RAF Waddington

Coordinates: 53°10′21″N 000°31′51″W / 53.17250°N 0.53083°W / 53.17250; -0.53083
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

RAF Waddington
Near Waddington, Lincolnshire in England
The RAF's first Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint arrives at RAF Waddington in November 2013
For Faith and Freedom[1]
RAF Waddington is located in Lincolnshire
RAF Waddington
RAF Waddington
Shown within Lincolnshire
Coordinates53°10′21″N 000°31′51″W / 53.17250°N 0.53083°W / 53.17250; -0.53083
TypeMain Operating Base
Area391 hectares (970 acres)[2]
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 1 Group (Air Combat)
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
Site history
Built1916 (1916)
In use
  • 1916–1920
  • 1937 – present
Garrison information
Group Captain Mark Lorriman-Hughes
Occupants See Based units section for full list.
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: WTN, ICAO: EGXW, WMO: 03377
Elevation70.1 metres (230 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
02/20 2,939 metres (9,642 ft) Asphalt
Source: RAF Waddington Defence Aerodrome Manual[3]

Royal Air Force Waddington otherwise known as RAF Waddington (IATA: WTN, ICAO: EGXW) is a Royal Air Force station located beside the village of Waddington, 4.2 miles (6.8 km) south of Lincoln, Lincolnshire, in England.

The station is the RAF's Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) hub and is home to a fleet of aircraft composed of the Shadow R1, RC-135W Rivet Joint and operating base for the RAF's MQ-9 Reaper. Since October 2022, it has also been home to the RAF's Aerobatic Team the Red Arrows.


First World War[edit]

RFC Waddington training station

RAF Waddington opened as a Royal Flying Corps flying training station in 1916. Student pilots, including members of the US Army, were taught to fly a variety of aircraft. The station came under the control of the Royal Air Force when it was created on 1 April 1918. It operated until 1920, when the station went into care and maintenance.[4]

During and after the First World War, the following squadrons operated from Waddington.

Interwar period[edit]

As part of the pre-war expansion programme the Waddington site was earmarked for development into a fully equipped bomber station. It reopened as a bomber base on 12 March 1937,[4] with No. 50 Squadron arriving on the same day with their Hawker Hinds and then adding the Handley Page Hampden.[12] No. 110 Squadron arrived 15 days later initially with the Hind before switching to the Bristol Blenheim.[13] On 7 June 1937 No. 88 Squadron reformed at Waddington with the Hind before moving to RAF Boscombe Down in Wiltshire on 17 July 1937.[14] On 16 June 1937 No. 44 Squadron moved in from RAF Andover flying the Blenheim, before switching to the Avro Anson and the Hampden in February 1939.[15] In May 1939 No. 110 Squadron left going to RAF Wattisham in Suffolk and No. 50 Squadron left the following year being moved to RAF Lindholme in South Yorkshire.[12][13]

Second World War[edit]

An Avro Lancaster of No. 463 Squadron RAAF at RAF Waddington in 1944. It completed sixty seven missions and twice returned safely with half the tail plane shot away.
An Avro Lancaster of No. 463 Squadron RAAF at RAF Waddington in 1944. It completed sixty seven missions and twice returned safely with half the tail plane shot away.

RAF Waddington began the Second World War housing the Hampdens of No. 44 Squadron and No. 50 Squadron. Both squadrons were in action on the same day as Britain's war declaration, attacking German naval targets at Kiel.[4][16] Waddington squadrons were also involved during the critical stages of the late summer and early autumn of 1940, attacking barges in the channel ports which were being assembled as part of the invasion fleet.[4]

In November 1940 it was the first station to receive the Avro Manchester heavy bomber.[17]

No. 44 Squadron RAF was the first in RAF Bomber Command to fly operationally with the Avro Lancaster on 2 March 1942 from Waddington.[17] BT308, the first prototype Lancaster (or Mk III Manchester), arrived at Waddington in September 1941 for flight tests. Similar to RAF Scampton, the station was part of 5 Group.[18]

On 17 April 1942, seven Lancasters of No. 44 Squadron took off from Waddington as part of Operation Margin, a bombing raid on the MAN U-boat engine plant in Augsburg in Germany.[19] The squadron subsequently left Waddington on 31 May 1943, moving to RAF Dunholme Lodge, also in Lincolnshire.[15]

During the Second World War the following squadrons are known to have operated from Waddington.

During his visit to RAF Waddington in June 1944, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, meets the crews of No. 467 Squadron RAAF.
During his visit to RAF Waddington in June 1944, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, meets the crews of No. 467 Squadron RAAF.

Cold War[edit]

During the Cold War, RAF Waddington became an Avro Vulcan V-bomber station, with No. 83 Squadron being the first in the RAF to receive the Vulcan in May 1957. It continued in this role until 1984 when the last Vulcan squadron, No. 50 Squadron, disbanded. From 1968, the UK nuclear deterrent was transferred to Polaris submarines, beginning with HMS Resolution.[26]

In August 1960, the station developed the sudsmobile technique to lay a 1,000 yd × 30 yd (914 m × 27 m) carpet of foam in around a half-hour for a wheels-up landing. Previously it had taken around three hours to lay a foam carpet on the runway. An English Electric Canberra from RAF Wyton landed wheels-up on 23 August 1960, with a Handley Page Victor managing the same on 5 December 1960.[27]

Avro Vulcan bombers from RAF Waddington flying in formation in 1957.
Avro Vulcan bombers from RAF Waddington flying in formation in 1957.

The fiftieth anniversary of the RAF was celebrated at the base on 1 April 1968, mainly because the RAF's last flying Lancaster was based at the airfield from the mid-1960s.[28]

During the Cold War the following squadrons are known to have operated from Waddington.

RAF Waddington was home to several USAF Coronet deployments throughout the Cold War:

Falklands War[edit]

RAF personnel on front of an Avro Vulcan at RAF Waddington prior to the aircraft's deployment to the Falklands.
RAF personnel on front of an Avro Vulcan at RAF Waddington prior to the aircraft's deployment to the Falklands.

During the Falklands War, Operation Black Buck saw three aircraft and crews from Waddington take part in a long-range bombing raid on Port Stanley airfield in the Falkland Islands. The three Vulcan B2s, of No. 44 Squadron, No. 50 Squadron and No. 101 Squadron, were twenty-two years old, and were selected because they had the more powerful Olympus 301 engines.[39] A complicated air-to-air refuelling plan, involving fourteen Handley Page Victor K.2 tankers, was developed.[40] Navigation came from the Delco Carousel inertial navigation system.[41]


In July 1991 No. 8 Squadron moved to RAF Waddington and re-equipped with Boeing E-3 Sentrys.[42]

An E-3D Sentry lands at RAF Waddington

In 1993, the only RAF Avro Vulcan bomber maintained by RAF Waddington for flying displays, XH558, was retired due to budget restraints to Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome, Leicestershire.[43]

The Electronic Warfare Operational Support Element (EWOSE – now known as the Air Warfare Centre) moved from RAF Wyton to Waddington in March 1995.[44]

In 1998 26 Squadron RAF Regiment moved to RAF Waddington from RAF Laarbruch in Germany. The squadron was equipped with the Rapier Field standard C short range air defence missile system, and remained at Waddington until its temporary disbandment in 2008.[45]

21st century[edit]

A Raytheon Sentinel R1 of No.5 (AC) Squadron at RAF Waddington after a heavy snowfall during November 2010.
A Raytheon Sentinel R1 of No.5 (AC) Squadron at RAF Waddington after a heavy snowfall during November 2010.

All of the aircraft operating squadrons based at RAF Waddington were dispersed to other airfields in July 2014 when the runway was closed for rebuilding.[46] The project, valued at £35 million and due to take 12 months, actually took 26 months and re-opened to aircraft officially in November 2016. The work was expected to increase the operational capability of the runway and airfield by 25 years.[47]

No. 216 Squadron reformed at Waddington on 1 April 2020 as an experimental unit testing future drone swarm technology.[48]

In September 2020, work to convert a hangar into a joint flight simulator training facility was completed. The facility, operated by the Air Battlespace Training Centre, allows simulators at different locations to be linked together, enabling UK and US crews to train with one another in scenarios which would be difficult to recreate in real life.[49][50]

No. 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron was disbanded in March 2021 when the Sentinel R1 was withdrawn from service.[51] The E-3D Sentry was also retired in 2021, with No. 8 Squadron subsequently relocating to RAF Lossiemouth to re-equip with the Wedgetail AEW1.[52]

In August 2022, No. 39 Squadron disbanded, with a MQ-9A Reaper Ground Control System returning from Creech AFB in Nevada to Waddington for use by No. 13 Squadron, which continued to operate the Reaper.[53]

During early October 2022, the RAF Aerobatic Team the Red Arrows and its 146 personnel relocated to Waddington from its previous home at RAF Scampton which is set to close. [54]

Role and operations[edit]


Group Captain Mark Lorriman-Hughes was appointed as the Station Commander in January 2022.[55]

ISTAR operations[edit]

An RAF Shadow R1 based at RAF Waddington

RAF Waddington is the RAF's Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) hub and is home to a fleet of aircraft composed of Shadow R1 and RC-135W Rivet Joint, and is an operating base for the RAF's MQ-9 Reaper.[56]

No. 1 Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing formed on 1 April 2016. It is a mix of the staff and capabilities of the Tactical Imagery Intelligence Wing (TIW) at RAF Marham, No. 54 Signals Unit at RAF Digby and No. 5 (AC) Squadron. Waddington is home to the wing headquarters.[57]

Expeditionary Air Wing[edit]

No. 34 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) was formed at Waddington on 1 April 2006 to create a deployable air force structure.[58]

Supported units[edit]

RAF Waddington Voluntary Band is one of seven voluntary bands within the RAF.[59]

Amateur radio licensees are not allowed to operate unattended radio beacon transmitters on 28.000–29.700 MHz, 10.000–10.125 GHz, 24.000–24.050 GHz, or 47.000–47.200 GHz within 50 km of the Waddington airfield, centred on Ordnance Survey Grid Reference SK 985640.[60]

Based units[edit]

The following notable flying and non-flying units are based at RAF Waddington:[61][62]


Protector RG1[edit]

An MQ-9B of the type which will operate from RAF Waddington

The General Atomics MQ-9B, a remotely piloted air system (RPAS), which will be known as the Protector RG1 in RAF service, will be based at RAF Waddington. The first squadron to operate the Protector is expected to be No. 31 Squadron. A new hangar, support facilities and crew accommodation will be constructed at Waddington at a cost of £93 million.[66]


Station badge and motto[edit]

The station badge depicts Lincoln Cathedral rising through the clouds, with the motto 'For Faith and Freedom' emblazoned below.[4]

Gate guardians[edit]

Avro Vulcan XM607, RAF Waddington's gate guardian.

The gate guardian at RAF Waddington is Avro Vulcan XM607, one of three Vulcan bombers (XM597, XM598, XM607) which took part in Operation Black Buck raids between April and June 1982 during the Falklands War. XM607 was stationed at Waddington and took part in the raids, captained by pilots Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers (on mission 1 and 7) and by Squadron Leader John Reeve (on mission 2).[67] In 1984, along with all other remaining Vulcans, XM607 was retired from active service, and was preserved as the gate guardian at Waddington.[67]

A Hawker Hunter F.6A acts as gate guardian outside the No. 8 Squadron facilities at Waddington. Styled as 'XE620' in No. 8 Squadron markings, the aircraft was originally XE606.[68]

List of Station Commanders[edit]

Previous units[edit]

The following units were also stationed at Waddington at some point:[72]

Waddington International Air Show[edit]

The Red Arrows at the 2014 Waddington International Airshow.
The Red Arrows at the 2014 Waddington International Airshow

The first RAF Waddington International Air Show was staged at RAF Waddington in 1995, after the event was moved down from RAF Finningley - an RAF station located east of Doncaster (now Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield) which was closed down in 1995. Over the following years the RAF Waddington International Air Show developed into the largest of all Royal Air Force air shows. It took place on the first weekend in July, attracting over 140,000 visitors and representatives of Air Forces from all round the world. The main purpose of the show was to raise public awareness and understanding of the RAF and its role today. Eighty five percent (85%) of all proceeds from the event were distributed to the two main Service charities; the RAF Benevolent Fund and the RAF Association; the remaining 15% donated to local worthy causes. Since the inaugural year 1995 the Air Show has raised almost £3 million for Service and local charities.[87]

In 2015 the station was earmarked for development, a significant part of which being concerned with the station's runway with work scheduled for 59 weeks. This therefore ruled out an airshow during 2015. The timing of the works coincided with a review of the station in general, the continuance of the airshow being also part of the review. The outcome was that having weighed up the content of the report, it was decided that: "significant security risks as well as certain operational risks" resulted from the operation of the RAF Waddington Airshow, and therefore the airshow, for the reasons cited, would not be continued with.[88] These security risks have generally centred on RAF Waddington being used as a base for the operation of Reaper drones.[89]

In February 2016 it was announced that following an agreement between the Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, the venue of the airshow would switch from RAF Waddington to RAF Scampton, with the hope that the airshow would be resurrected in 2017.[88]

See also[edit]



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External links[edit]