RAF Odiham

RAF Odiham
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Near Odiham, Hampshire in England
RAF Chinook Mark 6 Helicopter MOD 45158788.jpg
An RAF Chinook HC6 based at Odiham.
RAF Odiham crest.png
Promise and fulfil
RAF Odiham is located in Hampshire
RAF Odiham
RAF Odiham
Shown within Hampshire
Coordinates51°14′03″N 000°56′34″W / 51°14′03″N 000°56′34″W / 51.23417; -0.94278
TypeRoyal Air Force station
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byJoint Helicopter Command
Websitewww.raf.mod.uk/rafodiham
Site history
Built1925 (1925)
In use1925-Present
Garrison information
Current
commander
Group Captain Lee Turner BEng Hons RAF
Occupants
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: ODH, ICAO: EGVO, WMO: 03761
Elevation123.5 metres (405 ft) AMSL
Runways
DirectionLength and surface
09/271,838 metres (6,030 ft) Asphalt
Helipads
NumberLength and surface
09/27905.2 metres (2,970 ft) Grass
05/23496.9 metres (1,630 ft) Grass
Source: RAF Odiham Defence Aerodrome Manual[1]

Royal Air Force Odiham or more simply RAF Odiham (IATA: ODH, ICAO: EGVO) is a Royal Air Force station situated a little to the south of the historic village of Odiham in Hampshire, England. It is the home of the Royal Air Force's heavy lift helicopter, the Chinook. Its current station commander is Group Captain Lee Turner BEng Hons RAF.[2]

History

Aircraft operations began from the site in 1925 but it was not until October 1937 that it was opened as a permanent airfield, ironically by Erhard Milch, then the Chief of Staff for the Luftwaffe.[2]

Second World War

During the Second World War North American Mustangs and Hawker Typhoons were flown out of the base. After the Allied invasion of Europe the site became a prisoner of war camp.

Postwar

Following the end of the War RAF Fighter Command assumed control of the base and operated Supermarine Spitfires, Hawker Hunters and Gloster Javelins. No. 54 Squadron RAF moved in 1949, flying de Havilland Vampires,i before being reequipped with Meteors The squadron once again re-formed, this time at RAF Odiham on 15 August 1954 as a night fighter unit equipped with Meteor NF12s and 14s. Training began almost immediately, but it took until the end of October for the squadron to reach a strength of 12 NF12 or 14s and one Meteor 7 for training and categorisation.

When Wing Commander Birchfieldh with 46 squadron took over as commanding officer from Squadron Leader Ross, the manpower situation was improving, but mechanical-transport shortages caused problems for the squadron, whose dispersal was on the opposite side of the airfield from the rest of the station. By June 1955, the squadron had received "some Meteor 8s for target towing" and its strength had reached 48 officers and 110 airmen. By August, when the squadron went to Acklington for its armament practice station, there were 16 aircraft.

Javelins of 46 squaudron

In January 1956, the unit began converting to Javelins,[24] and the first arrived in February, together with eight Meteor NF 11s: the NF 12s were sent off to No. 72 Squadron RAF. By May, all squadron pilots had converted and 15 Javelins were held; eight were earmarked for intensive flying trials whose target was 1,000 hours in two months — a feat believed by some to be impossible, but achieved in fact by "a wartime spirit."[citation needed] On 15 June, the squadron lost its commanding officer, Wing Commander Birchfield, in a Javelin crash. He was replaced by Wing Commander H. E. White.

Over the years, the squadron continued to train by participating in many exercises such as Halyard, Cold Wing, Kingpin Adex, Ciano and Bombex, and it took part in various trials, including those of new pressure suits and helmets. The problem of poor serviceability and lack of spares continued when the Mk 2 Javelins replaced the Mk1s in 1957.

In April 1959, the squadron sent six Javelins to the French Air Force 1/30 Squadron at Tours, whilst the French sent Sud Aviation Vautour aircraft to Odiham. In June the squadron won the Ingpen Trophy after being third in 1957 and second in 1958. On 30 June 1961, the squadron was disbanded again and being relocated to RAF Stradishall in 1959. As part of her coronation celebrations Queen Elizabeth II reviewed the Royal Air Force at Odiham in 1953.

After a short period in "care and maintenance" status the base was reopened as part of Transport Command. In this role Westland Whirlwind and then Bristol Belvedere helicopters were operated from the base. From 1961 to 1981 the Westland Wessex was based here, joined by the Aérospatiale Puma of 33 Squadron and 230 Squadron in 1970. 230 Squadron moved to RAF Gutersloh in Germany in 1980.

In 1981 the Wessex helicopters of 72 Squadron moved to RAF Aldergrove, followed by 33 Squadron's Pumas in 1997 to RAF Benson. The Wessex moved to RAF Benson and continued to support SHFNI at RAF Aldergrove.