Royal Air Force Germany

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Royal Air Force Germany
Active1 January 1959; 65 years ago (1959-01-01)–1 April 1993; 31 years ago (1993-04-01)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
TypeRoyal Air Force command
Part ofBritish Armed Forces,
UK Ministry of Defence
HeadquartersRAF Rheindahlen[1]
Motto(s)Keepers of the Peace[2]
MarchRoyal Air Force March Past

Royal Air Force Germany, commonly known as RAF Germany, and abbreviated RAFG, is a former command of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and part of British Forces Germany (BFG). It consisted of units located in Germany, initially in what was known as West Germany as part of the British Air Forces of Occupation (BAFO) following the Second World War, and later as part of the RAF's commitment to the defence of Europe during the Cold War.[1] The commander of RAFG doubled as commander of NATO's Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF). Its motto was 'Keepers of the Peace'.[2]


Hawker Hunter F6 in No. 4 Squadron RAF colours at Luftwaffe Museum, Gatow-Berlin.
A Phantom FGR2 of No. 92 Squadron landing at RAF Wildenrath in the mid-1980s.

RAF Germany was established on 1 January 1959; 65 years ago (1959-01-01), through the renaming of the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force. The command remained based at RAF Rheindahlen with air marshal Sir John Edwardes-Jones continuing as its Air Officer Commanding. Flying operations were conducted from six airfields; four of these: Geilenkirchen, Laarbruch, Bruggen, and Wildenrath, were the so-called 'clutch' airfields built earlier in the decade, with the other two, Jever and Gutersloh, having been occupied since the closing months of World War II. The command's stock of aircraft included the English Electric Canberra bomber, Hawker Hunter fighter-bomber, and the Supermarine Swift reconnaissance aircraft.

The command's number of airfields was reduced by one in 1961, when Jever was returned to the West German federal authorities, followed by Geilenkirchen in 1968, and consolidating operations to four RAF stations. In between times, RAFG received a dedicated interceptor force with the arrival of 19 and 92 Squadrons from the United Kingdom with their English Electric Lightning's.

From 1969, RAFG began receiving new equipment befitting its place on the frontline of the Cold War, with the command also reorganising to support one aircraft type at each airbase. Laarbruch became RAFG's home to the Blackburn Buccaneer strike aircraft, operated by XV and 16 Squadrons. Bruggen received the McDonnell Douglas Phantom fighter-bomber operated by 14, 17, and 31 Squadrons, with Wildenrath taking the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and 3, 4, and 20 Squadrons. Gutersloh became home to the two Lightning squadrons, where they were joined in 1970 by the Westland Wessex helicopters of 18 Squadron, while 25 Squadron provided defence for the three clutch bases with the Bloodhound SAM. The exception to this arrangement was II Squadron, who operated their Phantoms in the aerial reconnaissance role from Laarbruch. At this time, the command gained another further squadron when the Communications Flight adopted the identity of 60 Squadron which had recently disbanded in the Far East. The Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of RAF Germany at this time was Dambuster raid pilot air marshal Harold 'Mick' Martin.

Further change came with the arrival of the SEPECAT Jaguar in 1975, with the three Bruggen squadrons all converting to the single-seat, twin-engined, strike and ground attack aircraft, and was later joined there by 20 Squadron which moved over from the Harrier. II Squadron would also receive the Jaguar, albeit remaining at Laarbruch in its reconnaissance role.

In 1977, Wildenrath and Gutersloh swapped roles as 19 and 92 Squadrons converted to the Phantom, now redeployed in the air defence role, and moved to Wildenrath to take advantage of their new mounts longer range, with 3 and 4 Squadrons and their Harriers moving east to Gutersloh. 230 Squadron and their Westland Puma helicopters arrived at Gutersloh in 1980 to replace 18 Squadron, who disbanded in preparation to receive the new Boeing Chinook. After re-equipping, and seeing service in the Falklands War, 18 returned in 1983 with both units providing support to the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).

In 1983, a new shape emerged in the skies over western Europe with the arrival of the Panavia Tornado multi-role strike-attack aircraft into RAF Germany. Entering service with XV Squadron, it was only intended to equip the three Laarbruch-based units, but ultimately replaced the Jaguar across the RAFG command, which also included 20 Squadron moving once more this time to Laarbruch. 1986 saw the arrival of IX Squadron at Bruggen, as well as the end of the nuclear Quick Response Alert duty that RAFG had carried out since its formation. The Jaguar finally left RAF Germany in 1988 when II Squadron replaced theirs with Tornado's fitted with the much-delayed 'Tornado Infra-Red Reconnaissance System' (TIRRS), while the following year 3 and 4 Squadrons began replacing their first-generation Harrier GR3 and GR5s with the new Harrier II. 25 Squadron disbanded that October, ending nearly twenty years of Bloodhound SAM operation in Germany, with the numberplate transferred the same day to a new Tornado F3 unit at RAF Leeming.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact stimulated major changes in British defence policy, and RAF Germany was no exception. The Options for Change paper announced a downsizing of the command; Wildenrath was to close and its Phantom squadrons disbanded, Gutersloh was to be transferred to the British Army and its squadrons relocated to Laarbruch, which in turn would have its three strike-attack Tornado squadrons disbanded.

These proposals were quickly overtaken by events in the Gulf, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. RAF Germany provided the bulk of the Tornado force, with XV (Wg Cdr John Broadbent), 16 (Wg Cdr Ian Travers-Smith), and 31 (Wg Cdr Jerry Witts) providing the main elements at Muharraq, Tabuk, and Dhahran respectively, with personnel drawn from all eight RAFG Tornado squadrons. Three of those; Squadron Leaders Garry Lennox and Kevin Weeks from 16 Squadron, and Flight Lieutenant Steve Hicks from XV Squadron; were killed in action, and the last of over one hundred aircrew lost in service with RAFG units.

Despite the successful service in the Gulf, the Options for Change proposals were carried out. 92 Squadron at Wildenrath was the first to disband in July 1991, followed by 19 in January 1992, and the station itself that April. At Laarbruch, both XV and 16 Squadrons were disbanded during 1991, and II Squadron relocated to RAF Marham. 20 Squadron remained, but disbanded in July 1992, before 3, 4, and 18 Squadrons relocated from Gutersloh later that year, while 230 Squadron had departed for RAF Aldergrove in Northern Ireland that April.

RAF Germany itself came to an end on 1 April 1993; 31 years ago (1993-04-01), when it was disbanded and redesignated as No.2 Group of Strike Command, with Air Marshal Sandy Wilson as its last AOC. 2 Group was itself subsumed into 1 Group in 1996, with the final withdrawal of forces coming in 2002 following the closures of Laarbruch and Bruggen.

RAFG structure and flying units in 1989[edit]

Note 1: Unit with nuclear strike role with 18x WE.177 tactical nuclear weapons.

RAFG stations and establishments[edit]

Royal Air Force Germany stations
RAF station location dates active notes / current use
RAF Ahlhorn Ahlhorn, Lower Saxony 1945 – 1958 originally an aerodrome for German Zepplins, also known as Advanced Landing Ground B.111
RAF Bad Kohlgrub Bad Kohlgrub, Bavaria 1950s- site of RAF Germany Winter Survival School (RAFGWSS),[3][4] see also Langenbruck bus crash
RAF Bruggen Elmpt, North Rhine-Westphalia 1958 - 2002 following withdrawal of RAF, British Army units relocated here, becoming Elmpt Station, Javelin Barracks
RAF Bückeburg 1946 - 1960 now Bückeburg Air Base
RAF Butzweilerhof Cologne August 1951 - 31 January 1967 now residential and retail area
RAF Celle Celle 11 April 1945 – 29 November 1957 handed over to the Bundeswehr, becoming Celle Air Base
RAF Fassberg Fassberg, Lower Saxony April 1945 - 1 January 1957 handed over to the Bundeswehr, becoming Faßberg Air Base
RAF Fuhlsbüttel Fuhlsbüttel now Hamburg Airport
RAF Gatow Berlin 19 August 1945 – 7 September 1994 General-Steinhoff Kaserne and Bundeswehr Museum of Military History - Berlin-Gatow Airfield
RAF Geilenkirchen Geilenkirchen May 1953 - March 1968 handed over to the Bundeswehr, now NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen
RAF Gütersloh Gütersloh 27 June 1945 – 1993 following withdrawal of RAF, British Army units relocated here, becoming Princess Royal Barracks, Gütersloh
RAF Hambühren Hambühren communications site
RAF Hehn Hehn 11 Signals Unit main communications centre for RAFG and BAOR landline communications[5]
RAF Hustedt Hustedt B.150
RAF Husum Husum, Schleswig-Holstein a remote radar station on the coast near Husum[6]
RAF Jever Jever April 1945 - 1961 handed over to the Bundeswehr, now Jever Air Base
RAF Laarbruch Weeze March 1945 - 1999 now Weeze Airport
RAF Lübeck Lübeck 1945 - 1997 also known as RAF Blankensee, now Lübeck Airport
RAF Lüneburg Lüneburg now Lüneburg Airfield B.156
RAF Nordhorn Nordhorn 1945 - March 2001 air weapons range
RAF Nörvenich Nörvenich 1952-55 handed over to the Bundeswehr, now Nörvenich Air Base[7]
RAF Oldenburg Oldenburg ???? - October 1957 handed over to the Bundeswehr, now used by the German Air Force
RAF Plantlünne Plantlünne 9 April 1945 - May 1945 B.103
RAF Rheindahlen Rheindahlen October 1945 - December 2013 former RAFG headquarters, now British Forces Germany headquarters
RAF Schleswigland Schleswigland 1945 - October 1959 handed over to the Bundeswehr, now Schleswig Air Base
RAF Sundern Sundern ???? - 1961 non flying base, following withdrawal of RAF, British Army units relocated here, becoming Mansergh Barracks, Westfalen Garrison.
RAF Sylt Sylt 1945 - 16 October 1961 now Sylt Airport
RAF Uetersen Uetersen ???? - November 1955 from November 1948 to March 1950 it was HQ No. 85 Group RAF, RAF presence until end of November 1955.
RAF Wahn Bonn now Cologne Bonn Airport
RAF Hospital Wegberg Wegberg 1953 - 1 April 1996 HQ British Forces Germany Health Service (BFGHS), now demolished.
RAF Wildenrath Wildenrath 15 January 1952 – 1 April 1992 now primarily redeveloped into a railway testing centre, operated by Siemens Mobility
RAF Winterberg Winterberg former radio navigation unit[8]
RAF Wunstorf Wunstorf 7 April 1945 - 1957 handed over to the Bundeswehr, now Wunstorf Air Base

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Air Chief Marshal Sir David Lee, GBE, CB (December 1979). The Royal Air Force in Germany 1945–1978 – the RAF in the postwar years. (Report). Air Historical Branch (RAF), Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 20 August 2023.{{cite report}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b Pine, L.G. (1983). A Dictionary of mottoes. London, England: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 122. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  3. ^ "RAF Music Services". Royal Air Force, Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  4. ^ "RAF Germany Winter Survival School". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  5. ^ "RAF Hehn". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  6. ^ "RAF Husum". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  7. ^ "Betreuung am Standort Nörvenich" (in German). German Air Force. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  8. ^ "RAF Winterberg". Archived from the original on 15 July 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by RAF Germany
Succeeded by