RAF Germany

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Royal Air Force Germany
British Air Force of Occupation
(July 15, 1945 to August 31, 1951)
2. Tactical Air Force
(until December 31, 1958)
2. Group
(from April 1, 1993)

Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom, svg
Lineup July 15, 1945 to April 1, 1996 (2002)
Country United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Type Command (air force)
motto English "Keepers of the peace"
German "Bewahrer des Friedens"
Aircraft cockade RAF Lowvis Army roundel.svg RAF roundel.svg

Royal Air Force Germany , usually referred to as RAF Germany (RAFG) for short , was the name for the upper command authority of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in northwest Germany during the Cold War . Their origins lie in the 2nd Tactical Air Force , which was on the European continent at the end of the war .


After the Second World War , units of the Royal Air Force remained stationed in the British occupation zone . First were based on former air bases of the German Air Force . Organizationally, they formed an independent command, the British Air Force of Occupation (BAFO), so the name between July 1945 and August 1951 and then the 2nd Tactical Air Force (2TAF). The headquarters was until 1954 in Bad Eilsen / Bückeburg , from 1955 then in the joint headquarters jhq rheindahlen with the British Army of the Rhine ( British Army of the Rhine , where (BAOR)) in Rheindahlen on the Lower Rhine this a completely new district (Rheindahlen II) was built . Only after the end of the Cold War was the RAF withdrawn from Germany, with the last two remaining stations from April 1996 reporting directly to the Strike Command in their home country.

In addition to the "normal" flying units, the so-called Air Observation Post (AOP) (air space observation units ) also belonged to the RAF until September 1, 1957 . Their personnel were recruited from members of the RAF and the army . On September 1, 1957, they were transferred to the newly established Army Air Corps (AAC) .

post war period

The first three years were characterized by the rapid decommissioning or relocation of units, especially squadrons of the allies or from Commonwealth countries . BAFO's main tasks during this time were the demilitarization of former air force facilities as well as “flying the flag” with the remaining aircraft. In 1948 the Berlin Airlift began with the participation of transport aircraft from the Royal Air Force . For this purpose one relied on airfields ("RAF Stations") in Lower Saxony, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein as well as RAF Gatow in West Berlin. The remaining 10 tactical squadrons were concentrated in RAF Wahn and RAF Gütersloh in North Rhine-Westphalia. After the end of the airlift, two squadrons were transferred to the Far East in the summer of 1949. The now 8 squadrons were distributed to the airfields RAF Gütersloh , RAF Celle and RAF Wunstorf . Mostly propeller machines with piston engines were still used , the Mosquito and Tempest were predominant .

Cold War

After NATO was founded in 1949, the RAF remained stationed in West Germany. The beginning of the Korean War in 1950 signaled the beginning of the Cold War in Europe. At the end of 1950 the BAFO had 12 squadrons again and a year later all 14 squadrons were equipped with jet aircraft. At the beginning of the 1950s, the airfields RAF Brüggen , RAF Geilenkirchen , RAF Laarbruch , RAF Nörvenich and RAF Wildenrath were rebuilt along the German-Dutch border with the aim of being able to station the flying units as far away from the inner-German border as possible. In addition, other former Air Force air bases were reactivated and modernized, especially in Lower Saxony, as well as RAF Berlin-Gatow. During these years the construction of the Central Europe Pipeline System for the optimized fuel supply of the NATO air bases began. In July 1954 a total of 14 airfields were operated, on which 27 operational squadrons were now stationed. The main types of aircraft were the Vampire and the Venom in the role of a fighter-bomber or close air support, the Saber built under a Canadian license as a day fighter and Meteor as a reconnaissance and night fighter .

The name BAFO was dropped in September 1951 in favor of the 2nd Tactical Air Force (2TAF) used in the last year of the war . The 2TAF in 1955 released from national duties and with headquarters in Rheindahlen II (Nordrhein-Westfalen) and 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF) of NATO assumed. In addition, the RAF provided the commander of the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF) of NATO. This reflected the changed geopolitical situation. Since the beginning of the 1950s, many NATO maneuvers have therefore been carried out under the leadership of the RAF, with the aim of improving cooperation between the air forces of the NATO member states.

A special feature was the wing in Gütersloh, equipped with Canberra bombers , in the mid-1950s . This association was subordinate to the Bomber Command on the British Isles and had been relocated to Germany due to overcrowding of suitable airfields in Great Britain. With the establishment of the British nuclear bomber forces as part of the NATO strategy of massive retaliation , the Canberra bomber squadrons were withdrawn from Germany.

Hunter F6 in the colors of the 4th Sqn, in the
Air Force Museum today

After 1955, the majority of the air bases were handed over to the newly founded air force , such as RAF Nörvenich, or RAF Bückeburg to the army of the Bundeswehr . The number of RAF squadrons could be reduced. This happened both because of NATO's nuclear strategy and for financial reasons after the fiasco of the Suez Crisis . From 1959 the command was officially called Royal Air Force Germany (RAF Germany for short), at that time the airborne units were already concentrated on only six main operational bases: RAF Brüggen, RAF Gütersloh, RAF Jever, RAF Laarbruch, RAF Wildenrath and RAF Geilenkirchen. In terms of aircraft types, the Canberra in particular was stationed as a night combat fighter bomber on three and the Hunter as a day fighter on two airfields. From 1960 onwards, two Canberra loaded with tactical nuclear weapons stood on alert around the clock and were ready to go within 15 minutes. There were also two squadrons that used the Swift as reconnaissance aircraft and four squadrons of Javelin all-weather interceptors.

When Jever was handed over to the Air Force (1961) , the number of Hunter squadrons was reduced to just one, while Hunter modified to reconnaissance replaced the Swift . The Javelin squadrons in the all-weather hunting role, which are also now only two remaining , were replaced by the supersonic Lightning in the mid-1960s . Initially, the two fighter squadrons were stationed in RAF Gütersloh and RAF Geilenkirchen , but when Geilenkirchen was handed over to the Air Force in 1968, they were concentrated in RAF Gütersloh . In particular, the Canberra and Hunter squadrons regularly carried out several weeks of maneuvering and deployment of some of their aircraft to airfields in North Africa, Southern Africa and the Near and Far East. The aircraft concerned were not available to NATO at this time. From the mid-1960s, helicopters were used for the first time in Germany, most of which were stationed in RAF Gütersloh . The most common type was the Wessex until 1980 .

Jaguar GR1 of the 2nd Sqn, taken in 1978 in RAF Wildenrath
Buccaneer S2B, here the 208th Sqn from RAF Honington, 1981

After the closure of Geilenkirchen for financial reasons as a result of an economic crisis with the devaluation of the pound sterling (→ Black Wednesday ), only four main places were retained. The violent termination of the Prague Spring through the intervention of the Warsaw Pact in 1968 resulted in an increase in the British defense budget. The now quite old Canberra and Hunter should be replaced faster by more modern weapon systems. According to the new NATO strategy of Flexible Response , the focus should be on conventional weapons. Initially, anti-aircraft missiles were stationed on the airfields for this purpose. From 1970 RAF Brüggen received 3 squadrons of phantom fighter-bombers, which could be armed both conventionally and nuclear. A little later, RAF Laarbruch were also assigned new designs. Here there were a squadron of Phantom reconnaissance aircraft and two squadrons of Buccaneer long-range low-attack aircraft. RAF Wildenrath put three squadrons of the vertical take-off aircraft Harrier into service as close air support aircraft between 1970 and 1972 . In the event of an emergency, the Harrier would have left their base and would have to avoid alternative locations, e.g. B. highway sections have been used.

After more than 10 years, the Lightning was withdrawn from Germany and its hunting role was taken over by the Phantom from the mid-1970s . In return, the Phantom was replaced in its previous role as a fighter-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft by the Jaguar . Due to the greater range of the Phantom , the fighter squadrons moved from RAF Gütersloh to RAF Wildenrath , for which the Harrier previously stationed there came to RAF Gütersloh . The target strength of the command consisted in the 1970s of 12 operational squadrons as well as a helicopter and transport aircraft squadron.

At the beginning of the 1980s, another squadron of helicopters was to be relocated to Germany. As a first step, the aged Wessex was replaced by the Puma . The relocation of the second Chinook- equipped unit to Germany was delayed due to the Falklands War and did not take place until 1983. Harrier pilots and an anti-aircraft missile unit from RAF Germany were involved in this war . From the middle of the decade until 1989, the seven Jaguar and Buccaneer seasons were replaced by eight Tornado seasons . In this year of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the last conversion of units of the RAF Germany to a new aircraft type began when the first of 24 Harrier of the second generation arrived in RAF Gütersloh . This conversion dragged on until 1992 due to technical problems.

After reunification

As early as the summer of 1990, the British government announced that the RAF Germany would be cut in half. Before the first operational bases were closed, however, the associations located in Germany took part in the Second Gulf War . Only the Harrier Force , which is still in the conversion phase , did not move any aircraft to the Persian Gulf. After most aircraft returned to Germany, the Wildenrath airfields were given up in 1992 , Gütersloh in 1993 and Gatow in 1994 . The Harrier and transport helicopters stationed in Gütersloh were stationed in RAF Laarbruch , whose tornadoes had previously been relocated to Great Britain. The reduced RAF Germany was temporarily designated as the 2nd Group from 1993 until 1996 and was already directly subordinate to the RAF Strike Command in the United Kingdom. In addition to a regular presence in the Gulf, the remaining squadrons took part in international missions in the Balkans in the 1990s . The two remaining places Laarbruch and Brüggen were finally closed in 1999 and 2002 respectively. Gütersloh and Brüggen initially remained under British command and were taken over by the British Army .

On the occasion of the 100th birthday of the RAF, there was an overflight at the ILA 2018 in the spring of 2018, including some landings of an RAF Chinook over former RAF stations in North Rhine-Westphalia, including its former bases in Laarbruch and Gütersloh .

The very last RAF organization that was based in Germany was legal advice for soldiers. The first office of the RAF Legal Branch in the Federal Republic was opened in Bad Eilsen at the end of the 1940s. After the RAF withdrew, the organization looked after soldiers from the British Army , which was still stationed here . With the withdrawal of the last British combat troops, the last RAF Legal Service office in Paderborn- Sennelager was closed in June 2019 .


The organization of the associations stationed in Germany essentially followed the general principles of the RAF. In the first years, up to the significant downsizing associated with the establishment of the Bundeswehr Air Force at the end of the 1950s, BAFO and 2nd TAF were divided into Groups , Stations (from the end of the 1940s), Wings (with an interruption at the end of the 1940s) and squadrons . In the summer of 1945 there were still three groups (the 2nd , 83rd and 84th ), at the end of the 1940s the BAFO was reduced to only the 2nd group before the 83rd group was added again in the 1950s, the latter is today (2011) based in Kuwait , the former in his home country.

From the end of the 1950s, the RAFG was only divided into stations and squadrons .

List of RAF airfields in Germany

In addition to the airfields, the RAF maintained a large number of other facilities. In addition to headquarters, these included two hospitals and various shooting ranges such as RAF Nordhorn , which was only handed over to the German Air Force in 2001 .

No. Surname from to current use Remarks
B.111 Ahlhorn 1952 October 15, 1958 Ahlhorn Airfield
Bruggen May 1, 1953 February 28, 2002 Javelin Barracks or Elmpt Station, British Army (closed in 2015) 48 years RAF main base, until the beginning of 2009 still base for a few helicopters
B.151 Buckeburg 1946 3rd February 1958 Bückeburg Army Airfield
Dortmund 1945 1953 Buschei nature reserve , golf course, Borussia Dortmund training ground Napier Barracks of the British Army of the Rhine from 1959 to 1995.
B.118 Celle April 11, 1945 November 29, 1957 Celle Army Airfield important transport aircraft base for the Berlin Airlift
B.152 Fassberg April 16, 1945 January 1957 Fassberg Air Base important transport aircraft base for the Berlin Airlift
Gatow (West Berlin) June 25, 1945 September 7, 1994 General Steinhoff Barracks, Air Force Museum At 49 years of age, the longest-used RAF airfield
Geilenkirchen May 24, 1953 March 1968 Geilenkirchen Air Base
Y.99 Gutersloh June 1945 June 30, 1993 Princess Royal Barracks (closed in 2016) 68 years as the main base of operations for the RAF and Army Air Corps
B.117 Jever March 1951 December 31, 1961 Upjever Air Base
B.100 Laarbruch October 15, 1954 November 30, 1999 Niederrhein Airport
B.158 Lübeck May 7, 1945 February 1950 Lübeck Airport Basis for weapons training courses and the airlift
Norvenich 1954 December 8, 1955 Nörvenich Air Base
Oldenburg May 1952 October 21, 1957 Solar park until 2006 air base of the air force
B.164 Schleswigland May 6, 1945 May 1, 1958 Schleswig Air Base important transport aircraft base for the Berlin Airlift
B.170 Sylt 1947 October 16, 1961 Sylt Airport Basis for weapons training courses
B.174 Uetersen 1945 November 1955 Uetersen airfield
B.119 Delusion 1945 July 18, 1957 Cologne / Bonn Airport RAF main base in the first 12 years after the end of the war
Wildenrath January 15, 1952 2nd November 1992 Railway test center, Siemens
B.116 Wunstorf April 7, 1945 February 15, 1958 Wunstorf Air Base important transport aircraft base for the Berlin Airlift

The number in the first column refers to the code numbers of airfields on the occupied European continent assigned by the Western Allies after the invasion of Normandy. Airfields that were only used temporarily in the first months or years after the Second World War are not listed.

In addition to the emergency planes, some gliders were also stationed at many of the airfields; the members of the Gliders Clubs used them outside of flight operating hours. In the first years after the war, RAF glider pilots also used the Ithwiesen glider airfield .


  • Michael G. Burns: RAF Germany , Arms and Armor Press, London 1990; ISBN 0-85368-918-0 .
  • Marcus Herbote, Wilfried Zetsche: British Harriers - Part 1 , AirDOC Verlag, Erlangen 2008; ISBN 978-3-935687-14-0 .
  • Marcus Herbote, Wilfried Zetsche: British Lightnings , AirDOC Verlag, Erlangen 2005; ISBN 3-935687-10-9 .
  • Bill Taylor: Royal Air Force Germany , Midland Publishing, Hinckley / England 2003; ISBN 1-85780-034-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Royal Air Force Chinook Tours Historical RAF Bases In Germany For Centenary Celebrations, Forces.net, April 27, 2018