RAF Upper HeyfordRoyal Air Force Station Upper Heyford Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
Welcome to RAF Upper Heyford 620th air base wing. This sign was seen at the entrance to the base in 2001. Type Air Force Base Built 1916 In use 1916-1993
RAF Upper Heyford was a Royal Air Force station located 5 miles (8 km) north-west of Bicester near the village of Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, England. The base was actually brought into use for flying in July 1918 by the Royal Flying Corps, and it was used by the RAF in World War II as a training facility where RAF flyers learned paratroop tactics.
During the Cold War, Upper Heyford served as a base for United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) strategic bombers and United States Air Forces In Europe (USAFE) tactical reconnaissance and fighter aircraft in the UK.
Upper Heyford was unique among bases in the United Kingdom as only the flight-line area required military identification to access. The rest of the base, save the commercial facilities, was accessible to military and non-military alike.
The base was home to the Upper Heyford High School Hadites until 1977 when the school moved to RAF Croughton. The Upper Heyford/Croughton High School Hadites were renowned across DoDDS Europe high schools for their athletic legacy.
- 1 Cold War Use By USAF
- 2 Peace Camp
- 3 Closure
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Cold War Use By USAF
7509th Air Base Group
In response to what was perceived as a growing world-wide threat, Strategic Air Command decided to base a strong force of American bomber aircraft in England. It was decided to convert four airfields in and around Oxfordshire to serve as their regular bases. Upper Heyford was one of those selected, the others being RAF Brize Norton, RAF Fairford and RAF Greenham Common.
On 26 June 1950, men of the 801st Engineer Aviation Battalion started work on extending the 6,000 ft (1,829 m) runway to 8,300 ft (2,530 m). Also new hardstands were constructed for the very heavy bombers of SAC's Intercontinental Bombing Force of B-36's and B-50's. A secure weapons storage facility was also added.
On 7 July 1950, the first group of United States Air Force personnel arrived on the station. The original organization consisted of one officer and 26 airmen. It was designated the 7509th Air Base Squadron. The 7509th would act as the host organization to support the TDY aircraft and personnel detached from their home bases in the United States.
Visiting TDY rotational units at Upper Heyford were: 93rd Bomb Wing, 97th Air Refueling Squadron, 509th Air Refueling Squadron, 301st Bomb Wing, 8th Air Sea Rescue Squadron, 2nd Bomb Wing, 5th Bomb Wing Detachment, and the 22nd Bomb Wing.
On 25 May 1951 the 7509th Air Base Squadron was redesignated the 7509th Air Base Group. Then, on 10 January 1952, the 7509th Air Base Group at Upper Heyford became the 3918th Air Base Group. Also on this date the Third Air Force, under United States Air Force Europe, relinquished control of the station and turned it over to the Strategic Air Command.
3918th Strategic Wing
The first SAC aircraft to be based at UH were the 15 B-50Ds of the 328th Bomb Squadron, which arrived in December 1951, whilst the other three-squadrons of the 93rd Bombardment Wing were deployed to RAF Lakenheath.
By September 1952, Upper Heyford was ready to handle a full complement of 45 aircraft and when the 2nd Bombardment Wing arrived it deployed all three of its bomb squadrons here with their B-50s Lakenheath. SAC Squadrons and Wings continued to be deployed to the base throughout the 1950's.
One of the most notable events of 1954 was the arrival of the first of the truly massive RB-36s, a small number of which flew in for a brief stay in June and July by the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.
In 1958 the unit was redesignated the 3918 Combat Support Group.
Occasional visits by the huge B-52 commenced at the end of 1960 and became more and more frequent over the next five years. Meanwhile, following nuclear tests behind the 'Iron Curtain' in the summer of 1962, a detachment of top secret U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft operated from Upper Heyford in August to carry out air sampling and analysis at very high altitudes in order to determine the characteristics of latest Soviet weapons. A third new aircraft type was the B-58 Hustler was occasionally seen.
In 1964, it was decided that regular detachments of SAC bomber aircraft to England would cease altogether, and both Fairford and Greenham Common were closed. At Upper Heyford 'Reflex Alert' continued until 1 January 1965, and the very last B-47 detachment was stood down at Brize Norton on 1 March 1965.
As well as the bomber force, Brize Norton had regularly hosted small and highly secret detachments of reconnaissance aircraft such as the B-47s of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. In preparation for the transfer of Brize Norton to the RAF, this detachment had to be relocated and since Upper Heyford was the only station of the four Oxfordshire bases to remain in American hands, it became the new advanced base for these special operations, now increasingly undertaken by the RC-135.
66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing
On 7 March 1966, French President Charles De Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure. The United States was informed that it must remove its military forces from France by 1 April 1967.McDonnell RF-101F-56-MC 56-0217 of the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. The combination green, yellow, blue and red stripes on the tail signify the wing commander's aircraft Newly arrived RF-4Cs of the 66th Tactical Recon Wing - September 1969. McDonnell RF-4C-31-MC Phantom 66-0430 is in the foreground. This aircraft served for many years, eventually being retired to AMARC on 8 October 1992.
Upper Heyford was now to serve as the new and urgently needed base for the RF-101 s of the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing which had been stationed at Laon-Couvron Air Base, France. After rapid preparations had been made, the unforeseen transfer of this unit was completed by 1 September 1966.
The 66th TRW was composed of the 17th and 18th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons.
During 1968 it was announced that the 66th TRW was to convert to the RF-4C Phantom in the following year. On 27 March 1969, the first two Phantoms flew into Upper Heyford. and the 66th became a mixed reconnaissance force. The RF-101C's were assigned to the 18th TRS and were limited to the daylight role. The RF-4C's were assigned to the 17th TRS and were capable of an all weather day and night operation.
The advent of the RF-4 gave the 66th TRW a longer arm in terms of target access. In the event of a ‘hot’ war the longer reach of the wing’s aircraft would have made many previously inaccessible targets behind the iron curtain easily acquired from the bases in West Germany to which they would have been deployed.
The Phantoms did not stay for long, however, as in January 1970 the inactivation of the 66th TRW commenced, the RF-4Cs of the 17th TRS going to the 26th TRW at Zweibrücken in Germany, and the RF-101s of the 18th TRS to the 363rd TRW at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.
Since the early 1950s, the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing had been operating from the USAF station at RAF Wethersfield, but this base had a limited potential for development and was awkwardly close to the expanding civilian airport at Stansted. Now with more aircraft on the base than there had been for some time, it was necessary to transfer the 98th SRW detachment to Mildenhall, thus bringing to an end the SAC presence.
The 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Upper Heyford was inactivated and elements were moved to Wethersfield.
20th Tactical Fighter Wing
Shortly after arriving at Upper Heyford, the 20th TFW began converting to a new aircraft - the General Dynamics F-111E Aardvark (unofficially). On 12 September 1970, the first two F-111Es arrived at RAF Upper Heyford. The last of the 20th's F-100s that it brought from Wethersfield were transferred to the Air National Guard on 12 February 1971. In November 1971, the wing's F-111s were declared operationally ready.General Dynamics F-111E Serial 68-0028 of the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing Shown painted in 1976 Bicentennial motif. This aircraft served for many years in the 20th TFW, frequently appearing at static displays. In 1993 it was finally retired and sent to AMARC. General Dynamics F/EF-111A Serial 66-0049 42nd Electronic Countermeasure squadron - 20th Tactical Fighter Wing. Believed to have been used as electronic jammer aircraft in "Operation El Dorado Canyon". This aircraft is now on display at Mountain Home AFB Idaho.
The 20th TFW participated in F-111 NATO and US unilateral operations Shabaz, Display Determination, Cold Fire, Ocean Safari, Datex, Priory, Reforger, Dawn Patrol, Highwood, Hammer, and others from January 1972 to October 1993.
Upper Heyford gained a fourth flying squadron on 1 July 1983, with the activation of the 42nd Electronic Combat Squadron. In February 1984, the first Grumman (General Dynamics) EF-111A Ravens of that squadron arrived.
Parental responsibility over the 42nd by the 20th TFW was short-lived, however, and on 1 June 1985, operational control of the squadron shifted to the 66th Electronic Combat Wing at Sembach Air Base, West Germany.
Operation El Dorado Canyon
In March 1986, the 66th Electronic Combat Wing detached the 42nd ECS to the 20th TFW to take part in El Dorado Canyon, the raid on Libya.
On 14 April 1986, 5 EF-111As and 20 F-111Es took off from RAF Upper Heyford as part of the attack force. They were used as an airborne reserve for the F-111Fs of the 48th TFW, RAF Lakenheath. Three EF-111s (two were spares and turned back) formed up with the 48th's F-111Fs and provided electronic defense during the attack on Tripoli.
Operation Desert Storm
On 17 January 1991, 20th TFW aircraft launched combat missions from both Turkey and Saudi Arabia and continued flying combat missions until the cease fire. The F-111Es flying from Turkey flew night missions throughout the war, using the TFR to penetrate the dense anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) environment at altitudes around 200 feet (61 m) for the first few nights.
Crews who flew those first few terrifying nights said that the illumination from the AAA was so bright that they didn't need the TFR to avoid the ground. After the missile threat was suppressed, crews flew their attacks at altitudes around 20,000 feet (6,096 m), above the range of most Iraqi AAA systems.
During the war, the F-111Es attacked a range of targets, including power plants, petroleum refineries, airfields, nuclear-biological-chemical processing and storage facilities, and electronics sites throughout northern Iraq,
When Desert Storm ended, the wing had deployed 458 personnel, flown 1,798 combat sorties without a loss, and dropped 4,714 tons of ordnance.
Post Cold-War Era
With the end of the Cold War, the presence of the 20th TFW was deemed no longer necessary in England. The USAF presence at RAF Upper Heyford was gradually phased down.
The 20th Tactical Fighter Wing, along with the associated 55th, 77th, and 79th Tactical Fighter Squadrons were officially redesignated the 20th Fighter Wing and 55th, 77th, and 79th Fighter Squadrons on 1 October 1991.
On 19 October 1993, aircraft 67-120 went to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford where it is now on display. It retains the 55th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Wing markings it carried when based at RAF Upper Heyford, UK. It flew 19 Desert Storm missions and flew into Duxford on 19 October 1993.
The last of the wing's three aircraft departed Upper Heyford on 7 December 1993. The flagship of the 55th Fighter Squadron, aircraft 68-055 Heartbreaker, departed first. It went to Robins AFB, Georgia, where it is now on display. The next aircraft, 68-061 The Last Roll of Me Dice, departed for the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis Monthan AFB Arizona. Finally, aircraft 68-020 The Chief, flew to Hill AFB, Utah, where it is now on display at the Hill AFB Aerospace Museum.
Upper Heyford peace camp was established on Easter Sunday 1982 and continued for many months with very many activities designed to highlight the fact that the base was "where genocide was contemplated daily," referring to the "Quick Response Area" where F-111 fighters loaded with nuclear weapons were always ready to take off.
The most important demonstration happened in 1983 when one of the largest ever set-piece civil disobedience demonstrations happened. In all more than 4,000 people took part over four days and in total 752 people were arrested - the most ever during a demonstration outside a military base in the UK.
ClosureThe hospital at Upper Heyford sits closed with a fence around it in 2001.
On 15 December 1993, the flight line at RAF Upper Heyford was closed. On 1 January 1994, the 20th Fighter Wing inactivated at RAF Upper Heyford and was transferred without personnel or equipment to Shaw AFB, South Carolina, where it inherited the personnel and F-16s of the inactivated 363rd Fighter Wing.
The British government has toyed with ideas on what to make of the base's remains today. Unfortunately, it is now largely a ghost town with buildings long abandoned and cordoned off to the public.
The runways are now used as a giant car park for a car manufacturer for pre-showroom models. Other functions include Police driving activities such as training. According to the Banbury Guardian and Banbury Cake newspapers in 2006, it may become an industrial or residential centre.
- List of RAF stations
- United States Air Forces in Europe
- United States Air Force in the United Kingdom
- Strategic Air Command in the United Kingdom
- Baugher, Joseph F. (2007) USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to Present, Online website, latest revision [accessed 30 July 2007]
- Endicott, Judy G. (Ed.) (1998) USAF active flying, space and missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995 [electronic resource], Washington, D.C. : Air Force History and Museums Program, USAF, CD-ROM (pdf) and booklet, 7 p.
- Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984) Air Force combat wings : lineage and honors histories, 1947-1977, Washington, D.C. : Office of Air Force History, USAF, ISBN 0-912799-12-9
- RAF Upper Heyford Memorial Website
- WW II Airfields of Oxfordshire
- 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing
- 20th Fighter Wing
- Satellite Image of RAF Upper Heyford From Google Earth
- Aerial Photo of RAF Upper Heyford From Multimap.Com
- http://www.f-4.nl =usaf phantoms
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