UK MoD plots Red Arrows move to RAF Waddington

Plans to relocate the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) world-renowned aerobatic team, the Red Arrows, to RAF Waddington – following the closure of its current home, RAF Scampton – have been announced by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The planned new headquarters for the team is just a short distance away from their current home, both located in Lincolnshire. The move comes as part of the MoD’s plan to invest £4bn into the RAF Waddington estate over the next decade, as it seeks to meet new military requirements for more efficient and modern facilities and infrastructure.

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The team performs a practice display over its current home base, RAF Scampton. MoD Crown Copyright/Cpl Andy Benson

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: “As we saw during the recent VE Day celebrations, the Red Arrows have a proud and prominent place in British culture and have long demonstrated the best of what the UK Armed Forces offer with their world-renowned skills, discipline and teamwork… It is good news that we have an excellent base for them at RAF Waddington, and I am delighted that they will be able to continue to practice their extraordinary aerobatic talents above RAF Scampton in their home county of Lincolnshire.”

The Red Arrows will continue to use the airspace around RAF Scampton for display practices. This is due to the fact that RAF Waddington is already a busy, operational station – hosting much of the service’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) fleets.

The base is currently home to the Beechcraft Shadow R1/R1+, Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW1, Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint and Raytheon Sentinel R1 aircraft. The air arm is planning to withdraw the Sentinel and Sentry platforms from operational service in 2021 and 2022, respectively. RAF Waddington will also host the RAF’s new Boeing E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C fleet – the Sentry AEW1’s replacement – from 2023 – and will also be the home of the service’s General Atomics MQ-9B Protector RG1 unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) fleet, which is scheduled to enter operations with the air arm in 2024 under No 31 Squadron ‘Goldstars’.

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Showcasing the 'Best of British' - During the RAFAT Red Arrows' North American tour, last summer, the team performed a flypast down the Hudson River, New York, alongside the USAF's Thunderbirds aerobatic team, F-22A Raptors and F-35A Lightning IIs. MoD Crown Copyright/Sgt Ashley Keates

AVM Warren James added: “I am delighted that we now have confirmation that the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team [(RAFAT)] – the Red Arrows – will remain in the heart of Lincolnshire. The [RAF] remains committed to the strong links it has with the county and a considerable amount of work has been carried out to secure a suitable future home location.

“The Red Arrows are a highly skilled and professional team, showcasing the very best of the British precision and leadership for industry on a global scale, and inspiring the next generation interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics [(STEM)] through an air and space power lens. The announcement will provide much needed stability for their future endeavours”, he added.

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An airshow favourite. The team's 'Synchro Pair' perform the famed opposition passes whilst on Exercise Springhawk - a training deployment in Greece - in 2015. MoD Crown Copyright/Cpl Steve Buckley

The relocation of the Red Arrows to a new base was announced in 2018 as the MoD plans to close RAF Scampton – which is famed for its rich history, being home to No 617 Squadron ‘Dambusters' during World War Two, with the unit launching its famous raids from the station in 1943. The MoD is currently looking at options to preserve the famed Lincolnshire base following its closure. The relocation efforts of the aerobatic team will now move into the assessment and planning phase.

The RAFAT Red Arrows was formed in 1964 and have since flown almost 5,000 displays in 57 separate countries. The team comprises nine display pilots, flying its trademark red, white and blue painted BAe Systems Hawk T1 jet trainers. The move from RAF Scampton to RAF Waddington is not scheduled to happen until at least 2022.