MoD Boscombe Down

MoD Boscombe Down ' is the home of a military aircraft testing site, located near the town of Amesbury in Wiltshire, England. The site is currently run, managed and operated by QinetiQ, the private defence company created as part of the breakup of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in 2001 by the UK Ministry of Defence. It is also the home of the Empire Test Pilots' School.
The base was originally conceived, constructed, and operated as
Royal Air Force Boscombe Down, more commonly known as RAF Boscombe Down''', and since 1939, has evaluated aircraft for use by the British Armed Forces. The airfield has two runways, one of in length, and the second. The airfield's evaluation centre is currently home to Rotary Wing Test Squadron, Fast Jet Test Squadron, Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron, Handling Squadron, and the Empire Test Pilots' School.


First World War

An airfield first opened at the Boscombe Down site in October 1917 and operated as a Royal Flying Corps Training Depot Station. The airfield was known as Royal Flying Corps Station Red House Farm and trained aircrews for operational roles in France during the First World War. Between opening and early 1919 the station accommodated No. 6 Training Depot, No. 11 Training Depot and No. 14 Training Depot. When the United States of America entered the war in April 1917, the Royal Flying Corps began training ground and aircrews of Aviation Section of the US Army at the airfield. During 1918 the 166th Aero Squadron and 188th Aero Squadron were present. At the end of the war in November 1918, the airfield became an aircraft storage unit until 1920 when it closed and was returned to agricultural use.

Inter-war period

In 1930 the site reopened as Royal Air Force Boscombe Down as a bomber station in the Air Defence of Great Britain command, the fore-runner of RAF Fighter Command. The first unit to operate from the new airfield was No. 9 Squadron which started operating the Vickers Virginia heavy bomber on 26 February 1930. A second Virginia unit, No. 10 Squadron, arrived on 1 April 1931 and also operated the Handley Page Heyford. Both squadrons generated crews to allow the creation of new bomber squadrons at other airfields and. The following RAF squadrons were based at Boscombe Down between 1930 and 1939:
The Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment arrived from RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, on 9 September 1939, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War. The move marked the beginning of A&AEE Boscombe Down and aircraft research and testing at the station, a role which it has retained into the 21st century. About fifty aircraft and military and civilian personnel had arrived by mid-September 1939. The necessary facilities required for the specialist work carried out by the A&AEE was lacking at Boscombe Down and therefore its expansion resulted in many temporary buildings being constructed at the station in an unplanned manner.
Boscombe was used to test and evaluate many aircraft flown by the British Armed Forces during the Cold War. First flights of notable aircraft include the English Electric P 1, forerunner of the English Electric Lightning, the Folland Gnat and Midge, Hawker P.1067, Westland Wyvern, and the BAC TSR.2.
Part of the base was also used by the RAF School of Aviation Medicine.

Aviation trial and evaluation centre

With the end of the Cold War, the site was renamed the Aircraft and Armament Evaluation Establishment in 1992. All experimental work was moved to the Defence Research Agency. Responsibility for the site passed from the MoD Procurement Executive to the Defence Test and Evaluation Organisation in 1993.
During this period, the station may have been involved in assisting the United States with its black projects. On 26 September 1994, after an aircraft crashed on landing due to a nosewheel collapse, a USAF C5 Galaxy was redirected to the station. It is speculated that the crashed plane was an Aurora, a hypersonic spy plane. Whatever it was, it was disassembled and returned to the US by the C5 Galaxy. Both the British and American Governments have refused to comment on the incident.
Subsequently to the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in 1995.
Following the creation of QinetiQ in 2001, a twenty-five-year Long Term Partnering Agreement was established with the MoD. Boscombe Down remains a government military airfield, but operated by QinetiQ on behalf of the MoD. The Joint Test and Evaluation Group was established under the control of RAF Air Command, and together with QinetiQ, forms the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre. This unique partnership is charged with the test and evaluation of future and in-service military aircraft for all arms of the British Armed Forces. The military personnel of the JTEG play a central role in the test and evaluation process alongside their civilian QinetiQ colleagues.
From 1 May 2007, Boscombe Down became the home of the Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron ; which was combined from the two Royal Navy and Royal Air Force elements who were responsible for aircraft moves and post-crash management.
In October 2007, it was announced that RAF Boscombe Down would become a Quick Reaction Alert airfield from early 2008, offering round-the-clock fighter coverage for the South and South West of UK airspace.
A small part of Boscombe's history is being preserved in the United States. The Anglo American Lightning Organisation are returning to flight the former ETPS English Electric Lightning T.5, XS422. The group is basing the restoration in the US, as the UK Civil Aviation Authority is expected to refuse permission for the aircraft to fly in the UK. The voluntary group, made up of RAF and former RAF engineers, as well as civilian volunteers, has been carrying out a 'floor-up' restoration, and as of spring 2008, were around 80% mechanically complete. The project is currently seeking investors and supporters.
The Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron at RAF Boscombe Down was responsible for the flight testing of heavy aircraft. Prior to the title of Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron, the flight testing of multi-engined aircraft was conducted by 'B Squadron'. Following-on from B Squadron, the department became known as Fixed Wing Test Squadron ; however, during the late 1980s, the title once more changed to that of the Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron.On 16 June 2009, HATS formally handed over its flight testing duties to the newly re-formed 206 Squadron, which forms part of the Air Warfare Centre, who are headquartered at RAF Waddington.
On 1 April 2010, the Fast Jet Test Squadron was amalgamated into No.41 Squadron to create a new entity, 41 Squadron Test and Evaluation Squadron, based at RAF Coningsby.
The following units were here at some point:

Current RAF units using the airfield

The following flying and non-flying units are based at MOD Boscombe Down.
RAF Air Warfare Centre
Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre
No. 22 Group RAF
No. 38 Group RAF