This is a brief photo-report from visits to RAF Wittering just a few weeks after the Government had announced on October 19, 2010 the results of its Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
The devastating news and a complete shock to all was that the Harrier was to be withdrawn from RAF service. 20(R) Squadron had been disbanded on March 31, 2010 to be replaced by 4(R) Squadron as the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit (OCU).
Morale was low during my visit, which had been nearly cancelled after the SDSR announcement. RAF and Royal Navy personnel alike did not know where there future lay. The Harrier pilots were told that they would be kept current until December 16 when Harrier operations were to end. Harrier sorties were reduced to around just two per day.
At the time it was announced it was not clear exactly what the finer details were, regarding squadron disbandments and air base closures.
What is known includes;
RAF personnel to be reduced to 33,000 by 2015
Harrier to be retired by April 2011 changed to December 15, 2010. 4(R) Squadron Harriers to move from Wittering to Cottesmore by December 14, 2010.
The Tornado GR4 Fleet will be reduced to a size commensurate with current and contingent operations based on a minimum of five operational Squadrons and an OCU. The Tornado will retire progressively once the Typhoon Force has the capability and force size to take on the Offensive Support task.
Nimrod MRA4 project to be cancelled.
Withdraw the Sentinel R.1 with 5(AC) Squadron once it is no longer required to support operations in Afghanistan.
Withdraw the C-130 Hercules transport fleet ten years earlier with a transition to the larger A400M.
From 2013 withdraw VC-10 and the three variants of Tristar aircraft as transition is towards the Airbus A330 future strategic transport and tanker aircraft.
Decommission HMS Ark Royal immediately.
Decommission either the helicopter landing ship HMS Ocean or HMS Illustrious following a short study of which would provide the most effective helicopter platform capability, and place one landing and command ship at extended readiness.
During the week before their move to Cottesmore 4(R) Squadron Harriers visited a number of air bases around the country as a final farewell.