|RAF Barkston Heath|
|Near Grantham, Lincolnshire|
A Grob Prefect T1 of the type based at Barkston Heath.
|Type||Relief Landing Ground|
|Area||224 hectares (550 acres)|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Air Force|
|Controlled by||No. 22 Group (Training)|
|In use||1938-1943 (Royal Air Force)|
1943-1945 (US Army Air Force)
1945 - present (Royal Air Force)
|Elevation||111.8 metres (367 ft) AMSL|
|Source: UK MIL AIP Barkston Heath|
RAF Barkston Heath has the Naval and Army Elements of No. 3 Flying Training School RAF (3 FTS) which, for a period between approximately 1995-2010 operated the Slingsby T67M260 Firefly, followed by the Grob Tutor T.1 which operated between 2010-2018.
3 FTS currently provide elementary flying training for Royal Navy and Army Air Corps students on the Grob Prefect. A secondary role of RAF Barkston Heath is as a Relief Landing Ground for the flying training activities at RAF Cranwell.
At the time of its construction, Barkston Heath was intended for use by the RAF's No. 7 Group, in common with a number of other airfields in the Grantham area.
In late 1943, Barkston Heath was made available to the United States Army Air Force's Ninth Air Force. It was earmarked for basing troop carrier units scheduled to be transferred from Sicily to participate in the forthcoming cross-Channel invasion, Operation Overlord. During its time as a USAAF airfield, Barkston Heath was designated as USAAF station 483.
The first US personnel arrived on 13 February from Sciacca, Sicily, and most of their Douglas C-47 Skytrains on the 17th and 18th, although not all aircraft were in place until a month later. These new occupants were the 61st Troop Carrier Group with its components being:
The 61st TCG was part of the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, IX Troop Carrier Command. The headquarters of the 61st Troop Carrier Group moved to an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Abbeville (ALG B-92), France, on 13 March 1945, but its squadrons went to RAF Chipping Ongar from where they participated in Operation Varsity on 24 March carrying British paratroops who dropped near Wesel.
An increased demand for theatre air transport brought the 349th TCG from Baer Field Indiana in late March 1945, with its Curtiss C-46 Commando transports. Group headquarters was established at Barkston on 30 March, but the group only remained three weeks before moving to Rove/Amy, France, on 18 April.
In May, a detachment of C-46s from this group returned to airlift British 1st Airborne Division troops to Norway.
The USAAF returned control of the airfield to the Air Ministry in June 1945 when the war in Europe ended. Barkston Heath was used by No. 256 Maintenance Unit RAF and No. 2 Squadron RAF Regiment. From May 1948 it was assigned to RAF Cranwell as a relief landing ground, and this role continues today.
The airfield was also used during the 1980s by a number of privately owned aircraft of various types, and for several years it has also been the venue for the British National Model Aircraft Championships.
From 1983 to 1989 Barkston was home to 'A' Flight 25 Squadron (with Bristol Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles) when they returned from RAF Bruggen in Germany. For a while Barkston was the home of Red Dragon flight delivering Prince Charles's basic flight training.
On 1 April 1995, the Joint Elementary Flying Training School (JEFTS), which provided training to RAF and Fleet Air Arm (FAA) pilots, relocated to Barkston Heath from RAF Topcliffe in North Yorkshire. The school was equipped with eighteen civilian registered Slingsby T67M Firefly trainer aircraft.
In 1996 the Army Air Corps (AAC) joined JEFTS and the school operated as a tri-service organisation until 2003 when the RAF decided to instead provide elementary flying training through its network of University Air Squadrons. JEFTS as a result was renamed the Defence Elementary Flying Training School in July 2003, with the FAA element re-establishing itself as 703 Naval Air Squadron (703 NAS) and the AAC element as No. 674 Squadron.
The following units were also here at some point:
The RAF Barkston Heath site extends to 224 hectares (550 acres). It has three runways, 06/24 which is 1,868 metres (6,129 ft) long, 10/28 which is 1,319 metres (4,327 ft) long and 18/36 which is 1,280 metres (4,199 ft) long, all constructed from asphalt.
The airfield has limited facilities and relies on its parent station RAF Cranwell for support. The main building at Barkston Heath is the Operational Support Building which was re-opened in January 2018 after refurbishment as part of the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) programme. It was renamed the Esmonde Building in memory of Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde, a distinguished Fleet Air Arm pilot who was a posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross.
Out of six T2 type hangar and one B1 type constructed during the Second World War, only two T2 type remain on the site. Due to the relatively small aircraft that used Barkston Heath over the years, there has never been a requirement to lengthen the airfield's runways, consequently its war-time layout has remained largely preserved, including fifty aircraft hardstandings and loop dispersals.
RAF Barkston Health is home to the Defence Elementary Flying Training School, comprising 703 Naval Air Squadron (703 NAS) and No. 674 Squadron Army Air Corps. Both units operate the Grob Prefect T1 in the elementary flying training role. Aircraft and support are provided by a civilian contractor, Ascent Flight Training, as part of the UK Military Flying Training System contract. Ascent also provides a significant proportion of the instructional staff, an Air Traffic Control service, plus engineering and support personnel.
703 NAS trains future Fleet Air Arm pilots destined to crew both helicopters (AgustaWestland Merlin and AgustaWestland Wildcat) and fast jets (Lockheed Martin F-35B II Lightning and BAE Hawk). Helicopter students graduate to the Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire, whereas fast jet students move onto No. 4 Flying Training School at RAF Valley in Anglesey. 703 NAS also comprises the Observer Training Flight, which provides basic flying and navigation training to FAA observers prior to observer training with 750 NAS at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall.
No. 647 Squadron of the Army Air Corps trains British Army pilots who will go onto the Defence Helicopter Flying School and eventually fly front-line helicopters such as the Boeing Apache and AgustaWestland Wildcat.
Barkston Heath acts as a Relief Landing Ground for the flying training activities at RAF Cranwell, which is four minutes flying time away.