Formation of first operational Typhoon squadron ushers in new era for the RAF

31 March 2006, marks the start of a new era for the RAF as the first operational Typhoon squadron, No. 3(Fighter) Squadron, forms at RAF Cottesmore, just a day before the Royal Air Force marks its 88th Anniversary. The formation of 3(F) Sqn marks the beginning of the transition of the Royal Air Force to a more agile, capable, flexible and adaptable expeditionary force, better equipped to meet the demands that are likely to be placed on it in the future.

RAF and RN personnel march together to mark the formation at RAF Cottesmore of the Joint Force Harrier.  Behind them a Typhoon from 3(F) Sqn, represents the formation of the RAF’s first operational squadron of Typhoons, based at RAF Coningsby. This parade was held at Royal Air Force Cottesmore on the Friday 31st March 2006 to formally say goodbye to 3 (Fighter) Squadron and welcome 800 Naval Air Squadron.


An event to mark a range of changes, which are traditionally timed to coincide with the anniversary of the RAF’s formation on 1 April 1918, was held at RAF Cottesmore. In addition to the formation of the first operational Typhoon squadron, which will be based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, other transformation elements include:

  • formation of 800 Naval Air Squadron with GR7/9 Harriers at RAF Cottesmore as part of the Joint Force Harrier;
  • relocation of No.6 Squadron Jaguars from RAF Coltishall to RAF Coningsby;
  • formation of deployable Expeditionary Air Wings that will better support the RAF on deployed operations;
  • formation of logistics ‘hub’ at RAF Wittering; and a communications ‘hub’ at RAF Leeming for deployable expeditionary force elements;
  • rationalisation of HQ Strike Command by closing No 3. Group; and
  • closure of RAF Stafford and RAF Sealand.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said:

"Tomorrow marks 88 years of the RAF, and it is fitting that the changes being implemented across the Service, marked by today’s ceremonies, will continue our drive towards maintaining outstanding operational capability and employing cutting edge technology in our Service.

"This restructuring is essential and will ensure we continue to deliver a highly capable, cost-efficient and powerful Air Force, capable of making a winning contribution both on operations and in humanitarian and relief operations.

"The result will be an even more flexible and adaptable Air Force, best organised to deal with the tasks it will face in the future. These changes will bring into service one of the most potent aircraft that has ever flown and ensure we can give the best possible support to our people both on operations and at home, making a real and positive difference for us all."

A new beginning – Joint Force Harriers overfly the parade at RAF Cottesmore as part of the ceremony marking Transformation day. 3 (Fighter) Squadron will re-equip with Typhoon, to form the first operational Royal Air Force Typhoon Squadron, and hand its present aircraft, equipment, estate and some personnel onto 800 Naval Air Squadron to form the first Royal Navy GR7 Squardon.


The Defence White Paper, ‘Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities’ issued in July 2004, highlighted the need to modernise the UK’s Armed Forces and to enhance their contribution to expeditionary operations. Typhoon will provide a versatile multi-role capability that will replace the less-flexible single-role aircraft we operate today. Equipped with a range of modern stand-off, precision weapons, the aircraft will provide much greater capability in all roles. Following the formation event at RAF Cottesmore today, 3(F) Squadron will be based at RAF Coningsby.

Defence Secretary, John Reid, said:

"The introduction of Typhoon today marks our commitment to invest in effective fighting power, and to keep the British Armed Forces at the forefront when it comes to military capability.

"Equipping our Armed Forces with cutting edge, state of the art equipment such as Typhoon is a high priority: by pursuing excellence in our equipment, and by building training and morale, the RAF soars above the standard and proves itself again to be adaptable, agile and relevant to the threats of the future."

The impact of transformation; this graphic illustrates how the RAF’s capabilities have changed over the last 35 years. Whereas in 1970 it would have taken 21 aircraft to guarantee the destruction of a single tank, today’s crop of ground attack aircraft, and the missiles they are equipped with, mean that a single aircraft can now destroy up to 12 tanks on the battlefield in a single mission. Similarly, instead of requiring 20 jets with dumb bombs to damage hardened aircraft shelters, now one aircraft can destroy up to 3 such buildings.  These improvements mean the RAF needs fewer aircraft to accurately attack targets.


Today’s changes in detail:

  • RAF Coltishall in Norfolk will close as an operational flying station, and No. 6 Sqn’s Jaguar aircraft will transfer to RAF Coningsby. No 41(F) Sqn will hand over its standard to the Fast Jet & Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit also based at Coningsby. This will mark the end of operational flying at RAF Coltishall, which is one of the last remaining Battle of Britain Fighter Units.
  • Simultaneously, RAF Stafford and RAF Sealand will close and their assets will transfer to the ‘hubs’ at RAF Wittering and RAF Leeming.
  • Expeditionary Air Wings (EAW) are being established to support operations. Nine EAW will be formed at nine Main Operating Bases; RAF Coningsby, RAF Cottesmore, RAF Kinloss, RAF Leeming, RAF Leuchars, RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Lyneham, RAF Marham and RAF Waddington.
  • The Strike Command Headquarters is being streamlined from three RAF Groups to two, which will reduce management and administrative overheads and release more resources to the front line.
  •  RAF Force Protection elements are being enhanced by integrating the RAF Regiment and the RAF Police to deliver a full range of capability from policing and security (including dogs) to close combat.


Source: The Royal Air Force (RAF)
Pictures provided and copyrighted by RAF
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