Hope this helps. It took me ages to write and it's all from memory;
The construction of Royal Air Force Cottesmore began in 1935 in response to heightened tension in Europe and the re-armament of Germany. The airfield opened on 11 March 1938 and soon after 207 and 35 Squadron arrived, equipped with Wellesleys, but soon converted to the Fairey Battle which was used to train aircrew. Some of the first night bombing trials took place from Cottesmore in late 1938. At the outbreak of WWII, ten squadrons of Fairey Battles were immediately despatched to France and both 207 and 35 Squadron moved to Cranfield to act as war reserves.
Crews from both squadrons deployed to France and flew bombing missions in a vain attempt to stop the German advance through Belgium and France. However, the Fairey Battles in close formation Battle was no match for the German Messerschmitts and the rate of loss of aircraft was fearsomely high. By June 1940, the dispirited remnants of the Fairey Battle fleet was ordered to return to England.
After the Fairey Battle aircraft had left Cottesmore, Bomber Command assumed control and 106 and 185 Squadrons moved in. The squadrons soon merged to form 14 Operational Training Unit (OTU) and were equipped with Handley Page Hampden aircraft in order to train bomber aircrew. In December 1939 the RAF's heavy bombers were withdrawn from day service owing to mounting losses. As a result, Cottesmore crews trained hard at night to improve night navigation techniques. In May 1942, Handley Page Hampden Mk 1 Cottesmore Hampdens were called upon to take part in Bomber Harris' "1000 bomber" raids over Cologne, Essen, Bremen and Dusseldorf. One hundred and fifty one sorties were flown by Cottesmore aircraft with the loss of nine aircraft and twenty three aircrew. 14 OTU re-equipped with Wellingtons in late 1942, just before being moved to Market Harborough when Cottesmore was chosen as a storage centre for Horsa gliders being prepared for the Allied airborne assault across the channel.
WWII - USAAF STATION 489
'May the memory of the comradeship sown in the skies of Europe forever be as green as the fields of Cottesmore' - Words inscribed on the memorial stone laid by the Americans at Cottesmore, remaining to this day in front of the Station's main Headquarters.
On 8 September 1943, the US HQ Troop Carrier Command took control of Cottesmore which became known as USAAF Station 489. By March 1944, Cottesmore had a 2000 ft hard runway and housed 3700 US servicemen equipped with C-47 Skytrains and C-53 Skytroopers. By June 1944, the hangars at Cottesmore housed US paratroops of the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. C-47/C-53 aircraft carried US paratroops from Cottesmore for the Normandy landings in June. Later, on 17 September, Cottesmore C-47's/C-53's launched towing Waco gliders on Operation MARKET GARDEN and dropped 1362 US paratroops of the 82nd Airborne Division south of Nijmegen. When Victory in Europe was declared on 8 May 1945, the Americans departed for home on 11 May.
EARLY POST-WAR YEARS
Canberras were based at Cottesmore for a year betw The early post-war years at Cottesmore were turbulent. Initially, it became part of 7 Group and housed 1668 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) before being transferred to 91 Group Bomber Command, and later 21 Group. 1668 HCU itself was quickly superceded by 16 OTU equipped with Oxford and Mosquito aircraft. In 1948, 16 OTU left and Cottesmore became home to 7 Flying Training School (FTS) which trained fighter pilots firstly in the Tiger Moth, later replaced by the Percival Prentice, then the Harvard which was eventually replaced by the Boulton Paul Balliol. As well as training RAF pilots, 7FTS trained Royal Naval pilots. In March 1954, 7FTS moved to RAF Valley and Cottesmore was handed to 3 Group. In May, 15, 44 , 57 and 149 Squadrons moved in with Canberras marking the first time that front-line squadrons had been housed at Cottesmore. The squadrons practised high level bombing missions and 149 Squadron were the first Royal Air Force Squadron to be granted permission to bomb from 40 000 ft. The Canberra, however, was not destined to stay long at Cottesmore; by February 1955 all four squadrons had departed to be based elsewhere.
COTTESMORE - NUCLEAR BASE
Handley Page Victors on the line In 1957 it was announced that Cottesmore was to become a V-Force base and a new 9000ft runway was built. Group Captain 'Johnnie' Johnson, the famous Battle of Britain pilot and top scoring British pilot in World War 2, was appointed Station Commander and Victor aircraft of 10 and 15 Squadrons arrived soon afterwards. The Victors carried out Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duties from 1962 up until both squadrons were disbanded in 1964.
Soon after the Victors left, 9, 12 and 35 Squadrons moved to Cottesmore equipped with Vulcan bombers and immediately undertook QRA duties. Vulcans from Cottesmore were deployed to Gan, Butterworth and Tengah in the Far East during the confrontation with Indonesia in 1965. In 1969, the entire Cottesmore Vulcan Wing was moved to Akrotiri in Cyprus, and Cottesmore was transferred to 90(Signals) Group. The last QRA duty to be carried out at Cottesmore took place on 31 January 1969; this marked the last of 1551 consecutive days of QRA by the Vulcans.
90 (SIGNALS) GROUP
Three weeks after the last Vulcan had left, 90 (Signals) Group took over Cottesmore and 115 Squadron moved in equipped with Argosy and Varsity aircraft. These were used for the checking of airfield approach aids. Three Canberra units followed: 360 Squadron equipped with Canberras designed for electronic warfare, 98 Squadron in the airfield checking role and 231 Operational Conversion Unit. 360 Squadron was a unique joint RAF/RN squadron and the policy was that every fourth Commanding Officer should be a RN officer. During its time at Cottesmore, Cdr Oxley therefore commanded the Squadron from September 1972 to October 1974. In 1975, all the squadrons relocated elsewhere when a periodic defence review announced that Cottesmore was to be handed over to Care and Maintenance.
THE TRI-NATIONAL TORNADO TRAINING ESTABLISHMENT
A Tornado of the Tri-National Tornado Training Est In 1979, a Tri-National Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Britain, Germany and Italy which confirmed the creation of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment (TTTE) at Cottesmore. TTTE was officially opened on 29 Jan 81 and consisted of three squadrons of Tornado aircraft flown by staff and students from all three participating countries. This arrangement proved to be a huge success and at its height TTTE trained 300 crews a year. In 1998 the three nations decided to go their separate ways, and that together with the pressing requirement to find a home for squadrons returning to Britain from Germany, led to the disbandment of TTTE.
THE HARRIER FORCE
On 13 April 1999, IV(AC) Squadron (equipped with the Harrier GR7) returned from service overseas to their new home at Cottesmore, closely followed by 3(F) Squadron on 11 May 1999. During 1999 the Harrier Force took part in OP BOLTON in the Balkans and in 2000 six aircraft were based on HMS Illustrious for OP PALLISTER in Sierra Leone. Nos 3(F) and IV(AC) Squadrons were joined on 28 June 2000 by 1(F) Squadron, finally collocating all the RAF's front-line Harrier squadrons in the Cottesmore Wing of 'Joint Force Harrier'; No 20(Reserve) Squadron, the Operational Conversion Unit remains at RAF Wittering.
JOINT FORCE HARRIER
In 2002 the Secretary of State for Defence announced that the Royal Navy would retire its Sea Harrier aircraft and many of the RN Harrier 3 (F) Sqn disbandment and 800 NAS reforming parade personnel would move to RAF Cottesmore where they would join the RAF and form Joint Force Harrier. Accordingly, they fly and maintain the Harrier GR7/7A aircraft alongside their RAF colleagues. During the planning for this change, RAF Harrier crews were in action once more on OP TELIC (Gulf War II) in 2003. During late 2004, the RAF Harrier Squadrons commenced their ongoing commitment to OP HERRICK in Afghanistan. On 31 March 2006, No 3(F) Squadron disbanded as a Harrier Squadron, immediately reforming at RAF Coningsby operating the Typhoon aircraft. Simultaneously, No 800 Naval Air Squadron reformed at Cottesmore, utilising a mixture of RAF and RN Harrier trained personnel from No 3(F) Squadron. In October 2006, No 800 Naval Air Squadron undertook its first operational deployment, as part of Joint Force Harrier, when the Squadron deployed on OP HERRICK. Also in October 2006, the GR9 version of the Harrier aircraft was brought into service and is gradually being rolled out to replace the GR7/7A. On 9 March 2007 No 801 Naval Air Squadron will be formally commissioned and join with No 800 Naval Air Squadron to form the Naval Strike Wing. Then Joint Force Harrier will comprise 3 independent flying units: No 1(Fighter) Squadron and No IV(Army Co-operation) Squadron (RAF); and the Naval Strike Wing. The final stage of Migration to a fully 50:50 RAF: RN Harrier Force and the emergence of 800 and 801 Naval Air Squadrons as fully independent organisations will be concluded once the requisite supervisory and experience conditions are met. Longer term, these ground-attack Harriers will be replaced by the multi-role Joint Strike Fighter, starting in 2018, again operated by both RAF and RN personnel.
This is the latest in the long line of Harrier 'Jump Jets' originating from the 1960s. The second-generation GR5 and GR7 versions replaced the original Harrier GR3s in the late 1980s / early 1990s in the offensive support role. The GR7 is, in essence, a licence-built American-designed AV-8B Harrier II fitted with RAF-specific navigation and defensive systems as well as other changes including additional underwing pylons for Sidewinder missiles. The improved design of the GR7 allows the aircraft to carry twice the load of a GR3 over the same distance or the same load twice the distance. First flight of the Harrier GR7 was in 1989, and deliveries to RAF squadrons began in 1990. A total of 96 aircraft were ordered, including 62 interim GR5s which were later modified to GR7 standard.
Take off at Kandahar The Harrier GR7 is capable of operating throughout the full spectrum of Anti-Surface Force Operations and is the RAF's primary aircraft in the Close Air Support (CAS) role. The GR7 is capable of day and night operations and offers vertical and short take-off and landing (V/STOL) performance making it an extremely flexible asset. Currently operational with four front line squadrons (Nos 1, IV, 800 and 801 NAS all at RAF Cottesmore) and the Operational Conversion Unit (No 20(R) Squadron, RAF Wittering), the aircraft carries forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) equipment which, when used in conjunction with the pilot's night vision goggles (NVGs), provides a night, low level capability. Although optimised for low-level operations at subsonic speeds, the Harrier is also ideally suited to medium level operations where it utilises its highly accurate angle rate bombing system (ARBS), which employs a TV and laser dual mode tracker (DMT). Despite the inclusion of state-of-the-art technology, the Harrier remains a highly versatile aircraft and can easily be deployed to remote forward operating locations and this capability is regularly practiced during exercises. The Harrier T10, two-seat trainer version of the GR7, came into service in 1995.
Recent operational deployments for the Harriers have been to Italy in support of NATO and UN operations in Bosnia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, and Kuwait in support of the conflict with Iraq and to the Gulf embarked on Royal Navy aircraft carriers where they complemented the Royal Navy's own Sea Harriers. This type of joint deployment, something that will become more commonplace in future operations, has resulted in the creation of Joint Force Harrier. Both RAF and Royal Navy Harriers and Sea Harriers now come until control of No 1 Group at HQ Strike Command based at RAF High Wycombe. Plans announced in 2002 have seen the withdrawal of the Sea Harrier in 2006 with the Harrier GR7/GR9s being operated by RAF and Royal Navy squadrons.
GR 7 mid air refueling The Harrier is undergoing a number of upgrades. The Pegasus 107 engine provides more thrust at higher ambient temperatures as well as reduced maintenance costs. These have been fitted to 20 aircraft, with the aircraft becoming Harrier GR7A. There are also major upgrades to the aircrafts avionics and weapons systems; this enables the Harrier to carry a variety of current and future weapons. This includes Maverick air-surface missiles, Brimstone anti-armour missiles and ASRAAM missiles for self-defence. A stronger composite rear fuselage will also be fitted. These aircraft has become the Harrier GR9s, whilst those with the uprated engines are the GR9As. This programme also includes an upgrade of the two-seater T10 aircraft to the equivalent GR9 standard known as the Harrier T12.
By 1 April 2007, Joint Force Harrier (JFH) will operate an all Harrier GR9 fleet. The GR9 will be optimised for offensive support operations and be capable of employing the latest smart weapons such as the Brimstone anti-armour weapon. It will be a more capable platform in the offensive role than the GR7. Like the GR7 it will be able to utilise Sidewinder Air to Air missiles. The operational advantages of the GR9 over the GR7 include the capability to employ the latest generation of smart weapons. There are other advantages too, but these are classified. The Harrier GR9 will be maintained in service until F-35 JSF is in service.