RAF Leeming

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. Between 1950 and 1991, it operated mostly as a training base with Quick Reaction Force 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 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. 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 to the south.


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 with a sub-station at RAF Skipton-on-Swale. The main aircraft operated were Halifax bombers.
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.
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.
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. RAF Leeming became the home base for three Tornado squadrons over the next twenty years.


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, 23, and 25 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. 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 Squadron, disbanded on 4 April 2008.
The station's air traffic control unit was named the best in the Royal Air Force in February 2012, winning the Raytheon Falconer Trophy.
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. In May 2020 however it was confirmed that the team would move to Waddington.
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.

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.

Expeditionary Air Wing

No. 135 Expeditionary Air Wing was formed at Leeming on 1 April 2006 to create a deployable air force structure.

Supported units

607 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 unit with many diverse roles such as chef, driver, intelligence analyst and suppliers.

Based units

Flying and notable non-flying units based at RAF Leeming.

Royal Air Force

No. 1 Group RAF
No. 2 Group RAF
No. 22 Group RAF
No. 38 Group RAF
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.

Reduce to Produce

RAF Leeming has been host to a reverse assembly line process whereby redundant Tornado aircraft are 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 will end with the loss of 245 British Aerospace jobs between RAF Leeming and RAF Marham. BAE Systems are undertaking the RTP process.

Accidents and incidents

Gate Guardian

Leeming's gate guardian is now a Tornado F3, commemorating its history as an air defence base, and the fact that many Tornados were scrapped/Reduced To Produce here. 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. In December 2014 it was announced that Gloucestershire Jet Age Museum had won the tender and purchased the aircraft.