RAF’s IX(B) Squadron Joins Quick Reaction Alert
Fourth Quick Reaction Alert Squadron for RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Lossiemouth welcomed a new, fourth operational Typhoon squadron to augment its mission to protect UK and NATO airspace on Thursday, 2 May 2019. The personnel and aircraft of IX(B) Squadron will be at the heart of the UK’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Force on constant readiness to scramble.
The Squadron was officially stood up at a ceremonial parade and flypast at RAF Lossiemouth on Thursday, but has been operational since 1 April. The standing up of the new Squadron coincides with RAF Lossiemouth marking its 80th anniversary.
RAF Lossiemouth 80th Anniversary
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said: “I’m delighted to be back at RAF Lossiemouth today, one day after the station celebrated its 80th Anniversary. RAF Lossiemouth has and will continue to play a key role in the Defence of the United Kingdom, being ready to intercept potential airborne threats 24/7 and in addition shortly becoming home to our nine new submarine hunting P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft. These will work with our Typhoon force to patrol far out into the Atlantic protecting the UK’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent and two new aircraft carriers.”
Some of the Squadron’s aircraft will be painted in distinctive markings to identify them as training ‘adversaries’, in their role as ‘aggressors’. In this role, they will provide a sterner training test to RAF and NATO fast-jet pilots, as they will play the role of opposing aircraft which match their speed and manoeuvrability while using the latest real-world dogfighting and air combat tactics against them.
Transition from Tornado to Typhoon
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier also said that “The transition of IX Sqn from Tornado to Typhoon is one important part of the expansion of RAF Lossiemouth which will see the number of service personnel here increase to some 2,300, supported by a further 1,800 MOD civilian and contractor staff.”
Nearly 26 years after being introduced at RAF Lossiemouth, the iconic Tornado aircraft returned to Scottish skies for the last time in February 2019, with three days of flypasts marking the jet’s imminent retirement. The formation was led by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier KCB CBE DFC ADC, a Tornado pilot and former Station Commander of RAF Lossiemouth.
First entering service in 1979, the fast jets has been used in operations across the world, most recently bombarding the Islamic State to push the terrorist group back through Syria and Iraq. After over four years on Operation Shader, on 5 February this year the aircraft finally returned home from operations for good.
In the immediate term, the Tornadoes will be replaced by new weapons capabilities for the Typhoon jet. Under ‘Project Centurion’, worth £425m over the past three years, the Typhoon now has deep strike cruise missile Storm Shadow, air-to-air missile Meteor and the precision attack missile Brimstone at their disposal.
The RAF’s new fleet of F-35 Lightning jets will form the backbone of the UK’s combat air fleet alongside the Typhoon jets in the coming years. The Tornado officially retired from service at the end of March and will only be used for training purposes over the UK in the intervening period.
Quick Reaction Alert
Quick Reaction Alert involves the entire UK Air Defence system on standby at immediate readiness, 24/7, 365 days a year, with aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby protecting northern and southern UK airspace respectively.
In recent months, Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth have been scrambled four times as long-range Russian bombers approached UK airspace.
NATO Air Policing
Personnel and Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth conducted a NATO Air Policing mission role in Romania in 2018, where they scrambled eight times in response to 20 Russian aircraft as part of assurance measures for eastern allies. Later this year, RAF Lossiemouth aircraft will deploy to Iceland to conduct a further NATO Air Policing mission, while other aircraft from the UK Typhoon force deploy to Estonia on a similar task.
The Typhoon has exceptional performance that makes it capable of intercepting aircraft from the smallest light aircraft to the largest of airliners. The supersonic fighter has the ability of reaching all corners of the UK’s airspace within minutes of getting airborne.
“I am proud to see our Combat Air capabilities continue to grow,” said Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, “a necessity as they will undoubtedly continue to be in exceptionally high demand on operations, here in the UK and across the world.”
Image: an RAF Tornado flying alongside RAF Typhoons over Morayshire and RAF Lossiemouth, February 2019 (Crown Copyright, 2019).