Unit History: RAF Feltwell
RAF Feltwell is a Royal Air Force station in Norfolk, East Anglia that is currently used by the United States Air Forces Europe. The station is located about 10 miles west of Thetford, and is in the borough of King’s Lynn at approximate Ordnance Survey grid reference TL 715 900.
A former Second World War bomber station, the base is used as a housing estate for United States Air Force personnel stationed nearby at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, while also containing the Airman Leadership School for USAF personnel in the UK, as well as being the home of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s sole furniture store in the country.
The airfield was built during the period of expansion of the RAF in the late 1930s and is similar in layout to many of the other RAF airfields of the period (for example RAF Marham, RAF Watton and RAF West Raynham). The airfield was home to a number of heavy bomber squadrons of the RAF during World War II. Post war RAF Thor Missiles were stationed here at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Between 1989 and 2003 it also hosted the US Air Force’s 5th Space Surveillance Squadron (5 SPSS) which was subordinate to the 21st Operations Group (21 OG) and the 21st Space Wing (21 SW), both at Peterson AFB, Colorado. These organizations in turn are subordinate to the 14th Air Force (14 AF) at Vandenberg AFB, California which reports to HQ Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), also at Peterson AFB, CO.
The 5 SPSS (initially designated "Detachment 1, 73rd Space Surveillance Group", or "Det 1 SSURGP") was part of the USAF’s Passive Space Surveillance Network which tracked the physical location of emitting satellites in orbit. This data along with that from other systems was used to adjust the orbits of various satellites and manned vessels (for instance the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station) to reduce the risk of on-orbit collisions.
However other USAF systems and capabilities ultimately superseded DSTS and it were removed in 2002 and the unit was de-actived shortly thereafter. The 21st Space Wing now has a detachment at RAF Fylingdales, UK, to coordinate cooperative missile warning and space surveillance with RAF counterparts.