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.
(Currently in use by Cambridgeshire Police for tactical training)
This was demolished by the SAS as a training exercise, took them 3 attempts to flatten it!!