RAF Leeming


RAF Leeming
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
Near Leeming, North Yorkshire in England
Hawk - RIAT 2007 (2374490391).jpg
A BAE Hawk of No. 100 Squadron
Straight and True[1]
RAF Leeming is located in North Yorkshire
RAF Leeming
RAF Leeming
Shown within North Yorkshire
Coordinates54°17′33″N 001°32′08″W / 54.29250°N 1.53556°W / 54.29250; -1.53556Coordinates: 54°17′33″N 001°32′08″W / 54.29250°N 1.53556°W / 54.29250; -1.53556
TypeSupport station
Area508 hectares (1,260 acres)[2]
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 1 Group (Air Combat)
Site history
Built1939 (1939)
In use1940 – present
Garrison information
Group Captain Blythe Crawford
Occupants See Based units section for full list.
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: QXL, ICAO: EGXE, WMO: 03257
Elevation40.5 metres (133 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
16/34 2,291 metres (7,516 ft) Asphalt
Source: UK MIL AIP Leeming[3]

Royal Air Force Leeming or RAF Leeming is a Royal Air Force station located near Leeming, North Yorkshire, England. It was opened in 1940 and was jointly used by the RAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Between 1950 and 1991, it operated mostly as a training base with Quick Reaction Force (QRF) Tornado F3 fighters based there in the latter stages of the Cold War and into the early 21st century. Since 2006, it has become the home of the deployable RAF communications cadre (90 Signals Unit) and the home of No. 135 Expeditionary Air Wing.


The area at the extreme western edge of the base was used in the 1930s by local flying enthusiasts. It took the name of Londonderry Aerodrome as it was closest to the hamlet of Londonderry in North Yorkshire.[4][5] In the late 1930s, the Royal Air Force bought up the aerodrome and most of the surrounding land to convert it into an RAF airfield, which became known as Royal Air Force Leeming. Part of the buildup of the base included building a decoy airfield at Burneston, some 4 miles (6.4 km) to the south.[6]


This Stirling, N3641/MG-D, seen being prepared for a flight, was the second Stirling to be delivered to No. 7 Squadron at Leeming and took part in their first raid over Rotterdam on the night of 10–11 February 1941.

The station opened in 1940 as a bomber station during the Second World War. In 1943 the station was assigned to No. 6 Group Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) with a sub-station at RAF Skipton-on-Swale. The main aircraft operated were Halifax bombers.[7][8][9]

A detachment of No. 219 Squadron RAF used the airfield between 4 October 1939 and 12 October 1940 when the main section of the squadron was at RAF Catterick flying the Bristol Blenheim IF.[10]


Following the war, the station became a night-fighter base, equipped initially with Mosquito and then Meteor and Javelin aircraft before becoming a Training Command airfield in 1961. The station was then home to No. 3 Flying Training School, equipped with the Jet Provost aircraft.[18]

There were also several other units using the airfield during the same period, these were:

In January 1987, the airfield closed for one year to allow installation of Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS). RAF Leeming became the home base for three Tornado squadrons over the next twenty years.[23]


Leeming functioned as a training base until 1988 when it became a front line base in the air defence role equipped with Tornado F3s. Initially it hosted Nos 11(F), 23, and 25(F) Squadrons, all flying the F3. 23 Squadron was disbanded on 1 March 1994 and its air and ground crews dispersed across the Station's remaining two squadrons.[24] This left two Tornado squadrons, which were half of the air defence fighter squadrons of the RAF. 11 Squadron was disbanded in October 2005. The last Tornado squadron at Leeming, No 25(F) Squadron, disbanded on 4 April 2008.[25]

No. 135 Expeditionary Air Wing was formed at Leeming on 1 April 2006 to create a deployable air force structure.[26] Since that time it has deployed several times for Baltic Air Policing.[27]

The station's air traffic control unit was named the best in the Royal Air Force in February 2012, winning the Raytheon Falconer Trophy.[28]

In March 2019, the Ministry of Defence indicated that RAF Leeming, alongside RAF Waddington and RAF Wittering, was being considered as the future home of the RAF Aerobatic Team the Red Arrows.[29] In May 2020 however it was confirmed that the team would move to Waddington.[30]

On 22 April 2020, the government announced that alpha testing of a prototype of the government's COVID-19 app was in progress at RAF Leeming.[31]

On 1 December 2020, it was announced that Yorkshire Universities Air Squadron had relocated to RAF Leeming from RAF Linton-on-Ouse as part of the latter's closure by the end of 2021.[32]

The first of nine Hawk 167 aircraft to be operated by a newly established Joint Qatar Emiri Air Force-RAF Hawk Training Squadron arrived at Leeming in early September 2021. The squadron will train pilots from both air forces and be home to the Qatari Emiri Air Force's entire fleet of Hawks.[33][34]

Role and operations

Air combat training

The only remaining jets are the BAe Hawks of 100 Squadron which arrived in 1995 and provide an air combat training service as well as support to the Joint Forward Air Controller Training and Standards Unit (JFACTSU).[35]

Supported units

607 (County of Durham) Squadron reformed at RAF Leeming on 5 January 2015. The Squadron formerly flew fighter aircraft and was disbanded in 1957. The squadron is a General Service Support (GSS) unit with many diverse roles such as chef, driver, intelligence analyst and suppliers.[36]

Based units

Flying and notable non-flying units based at RAF Leeming.[37][38]

Royal Air Force

No. 1 Group (Air Combat) RAF

No. 2 Group (Air Combat Support) RAF

No. 22 Group (Training) RAF


  • Joint Qatar Emiri Air Force-RAF Hawk Training Squadron – Hawk 167

The deployable elements of the station structure form the core of an Expeditionary Air Wing, No. 135 Expeditionary Air Wing. For Exercise 'Griffin Strike 2016' in April 2016, No. 135 EAW became the combined French-British No. 135 Combined Expeditionary Air Wing.[39]

Reduce to Produce

RAF Leeming had been host to a BAE Systems reverse assembly line process (Reduce to Produce (RTP)) programme in which redundant Tornado aircraft were brought into one of the hangars at RAF Leeming and stripped of all usable components. The process started with the F3 variant of the aircraft as it was the first to be withdrawn completely from service, and moved onto the GR4 variant later. In October 2017, it was announced that the full retirement of the Tornado aircraft from RAF service in 2019 meant that this process would end with the loss of 245 British Aerospace jobs between RAF Leeming and RAF Marham.[40][41][42]

Accidents and incidents

  • 21 February 1944 – a RCAF Halifax, LV836, of No. 427 Sqn crashed into farmland at Romanby, creating a fireball and killing all seven crew on impact. The aircraft had left RAF Leeming nine minutes earlier, at 00:15, on a bombing mission to Stuttgart. On 10 March 2010 a memorial to the crew was unveiled at the crash site, which is now part of Romanby Golf & Country Club.[43][44][45]
  • 13 August 1951 – two aircraft from RAF Leeming collided over Hudswell, near to Richmond, North Yorkshire. A cadet in the No. 228 Operational Conversion Unit Wellington aircraft was given the only serviceable parachute by Flight Lieutenant John Quinton, shown how to operate it and ordered to bale out. The other eight crew members of both aircraft died when their aircraft hit the ground.[46]
  • 22 October 1999 – a 100 Sqn Hawk struck a bridge and crashed into an unoccupied building near the village of Shap, killing the pilot and navigator. The RAF Board of Inquiry suggested that aircrew fatigue may have contributed to the accident. A jury returned a verdict of accidental death.[47]
  • 28 January 2016 – during a training sortie, the pilot of a 100 Sqn Hawk experienced partial loss of vision. The base commander considered instructing the pilot to eject over the North Sea, but instead scrambled another Hawk, flown by an instructor. The two aircraft flew in formation to Leeming, and conducted a successful talk down landing.[48]


Gate Guardian

A Tornado F3 aircraft now stands as a gate guardian outside the main gate of RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire

Leeming's gate guardian is now a Tornado F3,[49] commemorating its history as an air defence base, and the fact that many Tornados were scrapped/Reduced To Produce here.[50] The previous gate guardian XA634 is the world's only surviving Gloster Javelin FAW4, which spent most of its life as a testbed at the Gloster Aircraft Company and was offered for sale by tender in September 2014 by the Ministry of Defence.[51] In December 2014 it was announced that Gloucestershire Jet Age Museum had won the tender and purchased the aircraft.[52]

See also



  1. ^ Pine, L. G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 222. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ "Defence Estates Development Plan 2009 – Annex A". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 July 2009. p. 12. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  3. ^ "UK MIL AIP Leeming" (PDF). UK Military AIP. No.1 Aeronautical Information Documents Unit. 28 February 2019. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  4. ^ Coupland 1997, p. xviii.
  5. ^ "Air Day Aerodromes". Flight Magazine. London: Royal Aero Club. 26 (1, 326): 508. 24 May 1934. ISSN 0015-3710.
  6. ^ Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore (1982). Action stations 4; Military Airfields of Yorkshire (2 ed.). Cambridge: Patrick Stephens. p. 107. ISBN 0-85059-532-0.
  7. ^ Halley 1988, pp. 494–510.
  8. ^ Delve 1994, p. 62.
  9. ^ Sturtivant and Hamlin 2007, pp. 97, 125–126.
  10. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 72.
  11. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 27.
  12. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 26.
  13. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 54.
  14. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 37.
  15. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 48.
  16. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 90.
  17. ^ a b c Jefford 1988, p. 91.
  18. ^ History of Airfield from RAF Leeming Noise Insulation Grant Scheme survey report
  19. ^ Delve 2006, p. 169
  20. ^ "No 3 Flight Training School and No. 6 Flying Training School". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 5 February 2018. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  21. ^ "RAF – Northumbrian Universities Air Squadron". www.raf.mod.uk. Archived from the original on 7 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  22. ^ "Information regarding air cadets and RAF air experience flights" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. 8 October 2018. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  23. ^ Delve 2006, p. 170
  24. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 35.
  25. ^ "No. 25 Squadron returning to fly the Hawk T2". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  26. ^ Cotter 2008, p. 33.
  27. ^ "RAF Typhoon scramble intercepts Russian aircraft over the Romanian Black Sea | Royal Air Force". www.raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  28. ^ "Leeming's Air Traffic Control Squadron named best in RAF". Ministry of Defence. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  29. ^ "Three choices for new Red Arrows base". BBC News. 18 March 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  30. ^ "Red Arrows moving to RAF Waddington from RAF Scampton". BBC News. 18 May 2020. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  31. ^ Kelion, Leo (22 April 2020). "NHS coronavirus-tracing app is tested at RAF base". BBC News. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  32. ^ "RAF Leeming: And then there were two | RAF Leeming Station Facebook Page". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  33. ^ "RAF Leeming welcomes first Qatari Hawks". Royal Air Force. 2 September 2021. Retrieved 11 September 2021.
  34. ^ "Royal Air Force and Qatar Emiri Air Force Expand Defence Partnership". Royal Air Force. 1 April 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  35. ^ "JFACTSU Home". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  36. ^ "RAF 607 County of Durham". raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  37. ^ "RAF Leeming – Who's Based Here?". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  38. ^ "90 Signals Unit – Who is at the Unit". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  39. ^ "Royal Air Force – News by Date". www.raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  40. ^ "Nearly 2,000 jobs at risk as BAE Systems adjusts to declining workload The Engineer". www.theengineer.co.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  41. ^ "RAF Leeming RTP « News « Fast Air Photography". www.fast-air.co.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  42. ^ Flanagan, Emily (13 October 2017). "Jobs lost as BAE plans shake-up". Darlington and Stockton Times (41–2017). p. 5. ISSN 2040-3933.
  43. ^ "Memorial tribute to Halifax bomber crew unveiled at RAF Leeming". www.yorkpress.co.uk. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  44. ^ "Leeming Memorial – Romanby Golf Course – Halifax LV836". 427 Squadron Association. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  45. ^ "Air Crew Fallen Remembered at Memorial Unveiling". www.raf.mod.uk/. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  46. ^ "Wellington PG367". www.yorkshire-aircraft.co.uk. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  47. ^ "Fatal RAF jet crash linked to 'excessive' workload of pilot". www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  48. ^ "'Blind' RAF pilot saved by wingman who talked him down". www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  49. ^ Foster, Mark (11 June 2015). "Fighter jet on permanent sentry duty". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  50. ^ "Urban Ghosts Media is coming soon". Urban Ghosts Media is coming soon.
  51. ^ "SALE OF QTY 1 GLOSTER JAVELIN FAW 4 AIRCRAFT" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  52. ^ "BBC News – Gloucestershire Jet Age Museum buys Gloster Javelin". BBC Online. Retrieved 20 January 2015.


  • Cotter, Jarrod (2008). Royal Air Force celebrating 90 years. Stamford, UK: Key Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-946219-11-7.
  • Coupland, Peter (1997). Straight and True: A History of Royal Air Force Leeming. London: Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-569-1.
  • Delve, Ken (1994). The Sourcebook of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-85310-451-5.
  • Delve, Ken (2006). Northern England : Co. Durham, Cumbria, Isle of Man, Lancashire, Merseyside, Manchester, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Yorkshire. Ramsbury: Crowood. ISBN 1-86126-809-2.
  • Halley, James J. (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians). 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 (First edition). Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 978-1853100536.
  • Jefford, C. G. (2001). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912 (Second edition). Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 978-1840371413.
  • Sturtivant, Ray, ISO; Hamlin, John (2007). RAF Flying Training and Support Units since 1912. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians). ISBN 978-0-85130-365-9.

External links

  • Official website
  • Friends of Leeming Aviation Group
  • RAF Leeming Defence Aerodrome Manual
  • UK Military Aeronautical Information Publication – Leeming (EGXE)