for almost 53,000 Allied personnel who had been prisoners of war in Germany.

The RAF moved out in August 1945 and the airfield was transferred to the Ministry of Supply on 3 April 1946.

1946-1990s[edit]

After World War II, rocket research and development took on new urgency after Germany's success with the V-1 and V-2 rocket, the Rocket Propulsion Establishment was set up at Westcott in 1946 and German scientists relocated to the site to continue their research into liquid rocket propellant. The site developed liquid propellant motor for various rockets and missiles, including the Blue Streak ballistic missile and the Europa-1 space rocket launch vehicle. This site was regarded as so secret it was not marked on Ordnance Survey maps.[4]

In 1977 Westcott and the Waltham Abbey research station merged to form the Propellants, Explosives and Rocket Motor Establishment. Westcott continued to be at the forefront of liquid propellant research until the mid 1990s, developing the LEROS liquid engine used for the Mars missions of the 1990s.

The surviving test stands and control rooms were designated as either Grade II* or Grade II listed building and named the K2 stand as a "nationally unique test stand for the testing of large solid fuel rocket motors which has contributed to significant UK defence systems and the space programme."[4]

Present day[edit]

The site, which extends to 650 acres, is now the location of Westcott Venture Park, a business park for light industry.[5] Being the largest business park in Buckinghamshire, it is currently the registered address for 37 companies.[6]

The business park is still home to a division of the Norwegian company Nammo, which continues the design and manufacture of the LEROS rocket engines. Reaction Engines Limited began construction on a rocket test facility in 2017 to develop their SABRE rocket engine with the goal to have the new building ready for use in 2020.[7]

In 2016, the UK Government announced plans to invest £4.12 million to develop a National Propulsion Test Facility at the site, allowing cost-effective testing and development of propulsion engines. The plan involves building a new vacuum facility which will allow the simulation of high altitude testing of thrusters up to 2kN, upgrade an existing testing chamber and open a smaller 1N thruster test chamber for the community to use. The European Space Agency will advise and oversee the initial design phase.[8]

Westcott Venture Park has also unveiled plans for a new solar photovoltaic power station in 2018 with a planned capacity of more than 15 megawatts (MW) and will cover 76 acres. This will make the business park carbon-negative since the park will generate more power than the business will use in a year.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "RAF Westcott history and information". Airfields of Britain. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  2. ^ "List of companies registered in Westcott Venture Park". Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  3. ^ "RAF Westcott airfield information". Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b "K2 test stand historic information". Historic England. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Westcott Venture Park official website". Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Roundabout unlocks economic potential at Westcott Venture Park". Buckinghamshire County Council. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  7. ^ Quick, Darren (8 May 2017). "Facility to test SABRE air-breathing engine under construction". New Atlas. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  8. ^ "UK National Space Propulsion Facility". www.gov.uk. 12 July 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Major solar plant lined up at Westcott Venture Park". Insider Media Limited. 20 August 2018. Retrieved 8 March 2018.

External links[edit]