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RAF Fairford

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Shield Strategic Air Command.png United States Air Forces in Europe.png

Located near Fairford, Gloucestershire, England
B52ATFairford.jpg
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress taxis along the flight line at RAF Fairford
Type Royal Air Force station
Built 1938
In use 1953-Present
Current
owner
Royal Air Force
Controlled by United States Air Force
Garrison 420th Air Base Group
Commanders Colonel Joseph 'Camel' Dill
Airfield Information
IATA: FFDICAO: EGVA
Summary
Airport type Military
Operator United States Air Force
Location Fairford
Elevation AMSL 286 ft / 87 m
Coordinates 51°40′56″N 001°47′24″W / 51.68222°N 1.79°W / 51.68222; -1.79
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
09/27 9,994 3,046 Asphalt
USAF Boeing B-47E-50-LM (S/N 52-3363)
A USAF B-2 Spirit

RAF Fairford (IATA: FFDICAO: EGVA) is a Royal Air Force station in Gloucestershire, England. It is a standby airfield, not in everyday use. Its most prominent use in recent years has been as a base for United States Air Force B-52s during the 2003 Iraq War, Operation Allied Force in 1999, and the first Gulf War in 1991.

On the 15th September 2009 it was announced that the USAF will withdraw from the base with the aim to pull out all uniformed staff from the base by September 2010, after which it will be run on a "care and maintenance" basis. However RAF Fairford will remain a designated standby base, capable of immediate reactivation within 24-48 hours as well as continuing with its role for the Royal International Air Tattoo.

RAF Fairford is the only TransOceanic Abort Landing site for NASA's Space Shuttle in the UK. As well as having a sufficiently long runway for a shuttle landing (the runway is 3 km long), it also has NASA-trained fire and medical crews stationed on the base. [1]

RAF Fairford is also the home of the Royal International Air Tattoo, an annual air display. RIAT is one of the largest airshows in the world, with the 2003 show recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest military airshow ever, with an attendance of 535 aircraft.

Contents

USAF units

On 14 January 2004, the 420th Air Base Group (420 ABG) was established at RAF Fairford to improve the control of its geographically separated units, (GSUs), that had been aligned beneath the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall. These units are assigned to bases at RAF Fairford, RAF Croughton, RAF Alconbury, RAF Molesworth and RAF Menwith Hill. The 420 ABG reported directly to 3rd Air Force until 26 May 2004, when the 38th Combat Support Wing (38 CSW) was established at Sembach Annex, Germany to provide oversight on its behalf.

On May 12, 2005, USAFE activated the 501st Combat Support Wing, with headquarters at RAF Alconbury, to provide support to its GSUs in the United Kingdom. The Airmen of the 501st CSW focus on units that, by their nature, are separated from main operating bases of RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath. A command staff of about 30 people is assigned.

The 420th ABG and the 420th Air Base Squadron are responsible for the day to day operations of RAF Fairford, ensuring that it is provided with the resources it needs to meet standards for mission execution.

History

RAF Fairford was constructed at the height of World War II in 1944 to serve as a base for British and American troop carriers and gliders for the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

In the early years of the Cold War the British and American governments reached an agreement under which elements of the USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) would be based in the UK. Bases had already been established in East Anglia — at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath — but they were considered to be vulnerable to bomber attack and airfields further behind the RAF fighter defences were sought. Four RAF airfields were selected to receive SAC units — RAF Brize Norton, RAF Fairford, RAF Greenham Common and RAF Upper Heyford. In 1948 the Americans occupied RAF stations including Fairford, Brize Norton, Burtonwood Greenham Common, Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Woodbridge to build up a deterrent in Europe against the Soviets.

In 1950, as a result of the beginning of the Cold War, the base was transferred to the U.S. Air Force for strategic bomber operations. In order to facilitate long range bomber operations a 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway was constructed.

The runway was completed in 1953, and served as a forward airbase for the first Convair B-36 Peacemaker aircraft from Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. The base later received B-47s which were maintained at a heightened state of alert because of increased tensions with the Soviet Union.

Following a period of transition, Fairford was chosen in 1969 as the British test centre for the Concorde aircraft. The Concorde was tested at RAF Fairford until 1979, when the U.S. Air Force returned with a squadron of KC-135 Stratotankers. These tankers would play a major role in supporting the attack on Libya in 1986. The KC-135s were withdrawn in 1990 and the base was returned to standby status.

Due to RAF Fairford's location and infrastructure, the airbase is designated as a forward operating location for the U.S. Air Force. In this capacity, it was used in the first Gulf War in 1991, with B-52s and KC-135s from Eaker AFB in Arkansas Operation Allied Force in 1999, and during the 2003 Iraq War. During these three conflicts, the airbase was the home to American B-52, B-1 Lancer, and KC-135 aircraft, and their support personnel. In recent years the airfield has been used by American B-2 Spirit stealth bombers.

Due to increased operational levels, RAF Fairford underwent a 90 million US dollar upgrade of its runway and fuel bunkers in the largest American military construction project within a NATO country since the end of the Cold War. This worked lasted from 2000 through 2002.

On 15th September 2009 it was announced that the USAF will withdraw from the base with the aim to pull out all uniformed staff from the base by September 2010, after which it will be run on a "care and maintenance" basis. However RAF Fairford will remain a designated standby base, capable of immediate reactivation within 24-48 hours as well as continuing with its role for the Royal International Air Tattoo(see Reference below).

RAF Fairford unit emblems

See also

References

  • Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799536

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/8257452.stm

External links

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