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RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, about 65 miles west north-west of Londonmarker, Englandmarker, United Kingdommarker, is the largest airbase of the Royal Air Force.

This RAF station is home to Air Transport, Air-to-Air refuelling and Military Parachuting. The base is home to the RAF's heavy transport aircraft, the C-17 Globemaster, and to its Tristar and Vickers VC-10 tanker. It is close to the Oxfordshire settlements of Brize Nortonmarker,Cartertonmarker and Witney about 5 miles away.

History

RAF Brize Norton was opened in 1937 as a training base. By the 1950s Cold War tension was escalating and the United States envisaged stationing nuclear bombers in the United Kingdom as a deterrent to Soviet aggression.

By 1950 the USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) was based at RAF Lakenheathmarker, RAF Marhammarker, and RAF Sculthorpemarker. The increasing tension of the Cold War led to a re-evaluation of these deployments and by 1953 SAC bombers began to move further west, behind RAF fighter forces, to Brize Norton, RAF Greenham Commonmarker, RAF Upper Heyfordmarker, and RAF Fairfordmarker. As with the other stations it occupied, SAC invested heavily in extending the runway (6,000 ft to 9,000 ft), taxiways and dispersals, as well as constructing accommodation and weapons handling facilities. This work was completed in April 1951.

The first major USAF deployment was that of 21 Convair B-36 Peacemaker bombers in June 1952. B-29s and KB-29s were based at Brize Norton on temporary duty from December 1952 to April 1953.

In September 1953, B-47E Stratojet 6-engined bombers deployed to Brize Norton accompanied by KC-97G boom-equipped tankers and were based there until 1955, when repair work began on the runways. B-47 Stratojets returned in July 1957. Later deployments included KC-97 and KC-135 tankers and the first B-58 and B-52B bombers to land in the UK.

Return of RAF

RAF, RAAF and USAF C-17s and flight crews at RAF Brize Norton in June 2007
In 1965 the RAF returned to Brize Norton and both 10 Squadron and 53 Squadron moved from RAF Fairfordmarker in May 1967.

10 Squadron reformed in 1966 with the Vickers VC-10 C.1, a RAF version which was a standard VC-10 with the Super VC-10 wings, tailplane and engine as well as a strengthened floor. 14 were produced which were later modified with underwing AAR refuelling pods to refuel two aircraft at once. The C.1 type was changed to C.1(K) to reflect this new tanking capability. On 14 October 2005, 10 Squadron was disbanded, the aircrew and aircraft were merged with 101 Squadron.

53 Squadron operated the Short Belfast C1 heavy lift turboprop freighter until it was disbanded in 1976.

In 1970 two squadrons 99 Squadron and 511 Squadron operating the Bristol Britannia moved from RAF Lynehammarker. Both squadrons were disbanded in 1976.

In 1976 115 Squadron moved from RAF Cottesmoremarker operating the Hawker Siddeley Andover in the radar calibration role. The squadron moved out to RAF Bensonmarker in 1983.

101 Squadron reformed at Brize Norton on 1 May 1984, it previously operated the Avro Vulcan and participated in the Operation Black Buck missions of the Falklands War. 101 Sqn flew converted civil VC-10s, heavily modified and updated by British Aerospace for military service between 1983 and 1993. Of the 39 airline aircraft acquired by the RAF, 13 were converted, while the remainders were used for spare parts. These converted VC10s were all 3-point tankers; capable of refuelling one aircraft (typically another large aircraft) using the main hose or two smaller aircraft using the underwing pods. The variants were known as K.2, K.3 and K.4.

Following the Falklands War, the RAF found itself lacking in the strategic transport capabilities required to sustain the expanded military presence there. As a result 216 Squadron was reformed at Brize Norton in November 1984, initially flying six ex-British Airways Tristars, followed by three more from Pan-Am.

On 23 May 2001 the RAF's first C-17 arrived at Brize Norton, one of six to be delivered to 99 Squadron.

On 19 September 2005, Brize Norton was closed as part of a major upgrade project. The runway was completely resurfaced [runway length: 10007 ft] and new ground lighting and equipment installed to meet Category II operation standards; the first RAF airfield to receive this designation. Rotary Hydraulic Arrestor Gear (RHAG) was also been installed to allow Brize Norton to become the Military Emergency Diversion Airfield (MEDA) for the southern UK, as part of the plans to close the current one at RAF Lynehammarker.

Protests

A No.
216 Squadron Tristar
Unlike many UK military bases (eg. RAF Fairfordmarker, Faslane Naval Basemarker, RAF Lakenheathmarker, Menwith Hillmarker) RAF Brize Norton has only been subject to limited protest by peace demonstrators.

During the second Iraq war four anti-war protesters managed to access the main runway in an attempt to prevent aircraft taking off. There was a no flying day however, and no disruptions were made to any flights.

A peace camp was held at the base from 21 to 25 April 2005, along with a demonstration in Carterton, where the base is situated. This demonstration had little impact on the residents of Caterton, who are generally supportive of the RAF's operations.

On 12 August 2006 the base's access was limited for several hours by campaigners protesting about British policy in the Middle East. Again, no disruptions were made to the unit's operational functionability

Future

Brize is already a major airbase for the RAF's transport fleet. However, the closure of RAF Lynehammarker in 2012 will see the consolidation of all of the RAF's fixed wing transport assets to Brize, with the transfer of the entire Hercules force, together with the entry into service of the Airbus A400M and the Airbus A330 MRTT. In order to accomodate this expansion (which will see the number of aircraft stationed at the airfield increase from 30 to over 70), a major infrastructure redevelopment called "Project Future Brize" is under way that is overhauling virtually every element of the airfield's infrastructure, including IT, engineering, housing and personnel.

Units

Wings

    • Administrative wing
    • Airport of Embarkation Wing
    • Depth Support Wing
    • Forward Support Wing
    • Operations Wing


Squadron



Lodger units



RAF Brize Norton Flying Club resides at the base providing low cost flying for MOD personnel and training to PPL level and above. Initially operating 2 x Cherokee aircraft today the fleet consists of two Piper Warriors painted in a suido training black ( actually dark blue) to enhance visibility in line with RAF training aircraft policies.

Former Operational Royal Air Force Units and Aircraft



See also



References

External links




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