Coningsby Airfield History

RAF Coningsby Airfield
(Map edited to show runways)
RAF Coningsby Crest
© Crown Copyright/MOD 2010
Airfield Code:EGXCGoogle Earth Co-ordinates:
53°5'27.5"N 0°10'12.0"W
03/21 4200ft x 150ft - 08/26 5850ft x 150ft - 12/30 4650ft x 150ft
Current Runway:
07/25 9003ft x 200ft
Station History

Construction started in 1937 at RAF Coningsby, and construction was still underway when hostilities were del cared. The base was finally opened in November 1940 as a bomber base, under 5 Group, Bomber Command. The first resident squadron was, No.106 Squadron, they arrived in February 1941, operating Hampden's. They were soon followed by No.97 Squadron in April 1940, equipped with Manchester's. For this period the main tasks for RAF Coningsby's squadrons were mining and bombing operations. Aircraft from Coningsby flew in the 1000 Bomber Raid in May 1942. Shortly thereafter between September 1942 and August 1943 Coningsby was effectively closed while hard runways were laid. No.617 Dambusters Squadron moved in for a short period between August 1943 and January 1944 before departing just up the road to RAF Woodhall Spa. Thereafter the 5 Group Marker Force was established in early 1944 and operated from RAF Coningsby and its satellites at RAF Woodhall Spa and RAF Metheringham. This Force led 5 Group to its night bombing successes of the last 15 months of the war.

For a short period after the war the resident squadrons operated Lincoln before these were replaced in 1946 by Mosquito until March 1950. Thereafter the Station was inactive for six months whilst the resident squadrons, re-equipped from Mosquito to Washington's. These remained until 1953 when the introduction of the Canberra brought the heavy jet bomber era to Lincolnshire. From later 1954 until 1956 it was closed for major expansion, including runway extension, under contractors Gleesons. The Canberra departed in 1961 and in 1962 Coningsby became home to No.3 Squadron of the Vulcan bomber force (Nos. 9, 12 and 35 Squadrons) until 1964. It was then selected as the future base for the TSR.2 which was cancelled by the government. By the end of the year it was placed under care and maintenance following cancellation of the new aircraft.

In 1966 RAF Coningsby re-roled from bomber to fighter base as it was selected as the first home base for the new Phantom fighter-bomber and transferred to Fighter Command and No.38 Group. It then transferred to Air Support Command (former Transport Command) in December 1967 in line with the Phantom's initial role. In December 1967 the first ground-based courses for Phantom aircrew began at No.5 School of Technical Training. When the Phantom FGR.2 arrived in August 1968 the School became No.3 Squadron of No.228 OCU. No.228 OCU began its first aircrew course in October 1968.

The first two Phantom squadrons were created in 1970, No.6 Squadron and No.54 Squadron, in the ground attack role and joined later by No.41(F) Squadron in September 1972 in the tactical recce role. In October 1974 the Station transferred from No.38 Group to No.11 Group within Strike Command, reflecting the change in primary role from ground attack to air defence. This brought No.29 Squadron in for the AD role. Treble 1 reformed at Coningsby in 1974 before transferring to RAF Leuchers. The next step change came in November 1984 with the arrival of the first Tornado F.2 aircraft. No.229 OCU reformed to support the aircraft and feeding No.29 Squadron with F.3s from 1987 and No.5 Squadron in 1988.

RAF Coningsby was the first airfield to receive the Tornado and was the first to receive its replacement, the Eurofighter Typhoon. No.56 Squadron was based there until March 2003 but has relocated to RAF Leuchars to allow airfield improvements required for the arrival of the Typhoon. No.5 Squadron also flew F.3s from Coningsby until its disbandment in 2003. The Typhoon arrived in May 2005 with No.17 Squadron, after the RAF first publically displayed the aircraft at Coningsby in December 2004. In July 2007, the Typhoon became operational from the base (and the UK). Coningsby is the home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (since March 1976 when it arrived from RAF Coltishall) and their Visitor Centre. The BBMF operate one of two remaining airworthy Avro Lancaster bombers in the world besides five Spitfires of various types, two Hurricanes, a Dakota and two Chipmunks.

RAF Coningsby, having started life as a wartime bomber airfield, has now evolved into the RAF’s foremost fighter base, responsible for the evolution of the Services air defence tactics and doctrine. As part of 1 Group, RAF Coningsby is one of the three air defence fighter bases in the United Kingdom. This new phase in the Stations history was heralded with the relocation of No.17(R) Squadron, the Operational Evaluation Unit, to RAF Coningsby on 1st April 2005, with the tasking of bringing the Typhoon aircraft into service. On the 4th November 2005, No.29(Reserve) Squadron stood up as the Operational Conversion Unit, training pilots on the Typhoon. The station is also the home of No. XVII(R) Squadron, the Operational Evaluational Unit, No.29(R) Squadron the Operational Conversion Unit and No.3(F) Squadron the first Typhoon Operational Squadron, flying the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4, F.2 and T.1.

On 31 March 2006, No.3(F) Squadron at RAF Cottesmore moved to RAF Coningsby to operate as No.3(F) Squadron, the first Operational Typhoon Squadron. The formation of No.3(F) Squadron marks the beginning of the transition of the Royal Air Force to a more agile, capable, flexible and adaptable expeditionary force, better equipped to meet the demands that are likely to be placed on it in the future. On the same day the Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit acquired Squadron status when it was renamed as No.41(Reserve) Squadron. The latest Coningsby acquisition is No.6 Squadron who relocated from RAF Coltishall to Coningsby on the 1st April 2006 to fly the remainder of the Jaguar fleet until its disbandment.

The RAF's Fast Jet and Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit (FJWOEU), was a merger of the Strike/Attack OEU (previously at MoD Boscombe Down), the Tornado F.3 OEU (previously at RAF Waddington) and the Air-Guided Weapons OEU (previously at RAF Valley). Today, the unit operates under the shadow squadron number plate of No.41(R) Squadron. FJWOEU is tasked with operational testing and evaluation of existing and forthcoming aircraft and weapons.

On the 1st April 2006, No.121 Expeditionary Air Wing was formed. The concept of forming this wing within the Air Force will provide a deployable air force structure, configured to provide discreet units of agile interoperable and capable air power. Coningsby is one of nine RAF Stations which will train individuals units to provide Multi-role capability. RAF Coningsby has operated as No.121 EAW twice before, once in 1945 flying Typhoon Fighters and again in 1956 with Venom Fighters, as part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force.

Aircraft and Squadrons
November 1940RAF Coningsby opens.
February 1941No.106 SqnOperating the Handley Page Hampden and Avro Manchester/Lancaster. Left Coningsby in October 1942.
March 1941No.97 SqnOperating the Avro Lancaster/Manchester. Left Coningsby in March 1942.
September 1942Station closed for hard runways to be laid. Re-opened in August 1943.
August 1943No.617 SqnOperating the Avro Lancaster. Left Coningsby in January 1944.
January 1944No.619 SqnOperating the Avro Lancaster. Left Coningsby in April 1944.
January 1944No.61 SqnOperating the Avro Lancaster. Left Coningsby in April 1944.
April 1944No.83 SqnOperating the Avro Lancaster/Lincoln. Left Coningsby in November 1946.
February 1951No.15 SqnOperating the Boeing B-29 Washington and English Electric Canberra. Left Coningsby in May 1954.
1954Station closed for major expansion and runway extensions. Re-opened in 1956.
June 1959No.9 SqnOperating the English Electric Canberra. Squadron left Coningsby in July 1961.
July 1959No.12 SqnOperating the English Electric Canberra. Squadron left Coningsby in July 1961.
March 1962No.9 SqnOperating the English Electric Canberra and Avro Vulcan. Left Coningsby in November 1964.
July 1962No.12 SqnOperating the Avro Vulcan. Left Coningsby in November 1964.
December 1962No.35 SqnOperating the Avro Vulcan. Left Coningsby in November 1964.
1964Station put on care and maintenance. Re-opened in 1966.
February 1968No.228 OCUOperating the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. Left Coningsby in 1987.
May 1969No.6 SqnOperating the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. Left Coningsby in October 1974.
September 1969No.54 SqnOperating the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. Left Coningsby in April 1974.
April 1972No.41 SqnOperating the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. Left Coningsby in February 1977.
July 1974No.111 SqnOperating the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. Left Coningsby in November 1975.
December 1974No.29 SqnOperating the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom and Panavia Tornado. Squadron disbanded in 1998.
March 1976BBMFOperating the Avro Lancaster, Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane and Douglas Dakota.
May 1979No.111 SqnOperating the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. Left Coningsby in December 1979.
February 1988No.5 SqnOperating the Panavia Tornado. Left Coningsby in 2003.
April 2004No.41 SqnOperating the Eurofighter Typhoon, BAe Harrier and Panavia Tornado.
May 2005No.17 SqnOperating the Eurofighter Typhoon.
June 2005No.29 SqnOperating the Eurofighter Typhoon.
March 2006No.3 SqnOperating the Eurofighter Typhoon.
April 2006No.6 SqnOperating the SEPECAT Jaguar. Squadron disbanded in May 2007.
March 2007No.11 SqnOperating the Eurofighter Typhoon.