RAF Lossiemouth marks 75th anniversary

Planes on the runway at RAF Lossiemouth, which is celebrating its 75th year. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Planes on the runway at RAF Lossiemouth, which is celebrating its 75th year. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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RAF Lossiemouth has celebrated 75 years of service – both as an air force station and a Royal Navy base.

The station officially opened on 1 May, 1939, with the war years proving to be a turbulent beginning to its history.

The core unit throughout this period was 20 Operational Training Unit (OUT).

In partnership with the legendary Vickers Wellington aircraft, the OTU trained thousands of aircrew for front line operational squadrons above the fields of Lossiemouth.

In addition, many operational raids were launched from RAF Lossiemouth, including the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz and participation in the thousand Bomber raids over Germany.

In 1946, RAF Lossiemouth shifted to the control of the Royal Navy, and became a Royal Naval Air Station, known as HMS Fulmar.

During this period Lossiemouth was again instrumental in training aircrew, this time for the Fleet Air Arm, using Fairey Fireflies and Supermarine Seafires.

The station was also home to a rather unusual unit, the German Sea Hawk Staffel, which was one of the first Sea Hawk Squadrons to be formed as part of the Federal German Navy.

During the Royal Navy’s tenure ground breaking aircraft were introduced into service.

The Supermarine Scimitar was part of a new generation of fleet fighters to be flown at HMS Fulmar. The Scimitar was, at the time of its introduction, the heaviest and most powerful aircraft ever to have served in the Fleet Air Arm.

In 1961, the station began its long association with one of the most famous aircraft to serve in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, the Blackburn Buccaneer.

Reverting to RAF control in September 1972, Lossiemouth initially operated the Shackletons of 8 Squadron. The Sepecat Jaguar arrived in 1973 and continued the base’s long tradition of training aircrew, with the formation of 226 Operational Conversion Unit.

The following year two operational squadrons, 54 Squadron and 6 Squadron, arrived to bolster the fleet. From 1974 to 1991, the Airborne Early Warning version of the Shackleton flew missions over the North Sea, Arctic Ocean and Western Atlantic.

The Buccaneer returned to RAF Lossiemouth in 1990, this time in RAF markings, with the arrival of the 237 Operational Conversion Unit from RAF Honington, later being joined by 12 (Bomber) Squadron and 208 Squadron. In 1991, 12 Buccaneers played a major role in the RAF’s operations within Gulf War One, both laser designating targets for Tornado aircraft and undertaking bombing missions on their own.

During the modern era, the Tornado has played a very active role in recent campaigns, operating with distinction in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

The Tornado will remain at RAF Lossiemouth with XV (Reserve) Squadron continuing to train pilots on the Operational Conversion Unit until 2018.

The future of RAF Lossiemouth will see three Typhoon squadrons relocate to the Station - 1 (Fighter) Squadron, 2 (Army Co-operation) Squadron, and the return of 6 Squadron.

From autumn, RAF Lossiemouth will also be the home of Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North, with Typhoon on standby to protect the UK’s airspace.

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