Preparing for war

In October 1952, Exercise ‘Ardent’ put the UK’s offensive and defensive capabilities to the test. Some of its results made for sobering reading

The scene at Biggin Hill on 5 October 1952 during Exercise ‘Ardent’, as a No 600 (City of London) Squadron Meteor F8 is readied for an air defence sortie, its pilot already in the cockpit.

It was described as the largest air exercise mounted in Britain since the end of the Second World War. Held from 3-13 October 1952, and involving somewhere in the region of 1,300 aircraft, Exercise ‘Ardent’ lived up to that description. Those assets were drawn not only from all RAF commands and the Fleet Air Arm, but from NATO allies too.

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