Philip Stevens reports on a day at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire England. RAF Coningsby is one of the UK’s three air defence bases and also the home of six fast jet units. Coningsby’s diverse range of inmates, which include; the Typhoon, Tornado (GR.4/F.3), Harrier and Jaguar, makes it the UK’s own ‘Fighter Town’. For the last 30 years Coningsby has also been the home of The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) flying the RAF’s last Lancaster bomber, a Dakota, five Spitfires and two Hurricanes. Two Chipmunks, the last in RAF service, are used for training fighter pilots.
November 9, 2006, the day of my visit, included a rehearsal for a flypast over London. The Government of New Zealand has designed a monument to symbolise the contribution and sacrifice of its forces during the First and Second World Wars. The modern bronze memorial comprising of 16 inscribed crosses is located at Hyde Park in London. The ceremony took place on November 11 with personnel from the New Zealand forces and a flypast of one of it’s Boeing 757’s with three RAF Typhoon’s from 3(F) Squadron.
Coningsby as part of 1 Group has become the home of the Bae/Eurofighter Typhoon since the first aircraft arrived in the summer of 2005. The Typhoon is ‘the future of air defence’ and currently the first 34 Typhoons to enter service are based here. This number will increase when the fourth Typhoon squadron, 11(F), reforms, its first aircraft arrived in October 2006.
Coningsby’s flying units:
Early Morning Launch - 3(F) Squadron Typhoon four ship makes its way to the holding point.
17(R) Squadron was tasked to bring the Typhoon into service and arrived at Coningsby on April 1, 2005. Later, on November 4, 2005, 29(R) Squadron stood up as the Operational Conversion Unit to train Typhoon pilots. On March 31, 2006 the Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJ&W OEU) was renamed 41(R) Squadron. Previously 41(F) Squadron operated the Jaguar from RAF Coltishall before its disbandment. 41(R) Squadron operates the Tornado F.3, Tornado GR.4 and the Harrier GR.9. The role of 41(R) Squadron is the development of operational tactics and the evaluation and exploitation of weapons, avionics and software in preparation for their use by the front-line. The Unit’s tasks are carried out in close liaison with approved defence manufacturers, research institutions and front-line squadrons. Also on March 31, 2006 3(F) Squadron moved to Coningsby. To complete a significant day in the history of RAF Coningsby, 6 Squadron relocated here with what was left of the Jaguar fleet. The Jaguars will remain here until mid-2007 when they will finally be retired and 6 Squadron disbanded prior to reforming with the Typhoon in 2008.
Morning Recovery - 6 Squadron Jaguar GR.3 (XZ109/EN) on finals.
The reforming and relocating of key RAF units at Coningsby enabled the 121 Expeditionary Air Wing (121 EAW) to be formed on the April 1, 2006. The concept of forming this wing, within the Air Force, is to provide a deployable air force structure, configured to provide discreet units of agile interoperable and capable air power. RAF Coningsby is one of nine RAF Stations, which will train individuals units to provide multi-role capability.
Since the day after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, Coningsby has had two Tornado F.3’s deployed on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties. The F.3’s belonging to 25 Squadron at RAF Leeming, are armed with air to air missiles (AMRAAM and ASRAAM) and are held on the ground for immediate take-off. The two aircraft at Coningsby are tasked to protect the United Kingdom’s airspace in the southern sector. Two further Tornado F.3’s are on QRA duties at RAF Leuchars in Scotland. QRA fulfills two concurrent functions. Firstly to meet the UK’s NATO commitments for air policing and secondly for combating the increased terrorist threats against the UK. It is expected the Typhoon will take over the southern QRA from the Tornado F.3 in 2007.
Tornado GR.4 of 41(R) Squadron carrying a Paveway IV Precision Laser-Guided Bomb.
25 Squadron (still in old 11 Squadron markings) returns to RAF Leeming after being replaced by another Tornado F.3 on QRA duties.
End of Day Recovery - Typhoon F.2 of 29 Squadron returns to RAF Coningsby at the end of the day.
Source: Target Aviation Photography - Philip Stevens
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