RAF Fairford

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Royal Air Force Fairford
RAF Fairford in the version 0.2a.
RAF Fairford in the version 0.2a.
Type Military
Owner UK Ministry of Defence; US Air Force (user)
City Fairford, Gloucestershire, England
Runway Length Material
09/27 3,045 m (9,990 ft.) Asphalt
Scenery tile w002n51
TerraSync No

Royal Air Force Fairford or more simply RAF Fairford (IATA: FFD, ICAO: EGVA) is a Royal Air Force station in Gloucestershire, England which is currently a standby airfield and therefore not in everyday use. Its most prominent use in recent years has been as an airfield for United States Air Force B-52s during the 2003 Iraq War, Operation Allied Force in 1999, and the first Gulf War in 1991. It is the US Air Force's only European airfield for heavy bombers.

RAF Fairford was the only Transoceanic Abort Landing site for NASA's Space Shuttle in the UK. As well as having a sufficiently long runway for a Shuttle landing (the runway is 3,045 m (9,990 ft.) long), it also had NASA-trained fire and medical crews stationed on the airfield. The runway is rated with an unrestricted load-bearing capacity, meaning that it can support any aircraft with any type of load.

RAF Fairford is also the home of the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), an annual air display. RIAT is one of the largest airshows in the world, with the 2003 show recognized by Guinness World Records as the largest military airshow ever, with an attendance of 535 aircraft.


RAF Fairford was constructed in 1944 to serve as an airfield for British and American troop carriers and gliders for the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II. In the early years of the Cold War the British and American governments reached an agreement under which elements of the USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) would be based in the UK. Bases had already been established in East Anglia, at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, but they were considered to be vulnerable to bomber attack and airfields further behind the RAF fighter defences were sought. Four RAF airfields were selected to receive SAC units — RAF Brize Norton, RAF Fairford, RAF Greenham Common and RAF Upper Heyford. In 1948 the Americans occupied RAF stations including Fairford, Brize Norton, Burtonwood, Greenham Common, Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Woodbridge to build up a deterrent in Europe against the Soviets.

In 1950, as a result of the beginning of the Cold War, the airfield was transferred to the United States Air Force for strategic bomber operations. A 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway was constructed for long-range bomber operations. The runway was completed in 1953, and served as a forward airbase for the first Convair B-36 Peacemaker aircraft from Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. The airfield later received B-47s which were maintained at a heightened state of alert because of increased tensions with the Soviet Union.

Fairford was chosen in 1969 as the British test centre for the Concorde aircraft, which continued until 1977. The U.S. Air Force returned with Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers deployed on rotation from the many KC-135 bases in the USA. On 15 November 1978 the 11th Strategic Group (11 SG) was activated at RAF Fairford. It was not manned until the following February and used KC-135 aircraft and crews from SAC, Air National Guard, and AF Reserve units until the 11 SG received its own aircraft in September 1979. It soon began aerial refueling support for all USAF operations, deployments and redeployments, as well as participating in NATO exercises.[3]

Operations staff and maintenance personnel were permanently assigned, but aircraft, aircrews and crew chiefs were temporarily assigned to the 11th Strategic Group for the European Tanker Task Force on rotation. Aircraft and crews operated from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Keflavik, Iceland; Zaragoza, Spain; Lajes Field, Azores; Sigonella NAS, Italy; and Hellenikon, Greece. The unit retained the 11th Strategic Group designation, but was inactivated on 7 August 1990. KC-135 and KC-10 tankers deployed to Fairford supported Operation El Dorado Canyon against Libya in 1986. The KC-135s and KC-10s were withdrawn in 1990 and the station was returned to standby status, upgraded to 'limited use' in the mid-1990s. In 2010, military personnel were removed, leaving a civilian operating unit.

Due to RAF Fairford's location and infrastructure, the airfield is designated as a forward operating location for the US Air Force. It was used in the first Gulf War in 1991, with B-52s and KC-135s from Eaker AFB in Arkansas. It was later used during Operation Allied Force in 1999 when B-52s from Barksdale AFB, B-1Bs from Ellsworth AFB and KC-135s from Mountain Home AFB were used. During that conflict, Fairford-based bombers dropped 48% of the ordnance dropped by NATO on targets in the former Yugoslavia. In the 2003 Iraq War, Operation Iraqi Freedom included B-52s based at Minot AFB but flying from Fairford. In recent years the airfield has been occasionally used by American B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and is frequently visited by transient U-2 aircraft.

Due to the deteriorating airfield facilities and its unique NATO heavy bomber mission, RAF Fairford underwent a $100 million upgrade of its runway and fuel systems in the largest NATO funded airfield construction project within a NATO country since the end of the Cold War. This work lasted from May 2000 through May 2002. Additional improvements continued until 2008, including the construction of two climate-controlled hangars for B-2 stealth bombers and a low-observability maintenance dock.

On 15 September 2009, it was announced that the USAF would withdraw all their uniformed staff from the station by September 2010, after which it would be run on a "care and maintenance" basis. However the base would remain a designated standby airfield, capable of immediate reactivation within 24–48 hours and continue to host the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Technical characteristics






FGCom frequencies

TWR 119.150
BRIZE DRCT 133.750
APP 119.000
APP 2 127.250
APP 3 122.100


FFA 081X, 00 NM

Custom scenery

J Maverick 16 is currently adding buildings and objects to the RAF station so that the scenery is as faithful as possible to the real air base. A first preview can be found in the download link above. You can read more about the development of the air base in the FGUK topic.


The following table takes into account improvements available only in the current development version.

Task Progress Remarks
Taxi signs Not done Not done
Objects 30}% completed
Buildings 30}% completed
Comprehensive air base scenery 20}% completed

ATC services (USAF_FF)

ATC service is provided with OpenRadar regularly on weekdays, using also Mumble and FGCom – check Lenny's website for the exact times and dates, but usually on Tuesdays evenings. For further informations about EGVA, use SkyVector and GCMAP. To avoid pilot/ATC misunderstandings see the minimum list of best practices, and don't simulate an emergency or found an excuse to land/take-off from Fairford only because it is controlled in that moment, especially for airliners (e.g. terrorists on board, engine faliture, passenger with cardiac arrest, President on board, very top secret mission, etc.).

FlightGear space program

This article is a stub. You can help the wiki by expanding it.

The air base is part of the space program missions as airport-landing facility for the Space Shuttle and other related aircrafts. See the links for further information.

Screenshot gallery of EGVA


External links