Text & Pictures: Serge Van Heertum © sbap 2015

On February 19 and 20 we had the opportunity to pay a visit to the BBMF and to spend two days with the Typhoons at RAF Coningsby. On those two days, even when it rained on the 19th, the activity at this Air Defense base was cleary high. But before going on to the pictures, you will find a little historical overview, some information about the Typhoon and also the new Striker II helmet from BAE systems used by some of the pilots.

RAF Coningsby today (Google earth)


From its creation in 1937 untill today, RAF Coningsby has had a wide variety of roles. Originally built as a station for Bomber Command, Coningsby went on to host the world-famous “Dambusters” of 617 Squadron and Vulcan jet bombers before transferring to Fighter Command in the 1960's. After a period of uncertainty following the cancellation of the TSR2 project, the station became synonymous of Mc Donnell Douglas Phantoms lair and for 20 years was responsible for the training of all RAF Phantom pilots and navigators. When this much-loved aircraft was finally replaced by the Tornado F3, Coningsby was again chosen as the main training base and this tendency has continued with the Typhoon, the RAF's latest high-tech fighter. In April 2006 No 6 Squadron relocated from RAF Coltishall to RAF Coningsby to fly the remainder of the Jaguar fleet until their disbandment. Add to this almost 30 years as the home of the world-famous Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and you have a station history that is truly as varied as the aircraft it has hosted.

In the late 1940's (Courtesy RAF archives)

Squadrons and aircraft present at Coningsby:

106 Squadron (Handley Page Hampden) - 1940
97 Squadron (Avro Manchester) – 1941
617 Squadron (Avro Lancaster) - 1943-1944
61 Squadron (Avro Lancaster) - 1944
109 Squadron (De Havilland Mosquito) – 1946 to 1950
139 Squadron (De Havilland Mosquito) – 1946 to 1950
3rd Bomb Group (Boeing Washington B.1) 1950 to 1953
9 Squadron (English Electric Canberra B.6) 1956 – 1961
9 Squadron (Avro Vulcan) 1962 - 1964
12 Squadron (Avro Vulcan) 1962 - 1964
35 Squadron (Avro Vulcan) 1962 - 1964
TSR-2 Project 1964 but project aborted
228 OCU squadron (Mc Donnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2) 1968 – 1987
6 Squadron (Mc Donnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2) 1969 - 1974
54 Squadron (Mc Donnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2) 1969 - 1974
41 Squadron (Mc Donnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2) 1972 – 1976
111 Squadron (Mc Donnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2) 1974 – 1975
23 Squadron (Mc Donnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2) 1975 – 1983
29 Squadron (Mc Donnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2) 1974 – 1982
BBMF (Spitfire Hurricane Lancaster DC3 Chipmunk) 1976 to Today
29 Squadron (Tornado F.3) 1987 - 1988
5 Squadron (Tornado F.3) 1988 - 2002
56 Squadron (Tornado F.3) 1992 - 2003
6 Squadron (Typhoon FGR 4) 2006 – 2007 (Disbanded)
17(R) Squadron (Typhoon FGR 4) 2005 – 2013 (Disbanded)
3(F) Squadron (Typhoon F.2 - FGR 4 – T3) 2006 - Today
11(F) Squadron (Typhoon FGR 4) 2007 - Today
29(R) Squadron (Typhoon F.2 - FGR 4 – T3) 2003 – Today (OCU role)
41(R) TES Squadron (Typhoon FGR 4) 2010 - Today

In the late 1950's  (Courtesy RAF archives)

Other units present at Coningsby

Base Support Wing:
The Base Support Wing is responsible for supporting services, which include personnel management, security, site maintenance, financial management, training and development, catering, physical fitness, health and well-being, community support, health and safety advice and public relations.

Engineering and Logistics Wing:
The Engineering and Logistics Wing is configured to support Typhoon and continues to provide suitable engineering and logistics support to Coningsby-based and parented units together with provision of Communication and Information Technology system support.

Operations Wing:
The Operations Wing is responsible for coordinating the station flying activities and airfield management.

7 Force Protection Wing HQ:
The No 7 Force Protection Wing Headquarters (7FP Wg HQ) formed at RAF Coningsby in 2008 is a small, high readiness unit of RAF Regiment, RAF Police, RAF Intelligence specialists and support staff who are tasked with providing Force Protection Command and Control to deployed air assets.

The fifth generation fighter…
The Typhoon FGR4 provides the RAF with a highly capable and extremely agile multi-role combat aircraft, capable of being deployed in the full spectrum of air operations, including air policing, peace support and high intensity conflict.

Specifications :
Engines : 2 Eurojet EJ200 turbojets
Thrust : 20,000lbs each
Max speed : 1.8Mach
Length : 15.96m
Span : 11.09m
Max altitude : 55,000ft
Armament : Paveway IV, AMRAAM, ASRAAM, Mauser 27mm Cannon, Enhanced
Paveway II

(Coll SBAP)

Initially deployed in the air-to-air role as the Typhoon F2, the aircraft now has a potent and precise multirole capability. The pilot can carry out many functions by voice command or through a hands-on stick and throttle system (HOTAS). Combined with an advanced cockpit and the Helmet Equipment Assembly (HEA) the pilot is superbly equipped for all aspects of air operations.
Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain formally agreed to start development of the aircraft in 1988 with contracts for a first batch of 148 aircraft – of which 53 were for the RAF – signed ten years later. Deliveries to the RAF started in 2003 to 17(R) Sqn who was based at BAE Systems Warton Aerodrome in Lancashire (alongside the factory where the aircraft were assembled) while detailed development and testing of the aircraft was carried out. Formal activation of the first Typhoon Squadron at RAF Coningsby occurred on July 01, 2005. The aircraft took over responsibility for UK QRA on June 29, 2007 and was formally declared operational as an advanced Air Defence platform on January 01, 2008.
Initial production aircraft of the F2 Tranche 1 standard were capable of air-to-air roles only and were the first Typhoons to hold UK QRA duties. In order to fulfill a potential requirement for Typhoon to deploy to Op HERRICK, urgent single-nation work was conducted on Tranche 1 to develop an air-to-ground capability in 2008. Tranche 1 aircraft were declared multi-role in July 2008, gaining the designation FGR4 (T3, 2-seat variant), fielding the Litening Laser Designator Pod and Paveway 2, Enhanced Paveway 2 and 1000lb freefall class of weapons.
All F2/T1 aircraft have been upgraded to FGR4/T3.
Tranche 2 aircraft deliveries started under the 4-nation contract in 2008 but in the air-to-air role only. These aircraft were deployed to the Falkland Islands to take-over duties from the Tornado F3 in September 2009.
A total of 53 Tranche 1 aircraft were delivered, with Tranche 2 contract provisioning for 91 more aircraft. 24 of these were diverted to fulfill the RSAF export campaign, leaving 67 Tranche 2 aircraft due for delivery to the RAF. The Tranche 3 contract has been signed and will deliver 40 aircraft. With the Tranche 1 aircraft fleet due to retire over the period 2015-18, this will leave 107 Typhoon aircraft in RAF service until 2030.
Weapons integration will include Meteor air-to-air missile, Paveway IV, Storm Shadow, Brimstone and Small Diameter Bombs. Additionally, it is intended to upgrade the radar to an Active Electronically Scanned Array.

The BAE Striker II helmet…

The Striker II HMD is based on BAE’s Striker HMD system used in the Typhoon and Gripen fighters. BAE says that the Striker II is "platform agnostic" and integrates easily with a variety of platforms, including both digital and analog electronic displays.
The night vision system mounted inside the helmet makes the helmet lighter than previous units and lowers its center of gravity. This makes the helmet more comfortable (relatively) and puts less stress on the pilot’s head, neck, and shoulders resulting from the g-forces pulled during tight turns fighter planes are renowned for. The system needs no manual configuration for day to night transitions and, along with the plane’s system and targeting displays, feeds into the integrated visor-projected system.
The high-resolution visor-projected system has a 40-degree binocular field of view with a 1280x1024 resolution and an independent channel for each eye to provide 3D images. BAE says that the display has near-zero latency and is fully visible in day and night conditions.
In addition, the Striker II boasts new hybrid opto-inertial technology that constantly monitors the position of the pilot’s head even if optical tracking fails. So the plane’s computer always knows where the pilot is looking and can position symbols on the display accurately for high-precision target tracking and engagement.

(Courtesy BAE Systems)
ZJ812 on the 29(R) squadron parking ZK306 awaiting the next mission
ZJ803 back from a training flight ZJ803 still on taxi
ZK343 doing touch and go's ZJ815 being prepared for a mission
ZJ947 on take off ZJ947
ZK309 touch and go Back from mission, the aircraft is taken by the mechanics and technicians
ZK343 mission accomplished ZK343
Turn around and eventual troubleshooting... Refueling the aircraft for the next flights
ZJ807 ZJ807 on taxi after the mission
ZK379 ZK379 joining the 29(R) Sqn line
ZK306 alone... Harlatte vehicle
ZJ815 ready for taxi ZJ813 back from the last flight of the day
Face to face ZJ813 to the line
Back from mission...time for the debriefing Preparing and refueling
Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW1  ZH104  8 Squadron Detached at Coningsby during runway works at Waddington
Schopf tractor on duty 29 squadron at the end of the day
ZK306 in low sun after a rainy afternoon MAN bowser
ZJ812 awaiting the next day missions A Jetstream 41 from Eastern Airways.
Amazing to see a civilian between all the Typhoon's
Some of the aircraft flew night missions (19 to 20 february)
Bird prevention car Last chance point Iveco Euro Cargo mobile control tower
Control tower on duty RNW 25 in use...
ZJ812 on taxi for the first mission of the day Look at the HUD
ZK379 close up of the two seatter cockpit
ZJ803 Many of the Typhoon's are marked with pilot names
ZJ807 Instructor in backseat
ZK343 with the special tail and Typhoon Display Team markings A Tutor doing a touch and go before the Typhoon launch
ZK351 without any squadron markings
ZK349 Hello...nice flight!
First take off ZJ812
ZK379 ZJ803
ZJ807 ZJ807
ZK343 ZK351
ZK349 ZK349
Second wave of the day ZJ946
Holding point Line up
Full AB take off The jet wash...
Some visitors...Mc Donnell-Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle from Lakenheath 492 Fighter Squadron "Madhatters"  (AF91-303)
(AF98-131) The AF91-303 was lightly damaged at Albacete during the
TLP tragedy on January 26th,2015
Mc Donnell-Douglas KC-10 on the way back to Mildenhall

Morning wave back to homebase

ZJ807 ZJ807
Go around...too short ZK379
ZJ812 ZJ812
ZJ946 ZJ946
Maybe to be seen during the 2015 display season
ZK349 ZK349
Next missions of the day
Nice front view ZJ805
Student and instructor ready for a flight
Moisture suction... ZJ920
ZJ805 line up ZJ920 line up
ZJ925 The BAE Striker II helmet
ZK351 ZK351
Waiting the line up clearance
Line up... ...and take off
The three squadron in mission during our visit: 3(F) Sqn, 29(R) Sqn & 41(F) Sqn
For a complete overview and history of RAF Coningsby click on the picture above

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