RAF Leuchars is located in Leuchars, Fife, on the east coast, north of St Andrews, and is the most northerly Air Defence Station in the United Kingdom. (IATA: ADX, ICAO: EGQL). Prior to extension in 2007, in preparation for the arrival of the Eurofighter Typhoon which will replace the station's Tornado squadrons, the airfield's two tarmac runways were; 04/22: 4,803 feet (1,464 m), and 09/27: 8,491 feet (2,588 m), which will extend to 11,000 feet (3,500 m).
Because the Base Commander at RAF Leuchars also fulfils the role of Air Officer Scotland, the position is held by an Air Commodore, rather than a Group Captain who would normally occupy command such a base.
The airfield served as RAF Strike Command's main base within the UK until 2007. Strike Command was the military organization which controlled the majority of the UK's combat aircraft from 1968 until April 1, 2007, when it merged with Personnel and Training Command to form the single Air Command, with headquarters at RAF High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, a single Commander in Chief, and two deputies.
As of 2007, Leuchars was home to 43 Squadron and 111 Squadron, flying Tornado F3. It also hosts Army Air Corps Gazelle helicopters and RAF Grob T1 training planes. The airfield's relative isolation means it has become RAF's preferred location for night training exercises, as well as the site of many large scale exercises, such as Tactical Leadership Training (TLT), and the Qualified Weapons Instructor Course (QWIC).
The area's connection with aviation dates back to 1911, when the Royal Engineers carried out military testing with balloons.
Leuchars Airfield was formally established in 1918, when a fleet station of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) formed the Fleet Aerial Gunnery and Fighting School (NW area) there. The school occupied most of the original technical area, including six general coupled aeroplane sheds, and many of the original buildings, which were used as classrooms, stores and accommodation.
Between September 1942 and August 1943, extensive modifications were made to the organisation and structure of the airfield. RAF aerial photography from the time shows that the runways were extended, several pillboxes were demolished, additional hardstanding and perimeter buildings constructed, and the camouflage changed from multi-pattern to two-tone. Most of the work was carried out on the area to the south.
A Norwegian squadron was based at Leuchars during World War II, and a memorial dedicated to its memory is located near the entrance.
Annual Leuchars Airshow
RAF Leuchars usually hosts the annual Leuchars Air Show, which generally takes place on a Saturday in September. The 2007 show was cancelled due to work being carried out to extend the runway.
The show is generally well attended, and the 2006 show attracted some 45,000 visitors, with displays including the Red Arrows, Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, together with contributions from the Air Forces of many NATO countries providing further static and flying displays.
See also the Tentsmuir coastal defences page for the defences which ran from RAF Leuchars to Tayport in the north.
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