Royal Air Force Leeming or RAF Leeming is a Royal Air Force station located near Leeming, North Yorkshire, England. It was opened in 1940 and was jointly used by the RAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Between 1950 and 1991, it operated mostly as a training base with Quick Reaction Force (QRF) Tornado F3 fighters based there in the latter stages of the Cold War and into the early 21st century. Since 2006, it has become the home of the deployable RAF communications cadre (90 Signals Unit) and the home of No. 135 Expeditionary Air Wing.
|Near Leeming, North Yorkshire in England|
A BAE Hawk of No. 100 Squadron
Straight and True
|Area||508 hectares (1,260 acres)|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|Controlled by||No. 1 Group (Air Combat)|
|In use||1940 – present|
|Group Captain Blythe Crawford|
|Identifiers||IATA: QXL, ICAO: EGXE, WMO: 03257|
|Elevation||40.5 metres (133 ft) AMSL|
|Source: UK MIL AIP Leeming|
The area at the extreme western edge of the base was used in the 1930s by local flying enthusiasts. It took the name of Londonderry Aerodrome as it was closest to the hamlet of Londonderry in North Yorkshire. In the late 1930s, the Royal Air Force bought up the aerodrome and most of the surrounding land to convert it into an RAF airfield, which became known as Royal Air Force Leeming. Part of the buildup of the base included building a decoy airfield at Burneston, some 4 miles (6.4 km) to the south.
The station opened in 1940 as a bomber station during the Second World War. In 1943 the station was assigned to No. 6 Group Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) with a sub-station at RAF Skipton-on-Swale. The main aircraft operated were Whitley, Stirling, Halifax and Lancaster bombers.
- No. 10 Squadron RAF between 8 July 1940 and 5 July 1942 flying the Handley Page Halifax Mks I & II.
- No. 7 Squadron RAF reformed at the airfield on 1 August 1940 with the Short Stirling I before moving to RAF Oakington on 29 October 1940.
- No. 102 Squadron RAF between 25 August 1940 and 1 September 1940 flying the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V before moving to RAF Prestwick.
- No. 35 Squadron RAF between 20 November 1940 and 5 December 1940 using the Halifax I before moving to RAF Linton-on-Ouse.
- No. 77 Squadron RAF between 5 September 1941 and 6 May 1942 flying the Whitley V before moving to RAF Chivenor.
- No. 408 Squadron RCAF between 14 September 1942 and 27 August 1943 with the Halifax V and I before moving to RAF Linton-on-Ouse.
- 1659 HCU RAF 1941–1942
- No. 424 Squadron RCAF between 8 April 1943 and 3 May 1943 using the Vickers Wellington X before moving to RAF Dalton.
- No. 427 Squadron RCAF between 5 May 1943 and 31 May 1946 when the squadron disbanded. The squadron initially used the Halifax V and III before switching to the Avro Lancaster Mk.I and III in March 1945.
- No. 429 Squadron RCAF between 13 August 1943 and 31 May 1946 when the squadron disbanded. The squadron initially used the Halifax V and III before switching to the Avro Lancaster Mk.I and III in March 1945.
Following the war, the station became a night-fighter base, equipped initially with Mosquito and then Meteor and Javelin aircraft before becoming a Training Command airfield in 1961. The station was then home to No. 3 Flying Training School, equipped with the Jet Provost aircraft.
There were also several other units using the airfield during the same period, these were:
- 228 Operational Conversion Unit RAF 1948–1961
- No. 3 Flying Training School RAF 1961–1984
- Northumbrian Universities Air Squadron 1974–present
- No. 11 Air Experience Flight 1980–
In January 1987, the airfield closed for one year to allow installation of Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS). RAF Leeming became the home base for three Tornado squadrons over the next twenty years.
Leeming functioned as a training base until 1988 when it became a front line base in the air defence role equipped with Tornado F3s. Initially it hosted Nos 11(F), 23, and 25(F)(XXV) Squadrons, all flying the F3.
23 Squadron was disbanded on 1 March 1994 and its air and ground crews dispersed across the Station's remaining 2 squadrons. It was reformed at RAF Waddington in 1996 flying the Sentry E3D. This left two Tornado squadrons, which were half of the air defence fighter squadrons of the RAF. 11 Squadron was disbanded in October 2005, but it re-formed at RAF Coningsby on 29 March 2007 flying the Eurofighter Typhoon F2. The last Tornado squadron at Leeming (No 25(F) Squadron) disbanded on 4 April 2008.
The only remaining jets are the BAe Hawks of 100 Squadron which arrived in 1995 and provide an air combat training service as well as support to the Joint Forward Air Controller Training and Standards Unit (JFACTSU).
Leeming then began operating as a Forward Operating Base and as a Fast Jet Turnround facility. The remaining air defence bases are RAF Leuchars in Fife, Scotland which exchanged its Tornado F3s for Typhoons, and since June 2007 RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire which is home to Typhoon F2s. Coningsby took over from Leeming as England's main air defence base in April 2008 when 3 Sqn became fully operational. (RAF Leuchars would go on to disband its Tornado Squadrons in 2009 and was handed over to the Army in 2015). Leeming is also home to No 11 Air Experience Flight and Northumbrian Universities Air Squadron, with four Grob Tutor aircraft stationed there.
The future of RAF Leeming following the disbandment of its remaining Tornado squadron was not clear for a period. Under plans by the UK Ministry of Defence, Air Combat Service Support units of 2 Group along with personnel from RAF Boulmer and other stations, who had been highlighted for a possible move to RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, were instead relocated to Leeming, due to problems with accommodation at Scampton.
RAF Leeming saw substantial redevelopment as a communications hub, with 90 Signals Unit being the resident unit.
Currently two flying squadrons remain, 100 Squadron and the Northumbrian Universities Air Squadron, and there are no plans to disband or move either of these squadrons.
No. 135 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) was formed at the station on 1 April 2006 and encompasses most of the non-formed unit personnel. The EAW does not include the flying squadrons or any other formed units. The station commander at RAF Leeming is also the commander of the wing.
The following squadrons used RAF Leeming during the same timespan:
- No. 23 Squadron RAF RAF 1988–1994
- No. 11 Squadron RAF RAF 1988–2005
- No. 25 Squadron RAF RAF 1989–2008
The station's air traffic control unit was named the best in the Royal Air Force in February 2012, winning the Raytheon Falconer Trophy.
Leeming's gate guardian is now a Tornado F3, commemorating its history as an air defence base, and the fact that many Tornados were scrapped/Reduced To Produce here. The previous gate guardian XA634 is the world's only surviving Gloster Javelin FAW4, which spent most of its life as a testbed at the Gloster Aircraft Company and was offered for sale by tender in September 2014 by the Ministry of Defence. In December 2014 it was announced that Gloucestershire Jet Age Museum had won the tender and purchased the aircraft.
607 (County of Durham) Squadron reformed at RAF Leeming on 5 January 2015. The Squadron formerly flew fighter aircraft and was disbanded in 1957. The new 607 Squadron will be a General Service Support (GSS) unit with many diverse roles such as chef, driver, intelligence analyst and suppliers.
Following the MOD announcement in July 2018 that RAF Scampton is to be closed and sold off in 2022, speculation is that the RAF Red Arrows display team, based at Scampton, could reallocate to RAF Leeming due to the suitability of base for training and operations, with similar Hawk fast jet training already established there.
Flying and notable non-flying units based at RAF Leeming.
Royal Air ForceEdit
- No. 100 Squadron – Hawk T1A
- Joint Forward Air Control Training and Standardisation Unit (JFACTSU)
- No. 607 (County of Durham) Squadron (Royal Auxiliary Air Force)
- No. 2 RAF Force Protection Wing
- No. 2 Force Protection Wing Headquarters
- No. 34 Squadron RAF Regiment
- No. 609 (West Riding) Squadron (Royal Auxiliary Air Force) Regiment
- No. 11 Air Experience Flight – Tutor T1
- Northumbrian Universities Air Squadron – Tutor T1
- Operational Training Centre
- No. 90 Signals Unit
- Operational Information Services Wing
- No. 1 (Engineering Support) Squadron
- No. 5 (Information Services) Squadron
- Capability and Innovation Squadron
- Operations Squadron
- Tactical Communications Wing
- No. 2 Field Communications Squadron
- No. 3 Field Communications Squadron
- No. 4 Field Communications Squadron
- Operational Information Services Wing
- RAF Leeming Mountain Rescue Team (MRT)
The deployable elements of the station structure form the core of an Expeditionary Air Wing, No. 135 Expeditionary Air Wing. For Exercise 'Griffin Strike 2016' in April 2016, No. 135 EAW became the combined French-British No. 135 Combined Expeditionary Air Wing.
Reduce to ProduceEdit
RAF Leeming has been host to a reverse assembly line process (Reduce to Produce (RTP)) whereby redundant Tornado aircraft are brought into one of the hangars at RAF Leeming and stripped of all usable components. The process started with the F3 variant of the aircraft as it was the first to be withdrawn completely from service, and moved onto the GR4 variant later. In October 2017, it was announced that the full retirement of the Tornado aircraft from RAF service in 2019 meant that this process will end with the loss of 245 British Aerospace jobs between RAF Leeming and RAF Marham. BAE Systems are undertaking the RTP process.
- Base Support Wing
- Administrative Squadron
- Plans and Business Squadron
- Finance Department
- Forward Support Wing
- Forward Support Sqn
- Logistics Sqn
- Operations Wing
- Operations Squadron
- Air Movements Squadron
- Airfield Support Squadron
In March 2019, the Ministry of Defence indicated that RAF Leeming, alongside RAF Waddington and RAF Wittering, was being considered as the future home of the RAF Aerobatic Team the Red Arrows. The team are expected to relocate from their existing base at RAF Scampton when it closes in 2022.
Accidents and incidentsEdit
- 21 February 1944 – a RCAF Halifax, LV836, of No. 427 Sqn crashed into farmland at Romanby, creating a fireball and killing all seven crew on impact. The aircraft had left RAF Leeming nine minutes earlier, at 00:15, on a bombing mission to Stuttgart. On 10 March 2010 a memorial to the crew was unveiled at the crash site, which is now part of Romanby Golf & Country Club.
- 13 August 1951 – two aircraft from RAF Leeming collided over Hudswell, near to Richmond, North Yorkshire. A cadet in the No. 228 Operational Conversion Unit Wellington aircraft was given the only serviceable parachute by Flight Lieutenant John Quinton, shown how to operate it and ordered to bale out. The other eight crew members of both aircraft died when their aircraft hit the ground.
- 22 October 1999 – a 100 Sqn Hawk struck a bridge and crashed into an unoccupied building near the village of Shap, killing the pilot and navigator. The RAF Board of Inquiry suggested that aircrew fatigue may have contributed to the accident. A jury returned a verdict of accidental death.
- 28 January 2016 – during a training sortie, the pilot of a 100 Sqn Hawk experienced partial loss of vision. The base commander considered instructing the pilot to eject over the North Sea, but instead scrambled another Hawk, flown by an instructor. The two aircraft flew in formation to Leeming, and conducted a successful talk down landing.
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- "Defence Estates Development Plan 2009 – Annex A". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 July 2009. p. 12. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
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- Coupland 1997, p. xviii.
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- Jefford 1988, p. 72.
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- Jefford 1988, p. 90.
- Jefford 1988, p. 91.
- History of Airfield from RAF Leeming Noise Insulation Grant Scheme survey report
- Delve, Ken (2006). Northern England : Co. Durham, Cumbria, Isle of Man, Lancashire, Merseyside, Manchester, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Yorkshire. Ramsbury: Crowood. p. 170. ISBN 1-86126-809-2.
- Coupland 1997, p. 82.
- "Leeming's Air Traffic Control Squadron named best in RAF". Ministry of Defence. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
- Foster, Mark (11 June 2015). "Fighter jet on permanent sentry duty". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
- "SALE OF QTY 1 GLOSTER JAVELIN FAW 4 AIRCRAFT" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- "BBC News – Gloucestershire Jet Age Museum buys Gloster Javelin". BBC Online. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
- "RAF 607 County of Durham". raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
- Grace Newton (25 July 2018). "Here's why this RAF base in Yorkshire could be the new home of the Red Arrows". The Yorkshire Post.
- "RAF Leeming - Who's Based Here?". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- "Royal Air Force - News by Date". www.raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- "Nearly 2,000 jobs at risk as BAE Systems adjusts to declining workload The Engineer". www.theengineer.co.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
- "RAF Leeming RTP « News « Fast Air Photography". www.fast-air.co.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
- Flanagan, Emily (13 October 2017). "Jobs lost as BAE plans shake-up". Darlington and Stockton Times (41–2017). p. 5. ISSN 2040-3933.
- "Three choices for new Red Arrows base". BBC News. 18 March 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- "Memorial tribute to Halifax bomber crew unveiled at RAF Leeming". www.yorkpress.co.uk. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
- "LEEMING MEMORIAL – ROMANBY GOLF COURSE – HALIFAX LV836". 427 Squadron Association. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
- "Air Crew Fallen Remembered at Memorial Unveiling". www.raf.mod.uk/. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
- "Wellington PG367". www.yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
- "Fatal RAF jet crash linked to 'excessive' workload of pilot". www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
- "'Blind' RAF pilot saved by wingman who talked him down". www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
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- Jefford, C.G, MBE,BA,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.