Tag Archives: RAF

Heroic Spitfire Legend Dead at 96: Geoffrey Wellum Has Passed Away.

Geoffrey Wellum: Author, Pilot, Example of Gallantry and Courage in The Battle of Britain.

WWII Royal Air Force Squadron Leader, Spitfire pilot and noted author Geoffrey Harris Augustus Wellum, has died. He was 96 years and 11 months old.

Geoffrey Wellum was a revered treasure of British history and a living example of the heroic ideal of the nation. He flew the Supermarine Spitfire during the pivotal Battle of Britain in 1940, when England was at risk of invasion by Germany across the English Channel and under a brutal succession of air attacks from the Luftwaffe.

Wellum’s illustrious career was one of many such stories of remarkable heroism and courage among young British men and women, many well under 20, who were charged with the aerial defense of England in the early years of WWII. As one of few recent remaining survivors of that illustrious era, Wellum has risen to considerable and well deserved adoration, epitomizing the remarkable patriotism and gallantry of all of WWII Great Britain. His flying career during the Battle of Britain received new found notoriety as the RAF recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

=”https://theaviationist.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Vellum_20.jpg”> Geoffrey Wellum, DFC, enjoys a joke with Prince Charles. (Photo: via Facebook)[/capti

Wellum joined the Royal Air Force in 1939 at the age of barely 18. He quickly progressed through flight training, beginning with the rudimentary WWI vintage Tiger Moth biplane basic trainer, to the mono-wing Harvard and then to the state-of-the-art air superiority combat fighter of the era, the iconic Supermarine Spitfire.

Geoffrey Wellum was one of the illustrious pilots of 92 Squadron flying from RAF Croydon and later, during the Battle of Britain, RAF Biggin Hill. Number 92 Squadron was the first British air combat squadron to see action in the Battle of Britain beginning on September 15, 1940. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on August 5, 1941, for gallantry flying against the enemy in combat.

Wellum’s experience in combat over England was horrific and harrowing. In the deadly, ambush style of aerial combat that the RAF employed against the Luftwaffe, Geoffrey Wellum was a deadly adversary for the marauding Germans. He scored one German He-111 bomber shot down and one Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter. He damaged and shared kills or damage on at least three other enemy aircraft.

In 1942, following his harrowing baptism of fire in the Battle of Britain, Geoffrey Wellum went on to become Flight Commander of No. 65 Squadron at RAF Debden in North Essex. In late summer, 1942, Wellum led a contingent of Spitfires launched from the aircraft carrier HMS Furious to serve as reinforcements for an aerial contingent on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean. He went on to become a member of the No. 145 Squadron, charged with aerial defense of the island nation.

As a result of his terrifying experiences flying combat at a very young age and in the earliest stages of the war, Geoffrey Wellum contracted post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD while still serving in the RAF. The affliction was referred to as “battle fatigue” in WWII. Wellum remained steadfast in his commitment to King and country despite his wounds. He went on to become a test pilot on the highly successful Hawker Typhoon ground attack aircraft, analogous to the U.S. P-47 Thunderbolt strike aircraft of the same era.

In his later life, Geoffrey Wellum was reflective about his role in the war and his accomplishments over the arc of his lifetime. As an introspective examination and accounting of his life he privately wrote a journal that chronicled his role in WWII, the Battle of Britain and his life. Author James Holland read Wellum’s private diary of his experiences and urged him to publish the lyrical recollections as a book. In 2002, his diary was adapted as a book published as, “First Light: The Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies Above Britain”. Three publishers, Viking Books, Willey & Sons and Penguin Books have published the popular accounting of his flying career and uniquely human experiences. “First Light” is a critically acclaimed success, widely revered by modern combat pilots serving today and aviation enthusiasts. It currently has a solid five-star rating on Amazon.com with 140 verified customer reviews.

Geoffrey Wellum is also featured in a new 2018 documentary “Spitfire” about the Supermarine Spitfire from Altitude Film that was directed by David Fairhead and produced by Ant Palmer. The documentary features the lilting recollections of Wellum as he recounts the grandeur of flying the Supermarine Spitfire.



Top image: RAF Spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum, DFC, during WWII, and later in life. (Photo: BBC)

RAF Celebrates 100 Years with Spectacular Flyover in London

World’s Oldest Air Force Timed Massive Aerial Display to Perfection.

It was the first independent air force in the world; the Royal Air Force, the RAF. On Tuesday, July 10, 2018 it celebrated its 100th anniversary as the longest serving air force on the planet with a spectacular centenary aerial parade.

In celebration of its 100th Anniversary the RAF conducted a spectacular flyover Tuesday when aircraft including vintage Spitfires and brand new F-35s joined in an unprecedented historical review above The Mall and Buckingham Palace where the Royal Family turned out in full regalia to take in the observance and celebration. The U.K. have the most devoted aviation spotters and fans on earth and today’s aerial parade was an unmatched feast for veterans, photographers and aircraft enthusiasts.

Throughout its century-long history the Royal Air Force has stood for a stalwart and dignified gallantry unmatched by any other aerial service. The RAF has, since its beginning, always punched above its weight as a combat arm. From the battlefields of WWI to the tenacious and desperate homeland defense over the skies of London in the blitzkrieg of WWII and the Battle of Britain, the dam busters, the nighttime bombing raids on Germany to bush wars in Africa, the Middle East and Indochina, the RAF has always typified British toughness and heroism. The daring ultra-long range raid on the Falkland Islands by RAF Vulcan bombers in Operation Black Buck and the harrowing low-level attacks by Tornado GR1s on Iraqi runways in the Gulf War continued the illustrious record of the RAF into the jet age. Today the RAF continues the legacy with the combat proven Eurofighter Typhoon and its integration into the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter force with the newest F-35B Lightning II aircraft.

Approximately 100 aircraft, one for each of the centenary years, participated in the flyover at 1:00 PM local time in London. It was reminiscent of Russia’s Victory Day Parade, the July 2017 Chinese Zhurihe Military Training Base flyover in Inner Mongolia and North Korea’s recent conspicuous displays of military might. But, whereas some recent military aerial parades attempted to send a message of strength, the mood over London was one of quiet dignity and historical reverence for an illustrious past and hopeful future.

Aircraft in the flyover staged in a complex aerial ballet from RAF bases that included Colchester, Norfolk, Suffolk and others. The exact schedule of the launches and routes for the flyover were not made public prior to the flight citing security. The flyover ended with a review of the nine RAF demonstration team, the Red Arrows’ BAE Hawk aircraft streaming colored smoke over the route.

The flyover could also be tracked online thanks to ADS-B/Mode-S/MLAT.

It took at least 11 months of planning according to the RAF to coordinate the flights. The project was managed by Wing Commander Kevin Gatland, Chief of Staff of the Tornado force based at RAF Marham in Norfolk. A total of 17 different RAF aircraft participated in the flyover including nearly every role of aircraft in the current inventory, from surveillance and attack aircraft to tactical transports. The most conspicuous absence was the Vulcan bomber, retired from flight demonstrations in October 2015. Standing in as a spectacular representative of Britain’s heavy bomber force was a Lancaster bomber as used in the night raids over Germany and the famous “dam buster” operation. It was also the first public flight demonstration of the RAF F-35Bs.

Coordination of the flight was complex considering the first wave of aircraft, tactical helicopters, flew over the parade route at only 100 knots, while the fast jets flew over the demonstration area at over 300 knots. As a result of the disparity in speed and performance the aircraft staged in waves at appropriate, synchronized distances from their parade rendezvous point hours before the flyover. The interval between the aircraft as they converged over the parade route was only 30 seconds.

Wing Commander Kevin Gatland told reporters, “So you have a very long train of aircraft which are compressing as they get overhead central London.” As a result of the flyover, London’s Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest in the world, had to cease operations for approximately 20 minutes.

Media from around the world covered the event both from camera aircraft adjacent to the flyover route and from the ground. Considering the historical significance of the event the flyover could be considered a resounding success even as overcast skies held above the formations.

Two Chinooks flying over London during the parade. (Image credit: Crown Copyright).

The 100-Year Anniversary of the RAF will continue this month as the Royal International Air Tattoo will take place at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on July 13-15. It is the largest display of military aircraft in the world according to organizers with over 8 hours of flight demonstrations each day and hundreds of static displays and exhibitions.

Image credit: Crown Copyright

UK’s First Four F-35B Jets Currently On Their Way To The UK and Their New Home Of RAF Marham

The first F-35B aircraft are expected to land later today to join the RAF 617 Squadron “Dambusters”.

Earlier today four Lightning jets of 617 Squadron took of from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, where the famous “Dambusters” unit was reactivated on Apr. 17, 2018, to undertake the transatlantic crossing and arrive at RAF Marham, the new home of the UK’s Lightning Force.

The F-35Bs are being supported by three RAF Voyagers tankers: ZZ330 (RRR9101, radio callsign “Ascot 9101”), ZZ335 (RRR9102, “Ascot 9102”) and ZZ331 (RRR9103 “Ascot 9103”). ZZ330 departed Charleston and picked up the four  F-35Bs from MCAS Beaufort. That took the Lightning as far as ZZ331 and ZZ335 out from Gander that are towing the F-35 across the Atlantic. Supporting the transatlantic trip is also an A400M ZM401 (RRR4085).

The four jets are due to land at RAF Marham this evening, one day later than expected: their mission was delayed 24 hours by the bad weather along the planned route.

The Royal Air Force has also shared a video on social media showing one of the Lightnings during aerial refueling:

According to Air Forces Monthly, nine of the 11 UK F-35Bs currently on strength at MCAS Beaufort (where the British squadron operates under Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501) are expected to arrive in the UK for the RAF’s centenary celebrations this summer, including a flypast over London. And, above all, later this year, the UK F-35Bs will deploy aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.

“Lightning II has been designed from the outset to carry out a wide range of mission types, able to use its very low observable characteristics to penetrate Integrated Air Defence Systems and strike a number of types of targets. In a permissive environment, Lightning II is able to carry weapons on external pylons, as well as in the internal weapon bays. This will allow a maximum weapon payload of 6 Paveway IV, 2 AIM-120C AMRAAM, 2 AIM-132 ASRAAM (Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile) and a missionised 25mm gun pod,” says official RAF documentation.

“In 2019 we will also start our integration work for the new Meteor [beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, BVRAAM] and SPEAR Cap 3 [Selective Precision Effects At Range Capability 3] weapon in order to deliver a phase one capability for those assets in 2021,” Martin Peters, BAE Systems’ F-35 flight test manager and test lead for STOVL (short take-off and landing), told AFM.

Top image credit: Crown Copyright

You Can Buy A RAF Tornado’s RB199 Turbofan Engine on eBay

If you have some free space at home, you might be interested in this item.

A Turbo Union RB199 engine, previously used in the Tornado jet (not clear which variant), is on sale on eBay here.

Listed as a Rolls Royce RB199 (actually, Turbo Union, a joint venture between three European aero-engine manufacturers: FiatAvio (now Avio), MTU Aero Engines and RR, produces the engine), the article is said to come straight from the MoD that deemed the jet engine in question as not airworthy and unservicable, even though complete.

Two RB199 engines power the Tornado multirole combat aircraft. 2,500 engines have been delivered since 1979 to the armed forces of Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia accumulating close to 6.0 million engine flying hours. The RB199 was designed

“In order to meet the many different mission requirements of the Tornado, in particular extreme low-level missions, a three-shaft design with afterburner and thrust reverser was selected. The Digital Engine Control Unit (DECU) reduces the pilot’s workload during operation and supports on-condition maintenance,” a public datasheet says. “The fact that the RB199 is still a very modern combat engine with future growth potential is a confirmation of its advanced design. Modular construction allows damaged modules to be replaced within the minimum turnaround time, thus ensuring greater availability of the aircraft. Its unprecedented reliability has not only been demonstrated in hostile environmental conditions but also in combat. The most recent production standard, Mk105, powers the German ECR (Electronic Combat Reconnaissance) Tornado.”

A detail of the RB199 sold on ebay. (Image credit: eBay/GI JOE ARMY STORES)

The engine was also used in the EAP Demonstrator assembled at, and flown from, Warton in Lancashire, England, and the early prototype Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, both types without thrust reversers.

At 6,500 GBP (about 9,000 USD), the 3.5 meter x 1 meter x 1.1 meter item seems to be a bargain; however, if you decided to acquire it, shipping would be a subject to extra cost.

The seller, GI Joe Army Stores, specializes in dealing with ex-MoD material – as a quick peek through his listings seems to suggest.

Following the imminent withdrawal of the Tornado jets, we may see more and more items like that listed on eBay. Some RB199s are on public display: one at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford and Brooklands Museum Weybridge, and another one at the Morayvia Centre in Kinloss.

Image Credit: eBay/GI JOE ARMY STORES

RAF Tornado GR4 Jets Deploy To Decimomannu Airbase To Take Part In Ex. Serpentex 2017

Five RAF Tonkas have deployed to Sardinia, to take part in Serpentex exercise underway in Corse.

Five Tornado GR4 jets, belonging to the IX(B) Sqn of the Royal Air Force are currently deployed to Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, Italy.

The British combat aircraft are deployed from RAF Marham, where the runway was closed for reconstruction from Sept. 08 to Oct. 02, 2017, to take part in Ex. Serpentex 2017, underway from Sept. 11-29 and attended also by 3x Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornets from 433 Sqn and 2x RAF Hawks from 100 Sqn, both deployed to Solenzara, in Corse.

The Tornado GR4 ZA472 about to land in Decimomannu. (Giampaolo Mallei)

The British Tornado attack planes have arrived at “Deci” on Sept. 5 and are expected to leave on Sept. 30.

The aircraft currently deployed to Sardinia are the examples ZG779, ZA370, ZA472, ZA550, ZG707. These were supported by A.400M ZM401 and ZM407, and C-17 Globemaster III ZZ173.

This is one of the two A400M Atlas that supported the deployment. (Giampaolo Mallei)

The pictures in this article were taken by The Aviationist’s contributors Giampaolo Mallei and Alessandro Caglieri during the last few days.

The RAF “Tonkas” are operating with two drop tanks and the Litening targeting pod. (Giampaolo Mallei)

One of the five Tornado GR4 jets taxies after landing at Decimomannu (Alessandro Caglieri)

The Litening III laser targeting and reconnaissance pod provides a vital air-to-ground targeting capability. (Alessandro Caglieri).

IX(B) Sqn moved to its current home base at RAF Marham, Norfolk after the closure of RAF Brüggen, Germany, on July 17 2001. According to the RAF website “the Squadron deployed to Kuwait in February 2003 and was heavily involved in the second Gulf War as part of the Ali-Al Salem Combat Air Wing. From 2004 to 2010, IX (B) Squadron deployed annually to support Operation TELIC, in support of Allied troops on the ground in Iraq. The Squadron was also involved in Operation HERRICK, from 2008 to 2014, delivering Close Air Support over Afghanistan. In March 2011 the Squadron led the first long-range Stormshadow mission in Libya on Operation ELLAMY, and deployed to Gioia del Colle, Italy, at the end of that year. In 2015, the Squadron deployed on Operation SHADER, and was the first to attack Syrian oilfields after Parliament’s vote on Dec. 2, 2015 to widen the air operation against D’aesh. That very night 16 targets were struck, 2 hours and 51 minutes after the vote returned overwhelming support.”

A look inside the front cockpit of the Tornado GR4. (Alessandro Caglieri).

The IX(B) Squadron patch worn by a Navigator (Alessandro Caglieri).

 

 

 

 

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