'Fighter Town (UK)'
November 2006 - April 2007
RAF Coningsby is one of the UK's three air defence bases and also the home of six fast jet units. Coningsby's diverse range of inmates, which include; the Typhoon, Tornado (GR.4/F.3), Harrier and Jaguar, makes it the UK's own 'Fighter Town'. For the last 30 years Coningsby has also been the home of The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) flying the RAF's last Lancaster bomber, a Dakota, five Spitfires and two Hurricanes. Two Chipmunks, the last in RAF service, are used for training fighter pilots.
Coningsby as part of 1 Group has become the home of the Bae/Eurofighter Typhoon since the first aircraft arrived in the summer of 2005. The Typhoon is 'the future of air defence' and currently the first 35 Typhoons to enter service are based here. This number will increase when the fourth Typhoon squadron, 11(F), reforms, its first aircraft arrived in September 2006 and was the 35th production aircraft for the RAF. By end of September 2006, 100 Eurofighters had been delivered to the four partner countries (United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Germany).
|3(Fighter) Squadron Typhoon F.2 (ZJ926 'QO-Y') consumed in the shimmering heat from the jet engine.|
Coningsby's flying units:
3(Fighter) Squadron, the first operational Typhoon Squadron.
17(Reserve) Squadron, the Typhoon Operational Evaluation Unit (OEU).
29(Reserve) Squadron, the Typhoon Operational Conversion Unit (OCU).
41(Reserve) Squadron, the Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJ&W OEU).
6 Squadron relocated from Coltishall with the last remaining Jaguars and retired on April 30, 2007.
11(Fighter) Squadron, became the second operational Typhoon Squadron.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF). 17(R) Squadron was tasked to bring the Typhoon into service and arrived at Coningsby on April 1, 2005. Later, on November 4, 2005, 29(R) Squadron stood up as the Operational Conversion Unit to train Typhoon pilots. On March 31, 2006 the Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJ&W OEU) was renamed 41(R) Squadron. Also on March 31, 2006 3(F) Squadron moved to Coningsby. To complete a significant day in the history of RAF Coningsby, 6 Squadron relocated here with what was left of the Jaguar fleet. The Jaguars were to remain here until May 2007 when they will finally be retired and 6 Squadron disbanded prior to reforming with the Typhoon in 2008. The reforming and relocating of key RAF units at Coningsby enabled the 121 Expeditionary Air Wing (121 EAW) to be formed on the April 1, 2006. The concept of forming this wing, within the Air Force, is to provide a deployable air force structure, configured to provide discreet units of agile interoperable and capable air power. RAF Coningsby is one of nine RAF Stations, which will train individual units to provide multi-role capability.
|Early Morning Launch|
|Left to right: Typhoon pair (F.2 ZJ920 'BX' and T.1 ZJ813 'BL') and F.2 (ZJ911 'BZ') all of 29(R) Squadron. Tornado GR.4 (ZD739) of 41(R) Squadron.|
|Left to right: 3(F) Squadron Typhoon four ship. Typhoon F.2s (two shots of ZJ925 'QO-R', ZJ916 'QO-U' and ZJ918 'QO-L').|
|Left to right: 41(R) Squadron departures; Tornado F.3 (ZG731) and Tornado GR.4 (ZA609) April 2007.|
|Left to right: 6 Squadron's Jaguar T.4 (XX847 'EZ') over-shooting prior to landing, the sortie started at 8:14. Jaguar GR.3As (XX724 'EC' and XX738 'ED') return to the south-side shelters from the eastern end in April 2007.|
|Left to right: Tornado GR.4 (ZA611) of 41(R) Squadron carrying a Raytheon Paveway II 1,000 lb (454kg) Precision Laser-Guided Bomb. Typhoon T.1 (ZJ805 'BD') and Typhoon F.2 (ZJ911 'BZ') both of 29(R) Squadron.|
|Left to right: 3(F) Squadron Typhoon F.2s (including ZJ922 'QO-C' and ZJ926 'QO-Y').|
|Left to right: Two 41(R) Squadron Tornado GR.4s (ZA611 and ZD739) return from their solo sorties, the crew of ZA611 had jumped clear after they had stopped their aircraft on the runway after landing. 29(R) Squadron Typhoon's (F.2 ZJ921 'BW' and T.1 ZJ802 'BB') roll off the runway at the eastern end. April 2007.|
|Left to right: Typhoon F.2s (ZJ916 'QO-U', ZJ919 'QO-W', ZJ926 'QO-Y' and ZJ929 'QO-A') of 3(F) Squadron.|
|Left to right: Typhoon F.2 (ZJ928 'AF') of 17 Squadron and Typhoon F.2 (ZJ922 'QO-C') of 3(F) Squadron.|
|Left to right: Departing two-ship sortie from eastern end Typhoon F.2s (ZJ911 'BZ' and 'BK') of 29(R) Squadron.|
|Left to right: Emerging from the south-side shelters are; 6 Squadron Jaguar GR.3s (XX119 'EB' and XX729 'EL') and 11 Squadron Typhoon F.2 (ZJ919 'DC') and 17 Squadron Typhoon F.2 (ZJ912 'AB') in April 2007.|
|Left to right: Landing at the eastern end; Typhoon F.2s (ZJ916 'QO-U' and ZJ929 'QO-A') of 3(F) Squadron and Harrier GR.9 (ZG508) of 41(R) Squadron. 3(F) Squadron Typhoon F.2 (ZJ929 'QO-A') taxis to south side from eastern end in April 2007.|
|Left to right: Landing at the western end; 11(F) Squadron Typhoon F.2 (ZJ919 'DC'), 17 Squadron Typhoon F.2 (ZJ912 'AB') and 29(R) Squadron Typhoon T.1s (ZJ809 'BH' and ZJ802 'BB') in April 2007.|
|End of Day Recovery|
|Left to right: Typhoon F.2s (ZJ922 'QO-C' and ZJ920 'BX') perform a series of practice approaches in the rapidly fading light.|
|QRA Swap Over
Since the day after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, Coningsby has had two Tornado F.3s deployed on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties. The F.3s belonging to 25 Squadron at RAF Leeming, are armed with air to air missiles (AMRAAM and ASRAAM) and are held on the ground for immediate take-off. The two aircraft at Coningsby are tasked to protect the United Kingdom's airspace in the southern sector. Two further Tornado F.3s are on QRA duties at RAF Leuchars in Scotland. QRA fulfills two concurrent functions. Firstly to meet the UK's NATO commitments for air policing and secondly for combating the increased terrorist threats against the UK. Trials with two Typhoon F.2s started in December 2006, but no aircraft were launched. On June 29, 2007 3(F) Squadron Typhoon F.2s took over responsibility for the Southern QRA replacing the 25 Squadron Tornado F.3 detachment.
|Left to right: Tornado F.3s (ZE168 'FA' arrives and ZE204 'UJ' still in 11 Squadron markings, departs) operating with 25 Squadron.|
|A Days Visitors|
|Left to right: Tornado GR.4 (ZA549 '041') of 9 Squadron from RAF Marham, Beech Super King Air B200 (ZK451 'K') of 3 FTS / 45(R) Squadron at RAF Cranwell and a Dominie T.1 of 55(R) Squadron again from RAF Cranwell.|
Royal New Zealand Flypast Rehearsal
The Government of New Zealand designed a monument to symbolise the contribution and sacrifice of its forces during the First and World War Twos. The modern bronze memorial comprising of 16 inscribed crosses is located at Hyde Park in London. The ceremony was to take place on November 11, 2006 with personnel from the New Zealand forces and a flypast of one of it's Boeing 757s with three RAF Typhoon's from 3(F) Squadron. A rehearsal of the flypast took place over RAF Coningsby two days earlier.
Left: The flypast rehearsal over-flying Coningsby, it formated 20 miles out.
|Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757-2K2 (NZ7571) on approach and landing at Coningsby before and after joining up with the 3(F) Squadron Typhoons. This is one of two Boeing 757s bought by the RNZAF in May 2003, the other was at Brize Norton.|
Coningsby is a great place to capture images of a full range of the RAF's fast jets and other visiting aircraft, from a number of excellent vantage points. If you have more time then the BBMF Visitors' Centre, which attracts around 20,000 visitors a year, is worth checking out.
My shots were taken at various locations from the end of runway 26 alongside B1192, at eastern end of the airfield, see map as also in April at the western end. As most of the airfield's perimeter fence is 10 feet (3m) high a nine rung stepladder is useful. At the runway end the fence is just six feet (2m) high and there I used a three rung stepladder. On the road landing and approach shots are easier as the threshold is so close to the B1192 road.
My Canon 100-400mm lens proved ideal for most of the shots taken, although I did need a smaller lens for a few of the taxiway shots. I chose a good sunny day in November specifically to take advantage of the sharp low light and to capture the setting sun, which coincided with the final recoveries of the day, which ended at 16:10.