DCSIMG

Historic squadron is disbanded – but Fighting Cocks may fly again

FOR almost 100 years the pilots of the "Fighting Cocks" – the last surviving front-line fighter squadron formed in Scotland – have blazed a trail of glory in the war-torn skies over Europe and the Middle East.

But yesterday 43 Fighter Squadron, based at RAF Leuchars in Fife, lost its battle for survival as the Ministry of Defence announced that it was to be disbanded.

The squadron was formed in Stirling in 1916 at the height of First World War. In the Second World War its pilots provided air cover for the evacuation of Dunkirk and were among the famous "Few" who emerged victorious in the Battle of Britain.

And only six years ago they formed part of the spearhead for the air offensive in the invasion of Iraq.

RAF Leuchars is currently home to two Tornado squadrons – 43(F) and 111(F).

But the Ministry of Defence confirmed yesterday that the number of Tornado F3 aircraft at the base would be reduced from 25 to 12 in September in preparation for their replacement with the Typhoon Eurofighter aircraft – three squadrons of which will eventually be based at Leuchars.

A spokesman said: "The best and most serviceable aircraft from both squadrons will be pulled into one particular squadron which will see out the F3 fleet for the remainder of its time in service. The 12 aircraft will be operated by 111 Squadron and 43 will be disbanded."

Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader and the MP for Fife, said last night: "43's unique Scottish heritage is something which must be preserved at all costs.

"43 Squadron's history speaks for itself. In its lifetime it has spanned almost the whole career of the Royal Air Force and it is a matter of profound regret that it should now find itself likely to be disbanded.

"The commitment to three squadrons of the Eurofighters for Leuchars has once again been confirmed. The obvious and historic way to proceed would be for 43 to be reformed when the new deployments take place."

Mr Campbell added: "Many of the most senior RAF officers in place today have served with 43 Squadron and I am sure that there will be more than a hint of regret in the upper echelons of the RAF."

A spokesman at RAF Leuchars said: "They have brought forward the draw down (of the Tornados] which we all knew was coming anyway.

"We now know the squadron is going to be disbanded, but it could be that it will reappear again as one of the Typhoon squadrons.

"I think a number of people would like to think that that's what will happen. But only the Ministry of Defence knows when the squadron number plates will be allocated."

The MoD spokesman said the first of the Typhoon Squadrons would be formed in October 2010 by 6 Squadron, currently based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. The two other Typhoon squadrons will be formed in 2011 and 2012.

He said no-one at Leuchars would lose their jobs as a result of the reduction in the Tornado fighter force.

 
 
 

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