Royal Air Force Lossiemouth or more commonly RAF Lossiemouth or Lossie is a military airfield located on the western edge of the town of Lossiemouth in Moray, north-east Scotland.
Lossiemouth is one of the largest and busiest fast-jet stations in the Royal Air Force and known for its close proximity to flight training areas in Scotland and its favourable local flying conditions. Since the closure of RAF Leuchars in 2015, Lossiemouth is the only operational RAF station in Scotland and is one of two main operating bases for the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 in the United Kingdom. It is home to four front-line units which operate the Typhoon (No. 1 Squadron, No. 2 (AC) Squadron, No. 6 Squadron and No. 9 Squadron) each of which contribute to the Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North capability which provides continuous protection of UK airspace.
The airfield opened in 1939 and was operated by the RAF, predominantly as part of Bomber Command, until 1946 when it transferred to the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and became known as RNAS Lossiemouth or HMS Fulmar. Lossiemouth was used as a training station by the FAA until it was handed back to the RAF in September 1972, after which it has largely operated as a fast-jet base.
Investment in infrastructure is planned at Lossiemouth in order to accommodate the Poseidon MRA1 aircraft, which are expected to enter service in 2020. No. 120 Squadron reformed in early 2018 and will be the first to equip with the aircraft.
Construction started during the summer of 1938, when 220 hectares (540 acres) of agricultural land was acquired in order to accommodate the airfield. The land was cleared of vegetation and buildings and by the spring of 1939 several wooden huts were present. Group Captain P.E Maitland was the first station commander and took up post in March 1939, with the station formally opening on 1st May 1939. The first unit to take up residence at Lossiemouth was No. 15 Flying Training School RAF (15 FTS), initially equipped with thirteen Airspeed Oxfords and five Hawker Harts. Aircraft were stored in the open until the first hangars were completed in August 1939. That same month tragedy struck when three crew members were killed during a mid-air collision between two Oxfords.
Second World War (1939–1945)
At the outbreak of the Second World War, a detachment of Seaforth Highlanders was sent to Lossiemouth to guard the station, and anti-aircraft defences were installed. Flying activity increased, with 15 FTS receiving more Oxfords and Harts and the introduction of the North American Harvard; eleven Fairey Battles were also delivered for storage. The first front-line aircraft to operate from Lossiemouth were a detachment of twelve Vickers Wellington bombers belonging to No. 99 Squadron, arriving in November 1939 to take part in attack missions targeting the German cruiser Deutschland, which was operating between Iceland and the Shetland Isles. January 1940 saw detachments of Handley Page Hampdens from No. 44 Squadron and No. 50 Squadron arrive to take part in offensive patrols over the North Sea. However, the operation was short-lived as a result of bad weather, with the aircraft returning to their home base in mid-February.
A detachment of No. 9 Squadron spent a short period of time operating Wellingtons during April 1940, before being replaced by No. 107 Squadron and No. 110 Squadron, which were equipped with Bristol Blenheims. During this period the first loss to enemy action of an aircraft operating from Lossiemouth occurred when three Blenheims were shot down over Norway.
It soon became apparent that the frequent detachments of bomber aircraft were disrupting the training programme at Lossiemouth, and therefore, due to the strategic importance of the station as a base for bomber aircraft, it was decided to relocate 15 FTS to RAF Middle Wallop in Hampshire. On 27th April 1940, after the unit’s departure, Lossiemouth transferred to No. 6 Group of RAF Bomber Command and No. 20 Operational Training Unit (20 OTU) was established, initially operating Wellingtons and Avro Ansons.
No. 46 Maintenance Unit (46 MU) was also formed in April 1940. 46 MU’s role was to modify and fit out new aircraft before they were forwarded to front-line squadrons. A variety of aircraft were serviced, including Hawker Hurricanes, de Havilland Tiger Moths, Hawker Audaxes, and a de Havilland Hornet Moth. The unit primarily used six Robin and eight Super Robin hangars; however, due to a shortage of space, many aircraft were stored in fields outside the station. Lossiemouth’s first satellite airfield, located at Bogs of Mayne 10 mi (16 km) to the south and known as RAF Elgin, opened in June 1940.
One officer and two aircrew were killed on 26th October 1940 when RAF Lossiemouth was attacked by the Luftwaffe for the first time. The attack by three Heinkel He 111s resulted in the destruction of two Blenheims and damage to two Miles Magisters, two Tiger Moths and a Hurricane. Three hangars were also damaged, the resultant holes from cannon fire still visible today. One of the Heinkels crashed on the airfield, having either been hit by ground fire or destroyed by its own bombs. All four of the crew are buried in a Lossiemouth churchyard. As a result of the raid, Hurricanes of No. 232 Squadron were moved to RAF Elgin to protect the area from attacks.
Flying activity in early 1941 was limited due to the poor condition of the airfield; improved weather in the Spring increased activity from 20 OTU and 46 MU, as well as from continued bomber detachments. Operational sorties were predominately undertaken by Blenheims of No. 21 Squadron, No. 82 Squadron, No. 110 Squadron and No. 114 Squadron. By the winter of 1941 the airfield had become so muddy that the Wellingtons of 20 OTU were temporarily relocated to RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. The increased activity by 46 MU resulted in two satellite landing grounds (SLG) being established to store aircraft off-site. These were at RAF Black Isle (42 SLG) where Bristol Beaufighters were kept and RAF Leanach (43 SLG) near Culloden, where Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires were stored.
Lossiemouth was used during 1942 as a base to launch several unsuccessful missions to sink the German battleship Tirpitz, which at the time was operating in Norwegian fjords. The first missions were undertaken in January 1942 by a detachment of thirteen Short Stirlings of No. 15 Squadron and No. 149 Squadron and thirteen Handley Page Halifaxes of No. 10 Squadron and No. 76 Squadron. Further attempts were made during April by Avro Lancasters of No. 44 Squadron and No. 97 Squadron and Halifaxes of No. 10 Squadron. Lancasters of No. 9 Squadron later joined the operation. 1942 also saw numerous accidents involving 20 OTU aircraft, many of which resulted in death and serious injuries. These accidents were attributed to a combination of fatigued aircraft, inexperienced crews and poor weather. Wellingtons of 20 OTU were also involved in strategic bombing raids on German cities throughout 1942, the training aircraft being required to help reach the target number of 1000 bombers per raid. The airfield’s first surfaced runways, (06/24 5,997 ft (1,828 m); 09/27 4,498 ft (1,371 m); 01/19 4,200 ft (1,280 m)), were constructed by an engineering battalion of the US Army Air Force in late 1942 and helped to reduce interruptions to flying as a result of the grass strips being affected by poor weather. A new control tower was also constructed.
In September 1943, Wellingtons of ‘C’ Flight 20 OTU, moved to the second of the Lossiemouth satellite airfields, RAF Milltown, located 3 mi (4.8 km) to the south-east. By now 46 MU were concentrating their work on Bristol Beaufighters and Lancasters and the SLG at RAF Leanach had been replaced with a new site at Dornoch golf course, which became known as RAF Dornoch (40 SLG). 20 OTU received its official crest in 1943, with two examples cast in concrete being constructed at Lossiemouth and RAF Elgin. The crest at Lossiemouth no longer exists and although little now remains of the airfield at Elgin, the concrete crest is a war memorial for those who served there.
Further operations against Tirpitz took place between September and November 1944. Operation Catechism finally resulted in the German battleship being sunk near Tromsø on 12th November 1944. Thirty-eight Lancasters of No. 9 Squadron and No. 617 Squadron launched from Lossiemouth, Kinloss and Milltown and destroyed the vessel with Tallboy bombs. Nearly 50 years later, No. 617 Squadron transferred to Lossiemouth and was based there between 1993 and 2014. Examples of the Tallboy, Grand Slam and Up Keep (bouncing bomb) were on display within the squadron site.
In July 1945, after the end of hostilities in Europe, 20 OTU was disbanded and 46 MU continued to prepare aircraft for operations in the Far East. After the war ended, 46 MU began the enormous task of breaking-up surplus aircraft for scrap. At one point there were around 900 aircraft on the airfield awaiting disposal. On 28th July 1945 Lossiemouth was transferred to No. 17 Group of RAF Coastal Command, with the arrival of No. 111 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit from the Bahamas shortly thereafter. By August 1945, the unit was operating forty-one Consolidated B-24 Liberators, ten Halifaxes and a North American B-25 Mitchell; the unit was disbanded in July 1946.
Fleet Air Arm years – HMS Fulmar (1946–1972)
Lossiemouth transferred from the Royal Air Force to the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) on 2nd July 1946 and became known as Royal Navy Air Station (RNAS) Lossiemouth or HMS Fulmar. On the FAA taking control, No. 46 MU moved to RAF Elgin. Lossiemouth was used as a basic training station for FAA pilots who moved on to RNAS Culdrose (HMS Seahawk) in Cornwall for instrument training. RAF Milltown also transferred to the FAA, became known as HMS Fulmar II and operated as a Deck Landing Training School. The last stage of training was practised at Fulmar II before students could land on HMS Theseus in the Moray Firth. The first FAA squadron, No. 766 Naval Air Squadron, arrived in August 1946 and operated Supermarine Seafires and Fairey Fireflies until its departure to RNAS Culdrose in 1953. In the late 1940s, to replace poor quality war-era facilities, seven hundred new married living-quarters were constructed in the nearby towns of Lossiemouth and Elgin, with the first opening in September 1949. The practice of constructing living-quarters off-station differed from that of the RAF, which typically constructed such accommodation within the boundaries of their airfields. In 1952 and early 1953, Lossiemouth’s runways were upgraded and extended to their present lengths; during that time aircraft temporarily operated from Milltown.
The Naval Air Fighter and Strike Training School transferred to the station in 1953 and over the next decade many aircraft types operated from Lossiemouth in the training role, including Supermarine Seafires, Fairey Fireflys, Hawker Sea Hawks, Hawker Sea Furys, Supermarine Scimitars, De Havilland Sea Venoms and Hawker Hunters. Four Gloster Meteors were used as target-towers. One of the first squadrons of the recently established Federal Germany Navy was formed at Lossiemouth in May 1958 under the NATO cooperative policy. No. 764 Naval Air Squadron had responsibility for training German crews on twelve Sea Hawks, which operated in German Navy markings. A commissioning ceremony was attended by British and German naval and political figures. In 1958 it was announced that station facilities were to be upgraded at a cost of £3 million, including the refurbishment of living accommodation and the creation of the Fulmar Club social club. Princess Alexandra opened a new officers mess in July 1965.
The Blackburn Buccaneer arrived in March 1961 when No. 700Z Naval Air Squadron was created as an Intensive Flying Trials unit to evaluate the aircraft’s weapons, systems and performance. Initially the squadron operated two aircraft and then five by the end of 1961. The first operational Buccaneer squadron (No. 801 Naval Air Squadron) was established on 17 July 1962, followed by No. 809 Naval Air Squadron in January 1963 and No. 800 Naval Air Squadron in March 1964. The Buccaneer was capable of delivering nuclear weapons as well as conventional weapons for anti-shipping warfare and was typically active over the North Sea during its service. Buccaneers also embarked on aircraft carriers HMS Victorious, Eagle, Ark Royal and Hermes. On 28th March 1967, Buccaneers from Lossiemouth bombed the shipwrecked supertanker Torrey Canyon off the western coast of Cornwall, to ignite the oil and avoid an environmental disaster. The mid-1960s saw further investment in facilities at Lossiemouth including new living quarters and messes.
The 1966 Defence White Paper saw the withdrawal of most British military forces stationed East of Suez during the 1970s, reducing the need for aircraft carriers and fixed-wing naval aviation such as the Buccaneer. The aircraft had been considered by the RAF for a medium-range interdictor and tactical strike aircraft. As a result, No. 736 Naval Air Squadron began training RAF air and ground crews on the Buccaneer in 1969. Between September 1967 and March 1970, the Fleet Air Arm’s most decorated pilot, Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown was station commander; it was his last command. The late 1960s saw the FAA reduce its activities at Lossiemouth, although Fairey Gannets of No. 849 Naval Air Squadron were transferred from RNAS Brawdy to Lossiemouth on 13th November 1971. The Buccaneer force was reduced in size with several squadrons departing or disbanding in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The last Buccaneers, of No. 809 Naval Air Squadron, left on 25th September 1972, leaving the only Fleet Air Arm aircraft left being the Gannets and search and rescue helicopters.
Return of the Royal Air Force (1972–1991)
The station was returned to Royal Air Force control on 28th September 1972, with the first RAF squadron operating from the new RAF Lossiemouth being ‘D’ Flight, No. 202 Squadron in the helicopter search and rescue role. The Jaguar Conversion Team (designated No. 226 Operational Conversion Unit on 1st October 1974) arrived in May 1973 to train the RAF’s first SEPECAT Jaguar crews. By late 1974, No. 6 Squadron and No. 54 Squadron were operational.
In August 1973, No. 8 Squadron and their twelve Avro Shackleton AEW.2s, operating as airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, moved to Lossiemouth from nearby RAF Kinloss. The Shackleton was an interim aircraft for the RAF AEW requirement, which saw the gradual replacement of Fleet Air Arm Fairey Gannets, culminating in the disbandment of No. 849 Naval Air Squadron in November 1978.
Towards the end of the 1970s, two non-flying defence units took up residence at the station, starting with the arrival in December 1978 of No. 48 Squadron RAF Regiment equipped with Rapier surface-to-air missiles. July 1979 saw the formation of No. 2622 (Highland) Royal Air Force Auxiliary Regiment for ground defence. From 1978 to 1980, before moving to RAF Chivenor in Devon, No. 2 Tactical Weapons Unit operated the Hawker Hunter from Lossiemouth.
The Buccaneer made a return to Lossiemouth in the 1980s as RAF maritime strike aircraft, the first arriving in November 1980 when No. 12 Squadron transferred from RAF Honington in Suffolk, followed by No. 208 Squadron in July 1983. The remainder of the RAF Buccaneer fleet arrived in October 1984 when No. 237 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), took up residence. Although the Buccaneer training unit, No. 237 OCU was also assigned to Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) for overland laser designation, in support of RAF Jaguars.
During the 1991 Gulf War, personnel from all three Buccaneer squadrons took part in Operation Granby, the aircraft’s first combat operation. Following a short-notice decision to deploy to the Middle East, the first batch of six aircraft were brought to readiness in under 72 hours, including the adoption of desert-pink camouflage and additional war-time equipment. Nearly everyone at Lossiemouth was involved in preparation for the detachment, with personnel working non-stop, day and night, to the extent that the Station Commander, Group Captain Jon Ford was reported by colleagues to have hardly slept for three days. The first six aircraft departed from Lossiemouth for Muharraq in Bahrain at 04:00 on 26th January 1991.
Twelve Buccaneers operated as target designators and it became common for each attack formation to comprise four Tornados and two Buccaneers; each Buccaneer carrying a Pave Spike laser designator pod, one as a spare in case of equipment failure. The Buccaneer force became known as the ‘Sky Pirates’ in reference to the maritime history of the Buccaneer. Each aircraft had a Jolly Roger flag painted on its port side, alongside nose art featuring female characters. In recognition of their Scottish roots, the Buccaneers were also named after Speyside whisky such as Glenfiddich, Glen Elgin and The Macallan. Hostilities ended in late February 1991, the Buccaneers having flown 218 sorties without loss, designating targets for other aircraft and later dropping 48 Paveway II laser-guided bombs.
Transition from Shackleton and Buccaneer to Tornado (1991–1999)
The replacement for the ageing Shackleton AEW.2, the British Aerospace Nimrod AEW.3, suffered considerable development difficulties which culminated in the aircraft being cancelled during 1986, for an off-the-shelf purchase of the Boeing Sentry AEW1. The last Shackletons were retired in July 1991 and No. 8 Squadron transferred to RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, to equip with their new aircraft.
It had been planned for the Buccaneer to remain in service until the end of the 1990s, having been extensively modernised in a process lasting up to 1989; the end of the Cold War stimulated major changes in British defence policy, many aircraft being deemed surplus to requirements. To allow for the early retirement of the Buccaneer, twenty-six Panavia Tornado GR1s were modified to GR1B standard to allow use of the BAe Sea Eagle missile for maritime strike operations. The reduction of the Buccaneer fleet began on 1st October 1991 when No. 237 OCU was disbanded, followed by No. 12 Squadron in September 1993. No. 27 Squadron, then at RAF Marham, disbanded and re-formed at Lossiemouth as No.12 Squadron, operating the Tornado GR1B.
In 1992, No. 237 Field Squadron of the Territorial Army was formed with responsibility for Airfield Damage Repair (ADR). This squadron became part of No. 76 Engineer Regiment (Volunteers) of the Royal Engineers, responsible for ADR in the north of England and across Scotland. The Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit, renamed No. 15 (Reserve) Squadron, arrived from RAF Honington in Suffolk on 1 November 1993. The last Buccaneers were withdrawn in April 1994 when No. 208 Squadron disbanded. No. 617 Squadron then transferred to Lossiemouth from RAF Marham in Norfolk, with its Tornado GR1Bs. No. 48 Squadron RAF Regiment and their Rapiers left Lossiemouth for RAF Honington on 1st July 1996. Group Captain Graham Miller was station commander between 1995 and 1998 and later achieved the rank of Air Marshal, holding the post of Deputy Commander at Allied Joint Force Command in Naples from 2004 until his retirement in 2008.
No. 15 (Reserve) Squadron increased in size in 1999 after the closure of the Tri-national Tornado Training Establishment (TTTE) at RAF Cottesmore. The squadron became the RAF Tornado GR4 Operational Conversion Unit, training pilots and weapon systems operators for posting to front-line Tornado squadrons at Lossiemouth and RAF Marham. The squadron accepted aircrew straight from advanced flying training at RAF Leeming and RAF Valley and provided refresher courses for experienced aircrew returning to the Tornado GR4, following other tours of duty. The squadron also trained aircrew officers from foreign nations posted to the UK on two to three-year exchange tours.
21st century (2000 – present)
To concentrate the Jaguar fleet in one place, No. 16(R) Squadron with eleven aircraft and around 100 personnel departed Lossiemouth for RAF Coltishall in Norfolk in July 2000, bringing to an end Lossiemouth’s 27-year association with the Jaguar. After the arrival of No. 14 Squadron and its Tornado GR1s from RAF Brüggen in Germany during January 2001, Lossiemouth became the busiest fast-jet station in the RAF. In May 2001, No. 51 Squadron RAF Regiment was re-established, to join No. 2622 RAuxAF Squadron, under the new No. 5 Force Protection Wing Headquarters.
Two of Lossiemouth’s station commanders during the early 2000s went on to hold senior positions in the British military. Group Captain Chris Nickols, who was station commander between 2000 and 2002, achieved the rank of Air Marshal and from October 2005 held the position of Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Operations) and from January 2009 Chief of Defence Intelligence. During 2003 and 2004, Lossiemouth’s station commander was Group Captain Stephen Hillier. Since his departure from Lossiemouth, Hillier has been promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal and as of July 2016 is the Chief of the Air Staff.
F-35 Lightning II and threat of closure
The Ministry of Defence announced in November 2005 that Lossiemouth would be the main operating base for the RAF’s new F-35 Lightning II fleet, which was expected to enter service in 2013. In 2010 The Strategic Defence and Security Review cast doubt on whether the F-35 would be based at Lossiemouth and raised fears in the local community that the station could close. On 7th November 2010 up to 7,000 people took part in a march and rally in Lossiemouth in support of retaining the RAF station, including Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and other politicians. With Moray being the area in Scotland most dependent on military spending, it was feared the closure of RAF Lossiemouth and the confirmed closure of nearby RAF Kinloss, would lead to economic uncertainty and much more unemployment. A petition with more than 30,000 signatures was delivered to 10 Downing Street by campaign members on 11th January 2011.
In July 2011 the Ministry of Defence announced that Lossiemouth would remain open with Lossiemouth’s Tornados moving to RAF Marham. RAF Leuchars in Fife would close and transfer to the British Army, with the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s and responsibility for Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North (QRA) moving to Lossiemouth. In March 2013 the Ministry of Defence confirmed that the F-35 Lighting II would be based at Marham.
Potential use as spaceport
Virgin Galactic, a commercial spaceflight company, announced in July 2006 that they were interested in using Lossiemouth as a spaceport, to start flights in 2010. Moray MSP Angus Robertson and MP Richard Lochhead, lent their support to the proposals and held talks with the Scottish and UK governments to promote the concept. After a two-year review of the potential of commercial spaceflight in the UK, the UK Space Agency announced in July 2014 that Lossiemouth was among eight short-listed sites throughout the UK that might accommodate a spaceport. In March 2015, the UK government ruled out Lossiemouth as well as nearby RAF Kinloss as candidates, due to opposition from the Ministry of Defence, which cited over-riding operational factors. The decision was criticised by local politicians.
RAF Lossiemouth Mountain Rescue Team
With the closure of nearby RAF Kinloss and transfer of the station to the British Army in July 2012, the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) became the RAF Lossiemouth MRT. The team continued to operate from their purpose built base at Kinloss Barracks for over two years, until they moved into a ‘D’ Flight No. 202 Squadron hangar in February 2015.
From Tornado to Typhoon
After the Strategic Defence and Security Review, No. 14 Squadron disbanded on 1st June 2011, reducing the number of Tornados based at Lossiemouth. In 2012, new combined mess facilities, accommodation for junior ranks and senior non-commission officers (SNCO) was completed, replacing separate buildings constructed in the 1960s, which were demolished. The new facility was opened by the then station commander Group Captain Ian Gale and the Lord Lieutenant of Moray, Grenville Johnston.
Following the announcement in 2011 that Lossiemouth would remain open, £17 million was spent in 2013 refurbishing the airfield for the arrival of the Typhoon, with a further £70 million set aside for later. Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) facilities were built in the northern hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) complex and alterations were made to hangars 1 and 3 and new ground-support IT and communication systems. In March 2014, three Typhoons from RAF Leuchars arrived at Lossiemouth to take part in Exercise Moray Venture, a week-long operation to test new facilities ahead of the aircraft’s arrival later that year.
In preparation for the transition to the Typhoon, No.12 Squadron and No.617 Squadron disbanded on 1st April 2014, leaving XV(R) Squadron as the only remaining Tornado unit at Lossiemouth.
The first Typhoon unit, No. 6 Squadron, transferred from RAF Leuchars to Lossiemouth on 20th June 2014. Nine aircraft arrived in formation in the shape of a number 6. No. 1 Squadron followed on 8th September 2014, when responsibility for Quick Reaction Alert (North) was transferred from RAF Leuchars to Lossiemouth.
The third Typhoon squadron based at Lossiemouth, No. 2 (AC) Squadron, arrived in January 2015. In preparation of the squadron’s arrival, work commenced in October 2014 to refurbish the southern HAS complex, which was formerly occupied by No.617 Squadron. The nine aircraft shelters were refurbished, a hard-standing for a flight-line capable of accommodating eight aircraft was built, new flood-lighting was installed and the dining facilities were improved. A new headquarters building was constructed on the site of a World War II era K-type hangar (K20). The building has space for engineering and logistics facilities, a survival equipment section, classrooms and office space. This allowed No. 2 (AC) Squadron to operate independently from other squadrons at Lossiemouth.
In May 2015, construction began on a new 250 m × 16 m (273 yd × 17 yd) section of taxiway to provide improved access between the QRA facilities in the northern HAS site and runway 23/05. The new taxiway was constructed by 53 Field Squadron, part of 39 (Air Support) Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, based at nearby Kinloss Barracks. The project was completed in September 2015 with the new section named ‘taxiway Q’.
No. 15 (Reserve) Squadron disbanded as a Tornado unit on 31st March 2017. Aircraft and crews were absorbed into front-line squadrons at RAF Marham where refresher training on the Tornado was carried out. To mark the occasion, on 17th March 2017, five Tornados from the squadron carried out a flypast of the former RAF base at Leuchars, the weapons range at RAF Tain and Aberdeen International Airport, before performing a simulated airfield strike on RAF Lossiemouth in front-of-base personnel, families and friends. A disbandment parade was held on 31st March 2017, signifying the end of twenty-four years of Tornado operations at Lossiemouth. Over 750 current and former squadron personnel attended the ceremony where the “Sands of Kuwait”, a tune written to commemorate the 1991 Gulf War (the squadron’s last battle honour), was played on the bagpipes and a Tornado fly-past took place.
The final infrastructure required to support the Typhoons was completed in June 2017, when Rolls-Royce opened its Service Delivery Centre on 29th June 2017. The centre, otherwise known as the Typhoon Propulsion Support Facility, is operated by a combination of civilian and RAF personnel and provides engineering support for Typhoon Eurojet EJ200 engines.
The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced on 4th March 2016 that Lossiemouth was a preferred option to accommodate an additional Typhoon squadron and 400 personnel. The squadron would be one of two extra Typhoon squadrons for the RAF, which were announced as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. This new unit (No. 9 Squadron) began operating Typhoons from Lossiemouth during February 2019 and formally re-equipped on 1st April 2019.
End of search and rescue (SAR) operations
In 2006, government announced its intentions to privatise the RAF Search and Rescue Force (the search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service). A ten-year contract worth £1.6 billon was signed in March 2013 with Bristow Helicopters to run the service from 2015 with new AgustaWestland AW189 and Sikorsky S-92 helicopters. SAR helicopter operations in the north-east of Scotland ceased at Lossiemouth and moved to Inverness Airport, located 30 mi (48 km) to the west. ‘D’ flight of No. 202 Squadron disbanded on 1st April 2015 and its Sea King HAR3s were stored at RAF Valley, Anglesey, bringing nearly 43 years of search and rescue operations at Lossiemouth to an end. The Sea Kings had been a familiar sight in the skies above Scotland, having been involved in the Piper Alpha disaster, Lockerbie bombing and appearing in local and national media.
A farewell party to be held by ‘D’ Flight personnel to thank the local community for their support, was cancelled by RAF officials. There was widespread criticism of the decision but the RAF considered that the event could contravene campaigning rules for the UK general election, as it could be perceived as being political.
Morayvia, a local charity bought former Lossiemouth Sea King ‘XZ592’ from the Ministry of Defence in March 2015. The aircraft is now on display as part of Morayvia’s Science and Technology Experience Project at Kinloss. The Sea King joined Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR2 ‘XV244’ which the charity had also purchased.
The RAF Lossiemouth site extends to 580 ha (1,400 acres) and accommodates two runways, the main runway (05/23) is 2,847 m (3,114 yd) long and the secondary runway (10/28) is 2,105 m (2,302 yd) long. Hangars at Lossiemouth date from the Second World War and comprise three C-type, one J-type, six L-type, four K-type and a Bellman type. The northern hardened aircraft shelter (HAS) complex has nine shelters and QRA facilities and the southern complex has a further nine shelters. Both HAS complexes were constructed in the 1970s.
The airfield boundary has changed over the years and several former Super Robin hangars, dating from the Second World War are outside the current airfield boundary, although they are no longer in military use. Examples include one at Silverhills Farm, one at Salterhill Farm and a third within the grounds of Gordounston School. Former airfield dispersals are also evident in the same vicinity. During the Second World War the airfield was defended with eight pillboxes, at least six of them Type 27 pillboxes, one rectangular and the other Type 22 or Type 24.
BAE Systems operate the Typhoon Training Facility (North), which is home to four Emulated Deployable Cockpit Trainer (EDCT) flight simulators. The expansion of the facility from two to four EDCTs was completed in April 2018. During the Tornado’s tenure at Lossiemouth, the station was home to two Tornado GR4 flight simulators, operated by Thales UK.
Aviation fuel is supplied to Lossiemouth through a 40.6 mi (65.3 km)-stretch of the CLH Pipeline System which connects the airfield to a fuel depot in Inverness.
In common with other military establishments in Scotland and Northern Ireland, CarillionAmey, a joint venture between Carillion and Amey, provide hard facilities management and maintenance at Lossiemouth.
St Aidan’s Church is located on the station and provides personnel with spiritual guidance and support.
Role and operations
RAF Lossiemouth’s mission statement is “Sustain Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North and deliver global operations”. The Engineering & Logistics Wing is responsible for maintaining engineering support and supply including weapons and survival equipment on aircraft. It is also responsible for the maintenance and repair of aircraft not currently flying on squadrons and the station support equipment and vehicles. The Operations Wing plans and controls all flying and major exercises on station and manages all activities that have a direct impact on flying operations. This includes intelligence gathering, weather forecasting and communications systems. The Base Support Wing manages all support functions for the station’s infrastructure and personnel, such as health and safety, medical centre, non-flying training, accommodation, family support and the deployment of Station personnel.
Moray Flight of No. 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron (Royal Axillary Air Force) was established in 2013 to support NATO maritime patrol aircraft and the UK Maritime Air Operations Centre when deployed to Lossiemouth. The unit is also supporting the introduction of the P-8A Poseidon at Lossiemouth.
RAF Lossiemouth is the parent station of Tain Air Weapons Range which is located approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) to the north west.
Group Captain Chris Layden was appointed as the Station Commander of RAF Lossiemouth on Friday 3rd April 2020. In July 2017 a spaniel named Dee was made the official station mascot and given the rank of Sergeant. Dee is a former RAF Police working dog and specialised in explosives detection. He retired from operational duties when his leg was amputated as a result of an injury.
The Typhoon FGR4 provides the RAF with a multi-role combat capability for air policing, peace support and high intensity conflict. Lossiemouth Typhoon squadrons have operated against ISIS in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Shader and have participated in the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission where they operated from Ämari air base in Estonia.
Quick Reaction Alert
Lossiemouth’s four Typhoon squadrons are responsible for maintaining the Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North mission (QRA(I)N). Aircraft and crews are held at a high state of readiness, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to respond to unidentified aircraft approaching UK airspace. QRA missions range from civilian airliners which have stopped responding to air traffic control, to intercepting Russian aircraft such as the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack.
No. 5 Force Protection Wing
No. 5 Force Protection Wing HQ provides operational planning, command and control to two RAF Regiment field squadrons attached to the wing, No. 51 Squadron RAF Regiment and No. 2622 (Highland) Squadron’s (RAuxAF), whose purpose is to protect RAF bases at home and abroad from ground attack. No. 2622 Squadron consists primarily of RAF Regiment gunners also trained as infantry and has a limited number of personnel in support duties. The unit provides officers and gunners to supplement the regular RAF Regiment on overseas operations and exercises. It is the only squadron in the RAF or RAuxAF to have its own Pipes and Drums band, which formed in 1999 and is open to both Service and civilian members. It is also the only operational squadron to have spent its existence based at Lossiemouth. Both squadrons have seen action on Operation Telic in Iraq and Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, with No. 51 Squadron also involved in Operation Shader against ISIS.
No. 4 RAF Police Squadron also falls under the command of the wing and has responsibility for policing and security in Scotland and northern England.
Air Training Corps – Highland Wing
Lossiemouth is home to the Highland Wing of the Air Training Corps. A new Air Cadet Regional Centre was opened in October 2014, which contains the Highland Wing headquarters, activity centre with a flight simulator, radio communications training room, IT Suite and several briefing rooms. Overnight residential accommodation for 48 cadets and 8 adult staff is also provided. The centre was named after and opened by retired Group Captain Phil Dacre.
A P-8A Poseidon of the US Navy taking off from Lossiemouth during 2016. The RAF’s Poseidon fleet will be based at the station from 2021.
On 23rd November 2015, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that the RAF would buy nine new Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (to be known as the Poseidon MRA1 in RAF service) as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The aircraft and 400 extra personnel are to be based at Lossiemouth and at least three aircraft would be operational by April 2020. At the Farnborough Air Show on 11th July 2016, the Ministry of Defence and Boeing confirmed the a deal had been agreed and that they intend to work jointly to build a new £100m Poseidon operational support and training base at Lossiemouth, creating more than 100 new jobs.
In June 2017, it was announced that No. 120 Squadron would be the first Poseidon squadron. It reformed in early 2018 and by February 2019 air and ground crews from the unit and the Poseidon Line Squadron had commenced training with US Navy squadron VP-30 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida.
No. 201 Squadron will later reform as the second unit in 2021. Both No. 120 and 201 Squadrons had operated Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol aircraft at RAF Kinloss and between them will comprise eighteen aircrews.
The Poseidon, which will arrive in the UK in February 2020, are expected to initially operate from the airfield at Kinloss Barracks (former RAF Kinloss) before moving to their permanent home at Lossiemouth once preparation work for their arrival is complete.
Lossiemouth Development Programme
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation formally announced the Lossiemouth Development Programme (LDP) in October 2016 through the publication of a prior information procurement notice. The LDP involves £400 million being invested in RAF Lossiemouth for buildings and airfield infrastructure to allow the additional Typhoon squadron (No. 9 Squadron) and new Poseidon aircraft to operate from Lossiemouth, such as a new control tower, Defence Fire and Rescue Service facilities, single and family living accommodation. Professional consultancy firm WYG Plc. has been appointed as programme manager of the LDP.
- In February 2017 an environmental impact assessment (EIA) screening opinion for redevelopment work was submitted to Moray Council, the local planning authority. The submission to Moray Council outlined the following proposed works at the station.
- Redevelopment of existing buildings and construction of new buildings to accommodate the Poseidon aircraft and additional Typhoon squadron.
- Construction of a new hangar and support facility for the Poseidon fleet. The facility will located on the northern side of the airfield and be capable of accommodating three aircraft. It will include a tactical operations centre, an operational conversion unit, squadron accommodation, training and simulation facilities. It is to be constructed by Robertson Northern with a contract value of £132m. The first turf was cut for the Poseidon facilities by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson on 19th April 2018.
- Refurbishment and/or extension of hangar no.2 and support facilities for the additional Typhoon squadron.
- Construction of a replacement airfield fire station
- Construction of new living accommodation (for officers, senior non-commissioned officers, junior ranks and transit accommodation) providing approximately 450 bedrooms across three and four-storey high buildings.
- Construction of support buildings including Typhoon synthetic training facilities and in-flight catering facilities.
- Demolition of buildings.
- Construction of a replacement air traffic control (ATC) tower and control room facility, up to 26 m (85 ft) high. The new tower is to be sited in a different location to the existing 1940s tower which is 14 m (46 ft) high and which is to be demolished.
- Existing aircraft taxiways are to be resurfaced, widened or re-routed and new aircraft taxiways and aprons are to be constructed.
- Initially there were no proposals to carry out work on the existing runways, however this later changed and the runways will be resurfaced.
Temporary relocation of aircraft
Initial plans expected Lossiemouth’s runway to be resurfaced during the summer of 2019. However a revised programme expects the work to begin in January 2020. From June to July 2020, the intersection of the two runways will be resurfaced, during which time routine Typhoon operations will relocate to the airfield at Kinloss Barracks. The Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Force for the north of the UK will temporarily relocate to Leuchars Station. All runway works are expected to be finished by February–March 2021. The £75 million project is being carried out by VolkerFitzpatrick Ltd.
Corgi Aviation Archive new model arrivals.
New Corgi Aviation Archive models have arrived at Flying Tigers today. If you have already pre-ordered yours it will be dispatched in the next few days. Limited remaining stock availability… please click on the image or link below to order your now.
Air Commander new model arrival.
Air Commander AC1012 1/72nd scale McDonnell Phantom II F-4C 24-MC 640829 ’64-0829′ “Scat XXVII” Col Robin Olds , 1/Lt Stephen B. Crocker 443rd RFA 8th TFW Ubon RTAB 1967 is now in stock and available to order. If you have already pre-ordered yours it will be dispatched in the next few days. Limited remaining stock availability… please click on the image or link below to order your now.
Hobbymaster new model arrivals at Flying Tigers.
New Hobbymaster models are now in stock and are available to order at Flying Tigers today. If you have already pre-ordered yours it will be dispatched in the next few days. Limited remaining stock availability… please click on the image or link below to order your now.
Flying Tigers will also consolidate your orders to save on postage costs across all brands !
Hobbymaster Updated Photo Gallery.
Check out the latest photos from Hobbymaster that have now been added to the Flying Tigers website. Please click on the images below to go straight to the model page to order.
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