December 20, 2011By

I don’t profess to be any kind of expert on airfields, not even close, but they do interest me, especially Cold War airfields. The following is a ‘cut up’ of material from a variety of locations mingled in with some of my own words. Its certainly not a definitive history on Alconbury, more of an overview to accompany the pictures.

Thanks for looking 🙂

RAF Bomber Command use (1939-1941)
In September 1939, RAF Upwood squadrons were given operational training roles and Alconbury became RAF Wyton’s satellite under No. 2 Group, Squadron Nos. 12, 40 and 139. These squadrons were frequently deployed to Alconbury, No. 139 being the first to be actually stationed there. Squadrons 15 and 40 converted from Battles to Bristol Blenheim bombers. No. 15 Squadron took up residence on 14 April 1940, when additional requisitioned accommodation was available. It flew its first raid of the war on 10 May against a German occupied airfield near Rotterdam.

In May 1942, RAF Alconbury was allocated to the United States Army Air Force:

93d Bombardment Group, 7 September 1942 – 5 December 1942
92d Bombardment Group, 6 January – 15 September 1943
95th Bombardment Group, 15 April – 15 June 1943
482d Bombardment Group, 20 August 1943 – 21 May 1945
801st Bombardment Group (Provisional), January – 1 May 1944
94th Bombardment Wing, 12–18 June 1945
2d Bombardment Wing, 12 June – 26 August 1945
1st Bombardment Wing, 26 June – 26 August 1945
1st Air Division, 20 September – 31 October 1945
406th Bombardment Squadron, 11 November 1943 – 7 February 1944
857th Bombardment Squadron, 11 June – 6 August 1945
652d Bombardment Squadron, 13 July – 25 October 1945
36th Bombardment Squadron: Attached to 328th Service Group, assigned to RAF Watton, operated from Alconbury, 7 February-28

March 1944, Assigned to: 1st Bombardment Division, 28 February – 15 October 1945.

Postwar United States Air Force use:

7560th Air Base Squadron, 7 November 1954 – 25 March 1955 (Redesignated: 7560th Air Base Group, 25 March 1955 – 25 August 1959
86th Bombardment Squadron, 15 September 1955 – 5 August 1959
42d Troop Carrier Squadron, 31 May – 8 December 1957
53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, 25 April – 9 August 1959
10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, 25 August 1959 – 20 August 1987 (Redesignated: 10th Tactical Fighter Wing, 10 August 1987 – 31 March 1993, Redesignated: 10th Air Base Wing, 31 March 1993 – 1 October 1994)
527th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron, 1 April 1976 – 14 July 1988
17th Reconnaissance Wing, 1 October 1982 – 30 June 1991 (Assigned to Strategic Air Command Eighth Air Force 7th Air Division)
39th Special Operations Wing, 1 December 1992 – 1 January 1993
352d Special Operations Group, 1 January 1993 – 17 February 1995
710th Air Base Wing, 1 October 1994 – 12 July 1995
423d Air Base Squadron, 12 July 1995 – 1 July 2005 (Based at RAF Molesworth) (Redesignated: 423d Air Base Group, 1 July 2005 – present)
501st Combat Support Wing, 1 May 2007–present

The Cold War, Spy Planes & Operation Desert Storm
In 1959 with the Cold War hotting up (lame humour..), the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing arrived at Alconbury and over the coming years flew many reconnaissance, electronic warfare and ‘Aggressor Support’ missions.

The Strategic Air Command arrived at Alconbury on 1 October 1982 when the 17th Reconnaissance Wing was activated, bringing with them the U2 and later the TR-1 Spy Plane. These assets required major remodelling of the airfield including Ready Sheds, 13 extra wide Hardened Aircraft Shelters, a Photographic Interpretation Centre and a Nuclear Hardened Command Post/Avionics Suite for the TR-1 spyplanes known only as Building 210 (later nicknamed Magic Mountain).
 
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the threat of the Cold War vanishing there were rumours that RAF Alconbury would be closed down but then in August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Some of the first aircraft to be sent into the Gulf were three TR-1A’s from Alconbury’s 17th Reconnaissance Wing and 23 A-10’s from the 10th Tactical Fighter Wing (511th Tactical Fighter Squadron) were deployed to Saudi Arabia for combat operations.

The 511th TFS A-10s flew no fewer than 1700 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm and played an important part in wreaking havoc on Iraqi tank forces, Scud missiles and other ground positions during the conflict.

In recent years things have wound down considerably and in 1995 the USAF returned the base to the MoD (but retaining the Base Support Area under USAF control). The USAF 423d Air Base Squadron and USAF 501st Combat Support Wing still operate from Alconbury.

Romney Sheds, WW2 Crew, Locker and Drying Rooms – Airfield & Technical Site.
Parachute Store (Building 51) – Airfield & Technical Site
Command Building – Airfield & Technical Site
Hercules Bomber artwork – Airfield & Technical Site
Photographic Processing and Interpretation Facility (Building 69) – Airfield & Technical Site.
WW2 Control Tower & Watch Office with Operations Room for Bomber Satellite Stations – Technical Site
Uni-Seco USAFE Control Tower – Airfield & Technical Site
Guard Tower – Weapons Storage Site
Awesome Warthog/30mm Cannon cartoon drawn by an airman
TR-1/U2 Hardened Aircraft Shelter (Building 4105) – Airfield & Technical Site
17th Reconnaissance Wing Squadron Headquarters – Hardened Area (flooded basement)
(Currently in use by Cambridgeshire Police for tactical training)
Hardened Aircraft Shelter / Tab-Vee ‘Oh Johnnie’ – Airfield & Technical Site
This was demolished by the SAS as a training exercise, took them 3 attempts to flatten it!!
The gratuitous ‘Oh Johnnie vent shot’ taken by everyone (yawn…)
‘Sally Ann’ Tab-Vee/HAS 
(most likely for A-10 Warthog or F5 Tiger…maybe even Phantom LOL!)
‘Sally Ann’ Tab-Vee/HAS Emergency Exit
 

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    January 27, 2012

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    hi – just putting in a request – summer of possibly 59 through to 61 ?? it was the done thing for the pilots at Alconbury to bust the sound barrier – they were cracking one of every half hour or so-I was staying at my grans in Hartford ( where I was born) with family. love to know what aircraft were responsible. also have a very vivid memory of looking up and seeing something refuelling four aircraft in the sky above Huntingdon ( no airshows or anything I don’t think) so no discernable reason- any ideas would be greatly appreciated
    cheers .

    • Anonymous
      May 6, 2012

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      RAF Alconbury had RB-66s at that point, used as night photo-reconnaissance aircraft during this period. Generally the speed of sound is considered to be 761 mph, and the RB-66s top speed was spec’d at 631 mph. It is possible that with variations in temperature and atmospheric conditions, and “experimentation” with the jet engines, they may have been able to break the sound barrier occasionally. The RB-66s also were capable of in-flight refueling (search a photo of one on the Internet and you will see the refueling probe at the nose). Training maneuvers were commonplace. [I was stationed with the USAF at RAF Alconbury, 1959-1962}.

  2. tocsin_bang
    January 27, 2012

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    Hi,
    I don’t personally know the answer but I think I know where I can find out. If I do I’ll post the answer back here as soon as I can 🙂

  3. tocsin_bang
    May 7, 2012

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    Thank you very much for the information – Much appreciated 🙂

  4. Anonymous
    November 27, 2012

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    do you have photos of the back side of the Tab-Vee and U-2 Shelters?

    • tocsin_bang
      November 27, 2012

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      I remember taking some of the rear of the Tab-Vee as I was curious about the small room at the back, even shot some internals in there. Not sure what I did with the pix though….will take a look through my archive.

      Didn’t go round the back of the TR-1/U-2 shelter though.

      I’m sure I will be visiting their again soon though so will snap some for you 🙂

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