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RAF Coningsby
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
Loyalty binds me
Loyalty binds me
The airfield seen from Tattershall Castle
Airport type Military
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Location Coningsby, Lincolnshire
Built 1940 (1940)
In use 1940-present
Commander Group Captain Johnny Stringer RAF.[1]
Elevation AMSL 26 ft / 8 m
Coordinates 53°05′35″N 000°09′58″W / 53.09306°N 0.16611°W / 53.09306; -0.16611Coordinates: 53°05′35″N 000°09′58″W / 53.09306°N 0.16611°W / 53.09306; -0.16611

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Direction Length Surface
m ft
08/26 2,744 9,003 Asphalt

Royal Air Force Station Coningsby or more simply RAF Coningsby (IATA: QCY, ICAO: EGXC), is a Royal Air Force station located 8.5 miles (13.7 km) south west of Horncastle, Lincolnshire and 9.8 miles (15.8 km) north west of Boston, Lincolnshire, England. It has been commanded by Group Captain Johnny Stringer since 19 October 2012.

Operational units

617 Squadron memorial at Woodhall Spa nearby to the north

The station is the home of No. 41 (Test and Evaluation) Squadron - the Operational Evaluational Unit, No. 29(R) Squadron - the Operational Conversion Unit and No. 3(F) Squadron - the first Typhoon Operational Squadron, flying the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 and T3. No 11 Squadron joined the station as a Typhoon unit in 2006.[2]

Since June 2007 the Typhoons of No. 3(F) Squadron have formed part of air defence of the UK along with RAF Leuchars near St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, both of which were equipped with Panavia Tornado F3 fighters.

The station is also home to No. 121 Expeditionary Air Wing.


Second World War

The base was opened in 1940 as a bomber base.[3] No. 106 Squadron RAF arrived in February 1941 and No. 97 Squadron arrived in March 1941.[3] Hard runways was laid in early 1943 in preparations for heavy bombers being stationed, part of 5 Group.[4] No. 617 Squadron were at the base from August 1943-January 1944.[5] Their officers' mess was the Petwood Hotel at Woodhall Spa. 61 Squadron were stationed with Lancasters from February–April 1944. On 12 November, Lancaster aircraft from the base equipped with the Tallboy bomb sank the Tirpitz in Operation Catechism. 175 aircraft were lost during the war.

Post war

Following the Second World War, it had the Mosquito-equipped 109 Sqn and 139 Sqn, then became part of 3 Group, with Boeing Washington aircraft from 1950. On 17 August 1953 52 year old Air Vice-Marshal William Brook, the AOC of 3 Group, took off from the base in a Gloster Meteor, and crashed into a Dutch barn at Bradley, Staffordshire.

The base received its first jet aircraft — the English Electric Canberra — in 1953.[6] In 1956, the base expanded with the runway being extended.[6] Avro Vulcans arrived in 1962, which were transferred to RAF Cottesmore in November 1964.[6] From 1964-1966, the station had been designated to receive the proposed RAF fighter, the advanced BAC TSR-2 project,[6] which was cancelled for economic reasons in April 1965.


RAF Phantom

The TSR2's intended replacement — the (American) General Dynamics F-111 — was shelved when its costs overshot the UK's budget. Spey-engined Phantoms (the plane the government eventually bought, having been ordered in 1965) were chosen in 1966 for the base's future,[6] with all RAF Phantom training taking place on the base, and the base became part in Fighter Command[6] until December 1967, when it joined Air Support Command as the Phantoms were initially in a ground attack role. The first Phantom FGR2 (Fighter/Ground attack/Reconnaissance) arrived at Coningsby on 23 August 1968, with the first aircrew OCU course (228 OCU) beginning in October 1968. Air-defence Phantoms (FG1) also entered service in 1969 at RAF Leuchars. On 18 May 1970, a Phantom flew from the base non-stop to RAF Tengah, covering 8,680 mi (13,970 km) in 14 hours and 14 minutes at an average speed of 602 mph (969 km/h). In September 1972, Strike Command was formed and the base joined 38 Group.

The Phantom's role changed to air defence in October 1974 when the base joined 11 Group in RAF Strike Command, when the SEPECAT Jaguar (based in Norfolk) took over the ground attack role. 111 Sqn were first to take the new air defence Phantoms. On 3 March 1975 a Phantom crashed into a nearby house, with both pilot and navigator ejecting. The Queen visited the base on 30 June 1976.


Tornado ADV (F3)

In November 1984, the Tornado F3 squadrons began to form.[7] Tornado training took place until April 1987, when the Phantoms left (to RAF Leuchars) and Coningsby had the first (29 Sqn) Tornado air defence squadron.[8] To accommodate these new aircraft, extensive hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) and support facilities were built.[7] 5 Squadron arrived in January 1988.[9] The Tornado ADV carried the GEC-Marconi AI.24 Foxhunter radar.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Typhoon takes off in 2008

Coningsby was the first airfield to receive the Phantoms,[6] the Tornado ADV[6] and was the first to receive its replacement, the Eurofighter Typhoon. 56 Squadron was based there until March 2003 but relocated to RAF Leuchars and in 2008 to RAF Waddington to allow airfield improvements required for the arrival of the Typhoon. 5 Squadron also flew F3s from Coningsby until its disbandment in 2003 (this unit is now at Waddington). Typhoon arrived in May 2005 with No. 17 Squadron, after the RAF first publicly displayed the aircraft at Coningsby in December 2004. In July 2007, the Typhoon became operational from the base (and the UK). The Typhoon also became operational from RAF Leuchars in September 2010. BAE Systems Military Air Solutions, who produce the aircraft, are also stationed on the base with the contract to maintain the aircraft.[10] On 1 July 2008, the Typhoon was declared by the RAF as being combat ready. The plane, unlike the Tornado, needs no reheat to take off. RAF Coningsby is currently home to four front-line Eurofighter Typhoon squadrons. 3(F) Squadron, XI Squadron, 29(R) Squadron and 41(R)TES Squadron are all based at Coningsby.

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF)

Lancaster PA474 seen in 1988

Coningsby is also the home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight[6] (since March 1976 when it arrived from RAF Coltishall) and their Visitor Centre.[6][11] The BBMF operate one of two remaining airworthy Avro Lancaster bombers in the world besides five Spitfires of various types, two Hurricanes, a Dakota and two Chipmunks, the latter type being used for pilot training.

The BBMF is accessed via a separate side entrance, with a car park, to the west of the airfield. The memorabilia display is free but there is a small charge for the hour-long guided tour around the hangar.

Operational Evaluation Units

Also based at Coningsby is the RAF's Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJWOEU), a merger of the Strike/Attack OEU (previously at Boscombe Down), the Tornado F.3 OEU (previously at RAF Waddington) and the Air-Guided Weapons OEU (previously at RAF Valley). Today, the unit operates under the shadow squadron numberplate of No.41(Test and Evaluation) Sqn since 1 April 2006 and, as part of the Air Warfare Centre, is tasked with operational testing and evaluation of existing and forthcoming aircraft and weapons.

No. 121 Expeditionary Air Wing was formed at Coningsby on 1 April 2006 and encompasses most of the non-formed unit personnel. The EAW does not include any of the flying squadrons. The Station Commander is triple-hatted as the Commanding Officer of the Wing and as Typhoon Force Commander.[citation needed]

Current structure

Typhoon of No. 11 Squadron (seen at Nellis Air Force Base in June 2008)

The RAF Coningsby structure as of October 2010

Station Commanders

Coningsby's fire tender

BBMF practice runs in 2004

Typhoons in 2007

1974 Norfolk mid-air collision: On 9 August 1974, the station commander 42 year old Group Captain David Blucke, and his navigator Flight Lieutenant Terence Kirkland (aged 28 and from Londonderry), were killed whilst piloting the Phantom XV493 of 41 Sqn. At low-level it hit a Piper Pawnee crop-spraying plane (from Southend-on-Sea) over Fordham, Norfolk, near Downham Market. Blucke was son of Air Vice-Marshal Robert Blucke who was known for the 1935 Daventry Experiment.

The following Station Commanders are listed in the rank held at the time of appointment:

  • Group Captain R Judson - 2004-06
  • Group Captain S D Atha DSO - 2006-08
  • Group Captain J J Hitchcock - 2008-10
  • Group Captain Martin Sampson DSO - 2010-12
  • Group Captain Johnny Stringer - 2012-incumbent

See also



  1. Station Commander - RAF Coningsby retrieved 10 May 2011
  2. RAF Coningsby squadrons retrieved 29 December 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2 - Page 64
  4. 5 Group
  5. Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2 - Page
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2 - Page 67
  7. 7.0 7.1 Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2 - Page 221
  8. Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2 - Page 222
  9. Tornado Data
  10. BAE Systems maintenance contract
  11. Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre


External links

BBMF Hangar

Inside BBMF Hangar

News items

Video clips

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