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No. 9 Squadron (otherwise known as No. IX (Bomber) Squadron) of the Royal Air Force was the first in the service to receive the Panavia Tornado, which it currently operates from RAF Marhammarker, Norfolk.


No. 9 Squadron was formed and disbanded twice during the First World War. The first incarnation was formed on 8 December 1914 at Saint-Omermarker in France from a detachment of the RFC HQ to develop the use of radio for reconnaissance missions; this lasted until March 1915. Re-formed at Brooklandsmarker a few weeks later as a reconnaissance squadron, No. 9 returned to France in December 1915, flying Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2s. It re-equipped with R.E.8 in May 1917, and although it started to receive Bristol Fighter in July 1918, it did not completely discard its R.E.8s until after the end of the war. It was disbanded again in December 1919.

The squadron's life as a bomber unit began on 1 April 1924, reforming at RAF Upavonmarker, quickly moving to RAF Manstonmarker, with the Vickers Vimy. Less than a year later, the squadron re-equipped with the Vickers Virginia heavy bomber, which it retained until this was replaced by the Handley Page Heyford in 1936.

World War II began with the unit one of the few equipped with modern aircraft, the Vickers Wellington bomber, flying out of RAF Honingtonmarker; the Wellington later gave way to the Avro Lancaster, with which the unit would complete its most famous sorties.

On 4 September 1939, the squadron’s Wellington aircraft and crews were the first to hit the enemy, the first to get into a dogfight, possibly the first to shoot down an enemy aircraft, the first to be shot down by one and, towards the end of the war, the first to hit the German battleship Tirpitzmarker with the Tallboy 12,000 pound bomb, an achievement by the crew of a Lancaster on her 102nd operation with the squadron.

No. 9 fought with RAF Bomber Command in Europe all the way through World War Two, took part in all the major raids and big battles, pioneered and proved new tactics and equipment, produced several of the leading figures in The Great Escape, as well as Colditz inmates - including the legendary 'Medium Sized Man' Flight Lieutenant Dominic Bruce OBE MC AFM originator of the famous 'tea chest' escape; they became one of the two specialised squadrons attacking precision targets with the Tallboy bomb, and led the final mainforce raid, on Berchtesgadenmarker, 25 April 1945.

The battleship Tirpitzmarker had been moved into a fjord in Northern Norwaymarker where she threatened the Arctic convoys and was too far north to be attacked by air from the UK. She had already been damaged by a Royal Navy midget submarine attack and a second attack from carrier born aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm. But both attacks had failed to sink her. The task was given to No. 9 and No.617 Squadrons who, operating from a base in Russiamarker, attacked the Tirpitz with Tallboy bombs which damaged her so extensively that she was forced to head south to Tromsö fjord to be repaired. This fjord was in range of bombers operating from Scotland. There in October from a base in Scotland she was attacked again. Finally on November 12, 1944, the two squadrons attacked the Tirpitz and she capsized. All three RAF attacks on the Tirpitz were led by Wing Commander JB "Willy" Tait, who had succeeded Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire as CO of No. 617 Squadron in July 1944.

After the War, the Lancasters were replaced by Avro Lincolns until 1952, when the Squadron re-equipped with English Electric Canberra jet-bombers. These aircraft were used during three months of operations in Malaya in 1956 and during the Suez Crisis.

In March 1962, the squadron converted to the Avro Vulcan and became part of the V-Force of RAF Bomber Command. Their Vulcans were equipped in late 1966 with WE.177 laydown nuclear bombs at RAF Cottesmoremarker in the low-level penetration role and assigned to SACEUR, before spending six years in the same role 1969-74 at RAF Akrotirimarker, Cyprus, as part of the Near East Air Force Wing (NEAF) where the squadron formed part of the United Kingdom's commitment to CENTO. The years 1975-82 were spent based at RAF Waddingtonmarker, again assigned to SACEUR, and still equipped with WE.177 nuclear laydown bombs in the low-level penetration role before disbanding in April 1982.

Current role

IX Squadron reformed in August 1982, becoming the world's first operational Tornado squadron at RAF Honingtonmarker with the Panavia Tornado GR1, again equipped with WE.177 nuclear laydown bombs, handed down from the Vulcan force, before moving to RAF Bruggenmarker in 1986. The squadron's nuclear delivery role ended in 1994 at Bruggen, although the squadron continued to be based there in their non-nuclear bombing role.

The squadron deployed to Dhahranmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker in 1990 as part of Operation Granby, the first Gulf War, leading a number of bombing raids, delivering JP233 and 1000 lb bombs. The squadron has conducted operations over southern Iraq in support of UN resolutions and over Kosovo in 1999.

IX Squadron continued its pioneering history by becoming the first squadron to receive the Tornado GR4 in 1999. A formal ceremony at RAF Brüggenmarker on June 15 2001 officially ended a continuous RAF presence in Germany since World War II; on July 17 the squadron completed its move to RAF Marham and all of the remaining Tornados had left by September 4 2001.

The squadron formed a part of the RAF contribution to the 2003 Iraq War (Operation Telic). Nos. II, IX, XIII, 31 and 617 Squadrons contributed to Tornado GR4 Wing 1 based at Ali Al Salem Air Basemarker, Kuwaitmarker. IX Squadron suffered a devastating loss on March 23 2003 when one of their aircraft was engaged by a Patriot battery in Kuwait while returning from a mission. The pilot and navigator were both killed. Immediately after the incident it was claimed that the RAF crew had failed to switch on their IFF beacon. However a US journalist embedded with the U.S. Army unit operating the Patriot battery said the "army Patriots were mistakenly identifying friendly aircraft as enemy tactical ballistic missiles."

While all Tornado GR.4s are capable of carrying the ALARM Anti Radiation Missile, IX and 31 Sqns specialise in the role. In this role they are known as "Pathfinder" squadrons.

In 2007 IX B Squadron were the lead squadron in celebrating 25 years of the Tornado GR in service with the Royal Air Force. A special tail-fin design was applied to one of the squadrons Tornado GR's ZA469.

The IX squadron badge was approved by King Edward VIII in 1936.

2009 will see IX B celebrate 95 years of operational service.

See also


  1. Ashworth 1989, p.46.
  2. Weapon data and No.9 Squadron data for 1966-67
  3. Weapon overview @ Carrriage
  4. Weapon data and No.9 Squadron data for 1994
  • Ashworth, Chris. Encyclopedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons. Wellingborough, UK:PSL, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-013-6.
  • Lewis, Peter. Squadron Histories: R.F.C, R.N.A.S and R.A.F., 1912-59. London: Putnam, 1959.

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