Unit History: RAF Brize Norton

RAF Brize Norton
RAF Brize Norton (IATA: BZZ, ICAO: EGVN) in Oxfordshire, about 50 miles west of London, England, United Kingdom, is the largest airbase of the Royal Air Force.
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 Lakenheath, RAF Marham, and RAF Sculthorpe. 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 Common, RAF Upper Heyford, and RAF Fairford. 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
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 Fairford in May 1967.
10 Squadron reformed in 1966 with the Vickers VC-10 C1, 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. 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 Lyneham. Both squadrons were disbanded in 1976.
In 1976 115 Squadron moved from RAF Cottesmore operating the Hawker Siddeley Andover in the radar calibration role. The squadron moved out to RAF Benson in 1983.
101 Squadron reformed at Brize Norton on May 1, 1984, it previously operated the Avro Vulcan and paricipated in the Operation Blackbuck 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.
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 from Pan-Am.
On May 23, 2001 the RAF’s first C-17 arrived at Brize Norton, one of four to be delivered to 99 Squadron.
On September 19, 2005 Brize Norton was closed as part of a major upgrade project. Now reopened, the runway has been 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 has also been installed to allow Brize Norton to become the Military Emergency Diversion Airfield for the southern UK, as part of the plans to close the current one at RAF Lyneham.
A No. 216 Squadron Tristar
A No. 216 Squadron Tristar
Unlike many UK military bases (eg. RAF Fairford, Faslane Naval Base, RAF Lakenheath, Menwith Hill) RAF Brize Norton has only been subject to limited protest by peace demonstrators.[citation needed]
During the second Iraq war four anti-war protesters prevented British aeroplanes carrying troops to Iraq from taking off for several hours.[citation needed]
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.[citation needed]
On 12 August 2006 the base was closed down for several hours by campaigners protesting about British policy in the Middle East.[citation needed]
With the arrival of the Globemaster (C-17 in USAF service) and the future Airbus A400M the base has an assured future. Following the scheduled closure of RAF Lyneham (home of the RAF Hercules) in 2012, the RAF’s transport fleet will be further consolidated at Brize Norton.
The RAF’s Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft, the Airbus A330 MRTT, will be based at Brize Norton to replace the VC-10 and Tristar tanker fleets.

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