No. 13 Squadron RAF


Number 13 Squadron, also written as XIII Squadron, is a squadron of the Royal Air Force which operate the General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle from RAF Waddington since reforming on 26 October 2012.[3] The unit first formed as part of the Royal Flying Corps on 10 January 1915 and went on to fly the Martinsyde G.100, the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2, the SPAD VII and SPAD XIII, the Sopwith Dolphin during the First World War. In Second World War it started out operating the Westland Lysander for army cooperation. From late 1942 it used Blenheims in North Africa but in 1943 squadron converted to Ventura for coastal patrols and convoy escort duties. Post war it operated Mosquito before transitioning to the new jet aircraft Gloster Meteor and English Electric Canberra for photoreconnaissance. From 1 January 1990, it operated the Panavia Tornado, initially the GR1A at RAF Honington and later the GR4/4A at RAF Marham where it temporarily disbanded on 13 May 2011.[4]

No. XIII Squadron RAF
Squadron badge
Active10 January 1915 – 1 April 1918 (RFC)
1 April 1918 – 31 December 1919 (RAF)
1 April 1924 – 19 April 1946
1 September 1946 – 1 January 1982
1 January 1990 – 13 May 2011
26 October 2012 – present
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
TypeRemotely Piloted Air System squadron
RoleIntelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) and attack
Part ofNo. 1 Group
Home stationRAF Waddington
Nickname(s)'The Stabbed Cats'
Motto(s)Adjuvamus tuendo
(Latin for '"We assist by watching"')[1]
AircraftGeneral Atomics MQ-9A Reaper
Battle honours
Squadron codeAN (1939) OO (1939-1942)
Squadron badge heraldryIn front of a dagger, a lynx's head affrontee.[2]
Squadron markingsRAF 13 Sqn.svg


World War IEdit

No. XIII Squadron RFC was formed at RAF Gosport, Hampshire, on 10 January 1915 and moved to France and the Western Front on 19 October 1915, initially on Army co-operation duties and subsequently on bombing raids, pioneering formation bombing. Aircraft types operated during the war included the Martinsyde G.100, the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2, the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8, the SPAD VII and SPAD XIII, and the Sopwith Dolphin fighters. The squadron disbanded on 31 December 1919.[5]

World War IIEdit

The unit had reformed at RAF Kenley on 1 April 1924 and inter-war years saw the squadron operate from various UK bases equipped with a variety of aircraft types including the Bristol F.2, Armstrong Whitworth Atlas, Hawker Audax and Hawker Hector for army cooperation.[5] By January 1939 the squadron was equipped with Westland Lysanders and moved to France on 2 October until late May 1940 when it withdrew to UK bases following the Fall of France.[6]

In May 1941 No. XIII Squadron changed role and theatre, flying a variety of bomber aircraft including the Bristol Blenheim and Douglas Boston light bombers in the Mediterranean until the end of the war,[7] disbanding on 19 April 1946.[8]

Cold War (1946–1982)Edit

Canberra PR.9 XH130 of No. 13 (Photographic Reconnaissance) Squadron in 1964

No. XIII Squadron reformed as No. 13 (Photographic Reconnaissance) Squadron on 1 September 1946 at RAF Ein Shemer, Palestine, when No. 680 Squadron was renumbered.[8] Peace heralded the return to reconnaissance duties, with the unit flying the de Havilland Mosquito PR.34. Moving to Egypt, the squadron converted to the Gloster Meteor PR.10 in 1952 and by 1956 was operating the English Electric Canberra PR.7.[9]

During the 1956 Suez Crisis, the squadron flew reconnaissance flights over Syria from Cyprus, which resulted in one Canberra being shot down by the Syrian Air Force.[10]

In 1978, the squadron moved to RAF Wyton near Huntingdon in the UK, flying Canberra PR.7 and PR.9s, built by Short Brothers, until the unit disbanded on 1 January 1982.[7]

Panavia Tornado (1990–2011)Edit

RAF Honington & Gulf War (1990–1994)Edit

The squadron reformed at RAF Honington on 1 January 1990 equipped with reconnaissance Tornado GR.1A aircraft. These aircraft were equipped with the new and somewhat embryonic reconnaissance equipment designed to exploit the night, all-weather capability of the Tornado by using a unique system of infra-red sensors and video recorders. The complete system is carried and allows the Navigator to either view the imagery in real time or later in the mission. As the Allied Coalition began to deploy forces to the Gulf in the latter part of 1990, it quickly became apparent that the unique night reconnaissance capability of the Tornado GR.1A could provide vital intelligence to the Allied commanders. As a result, on 15/16 January 1991, immediately before hostilities commenced, 6 aircraft were deployed to Saudi Arabia. During the first nights of the War, the Reconnaissance Wing successfully discovered several of the elusive Scud sites.[11]

The majority of sorties were however, tasked into Central and Eastern Iraq to identify the disposition of the various Iraqi ground forces in preparation for the ground offensive. Although the rest of the Coalition Air Forces moved to medium level operations after the first few nights of the air war, the GR.1As operated at night and at low-level for the duration of the conflict. The Squadron was also fundamental to the success of the Tornado/TIALD (Thermal Imaging And Laser Designation) combination. 4 XIII Squadron crews began the work-up from mid-January and, after encouraging results, four aircraft flew to Tabuk.[12]

After the war, the Squadron continued its peacetime training role at RAF Honington as well as taking part in Operation Jural, the monitoring of a No-Fly Zone in the South of Iraq below the 32nd parallel north.[13]

RAF Marham (1994–2011)Edit

Tornado GR.4A ZG712 of No. 13 Squadron as seen at the 2007 CIAF air show in the Czech Republic

On 1 February 1994, No. XIII Squadron moved to RAF Marham. Since that time, the Squadron has taken part in a number of successful exercises around the world from Yuma in America to Penang, Malaysia. Deployments to operational theatres have continued to be a major feature of the squadron's life having deployed on Operation Warden and Operation Bolton to monitor both the Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones in Iraq. XIII Squadron crews joined the Ali Al Salem Combat Air Wing (Composite RAF Squadron formed from the Tornado GR4 Force for Gulf War 2) in early 2003 and flew Scud Hunting missions in the Western Desert of Iraq during the Iraq War of 2003. The squadron also flew the last sortie by a Tornado in support of Operation Telic in 2009.[4]

In the summer of 2010 the squadron flew Close Air Support in Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick,[4] and in 2011 they fired Storm Shadow missiles against Libya in the early days of Operation Ellamy.[4] A few weeks later, on 13 May 2011, the squadron was disbanded as part of the reductions announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010.[4]

MQ-9 Reaper (2012–present)Edit

At the disbandment parade of XIII (Tornado) Squadron in May 2011, the Chief of the Air Staff announced the formation of a second unit operating the MQ-9 Reaper RPAS, which would receive the XIII Squadron numberplate. XIII (Reaper) Squadron was reformed on 26 October 2012 at RAF Waddington.[14][15] Subsequently, the Squadron flew the first remote operational mission from UK soil towards the end of April 2013[16] and conducted its first remote weapons strike a few days later.[17]

The squadron will re-equip with Protector RG Mk1 when that comes into service around 2024.[18]

Aircraft operatedEdit

List of aircraft operated by No. 13 Squadron:[8]

See alsoEdit


  • Halley, J.J., The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918-1988, 1988, Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, ISBN 0-85130-164-9
  • Jefford, C G (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.


  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 6. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ The Squadron had used the dagger for some time and the lynx's head indicates vigilance. Approved by King George VI in February 1937.
  3. ^ RAF to get new Reaper squadron Archived 22 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c d e "No XIII Squadron Disbandment – RAF Marham". Royal Air Force. 13 May 2011. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  5. ^ a b Halley, 1988, p. 44
  6. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 28
  7. ^ a b Halley, 1988, p. 45
  8. ^ a b c "No.13 Squadron". National Cold War Exhibition. Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  9. ^ "No 13 Squadron". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  10. ^ Nicolle, David; Nordeen, Lon (1996). Phoenix over the Nile: a history of Egyptian air power, 1932-1994. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 346. ISBN 978-1560986263.
  11. ^ "British Military Aviation in 1991". Royal air Force Museum. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  12. ^ Bowman, Martin (2016). Jet Wars in the Nuclear Age: 1972 to the Present Day. Pen & Sword. ISBN 978-1473837720.
  13. ^ "Sir Stephen Dalton - LLD (Doctor of Laws)". University of Leicester. 14 July 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  14. ^ "13 Squadron reformed October 2012". Royal Air Force Association Costa Blanca Branch. 26 October 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  15. ^ Clements, Richard (15 January 2013) UK’s Royal Air Force to support French forces deployed to Mali with airlifters. And drones The Aviationist, Retrieved 5 February 2013
  16. ^ "Armed drones operated from RAF base in UK, says MoD". BBC News. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  17. ^ "RAF crew conducts first Reaper strike in Afghanistan from UK soil". Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  18. ^ Allison, George (17 September 2021). "Second Protector squadron to be 13 Squadron".


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External linksEdit

  • Official website