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Brief historical overview of the RAF, RFC and RNAS in Lincolnshire
Part Four :: The Cold War and the current period

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Updated: 1 Oct 06

The Cold War (1946 - 1990)

After VE-Day and peace in Europe the new battlefronts began to develop as the realities of global stand-off between the West and the Soviet bloc emerged. In later years this would mean for Lincolnshireplaying a key role in both the air-delivered nuclear deterrent with the mighty Vulcan bomber and strategic nuclear missile bases hosting 15 Thor ICBM launchers, commanded from RAF Hemswell.

RAF Scampton was home from Jul 1948 to 30 B-29 Stratofortresses of 28th and 301st Bomb Groups, US Strategic Air Command, due to its runway length and strength. The B-29 flew in the Berlin airlift.

Korean War

RAF Sturgate reopened in 1953 to accommodate USAF Strategic Air Command units. Republic F-84 Thunderchiefs of the 508th Strategic Fighter Wing operated from Sturgate possibly as late as final closure in 1964. In 1954 RAF East Kirkby reopened to serve both RAF and USAF units staging operations in the Far East from here. USAF Dakotas of 3917 Air Base Sqn of 7 Strategic Air Command Air Division were based here until closure in 1958. In 1955 RAF Spilsby then re-opened to host ground units on the USAF. However, the east-west runway was extended by 1,590 ft during the Korean War.

Berlin Airflift

Amongst other involvements in the Berlin Airlift, RAF Scampton-based B-29 Stratofortresses of US Strategic Air Command flew in the Berlin Airlift.

Suez Crisis

During the Oct 1956 Suez Crisis, Canberra Bombers from Lincolnshire (Binbrook's 9 Sqn and 101 Sqn) joined in the bombardment of Egyptian positions.

The Suez Crisis and the Sandys review were two major factors in the reduction in front-line combat strength of the RAF so that from 1955's 187 operational sqns, through 135 in 1960, we were left with just 100 in 1965.

Missile Deterrence

In Mar 1957 the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, and the US President, Dwight D Eisenhower, met in Bermuda. One of the principal issues for discussion was the possibility of deploying the Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile to Britain. It was agreed that 60 Thor IRBM would be manned up by RAF Bomber Command but that control of the nuclear warheads would remain with USAF personnel sited at each Thor base. The developments in rocket technology were important in the Ballistic Missile becoming the 'future of deterrence', rather than relying solely on air-delivered weapons. Thor was in service in Lincolnshire at RAF Bardney, Caistor, Coleby Grange, Folkingham, Hemswell and Ludford Magna.

The presence of a large proportion of Britain's ballistic missile nuclear deterrent, together with the V-bomber bases, required a reasonable layered defence of Lincolnshire to be introduced. Hunter and Javelin fighter aircraft provided the outer layer, with Bloodhound surface to air missile systems and associated radar and control units at RAF Barkston Heath, Dunholme Lodge, North Coates, and Woodhall Spa.

Vulnerabilities to attack in the Thor system lead to its withdrawal by 1963.

Removal of the Nuclear Deterrent

The Royal Navy took on the strategic nuclear deterrent role with Polaris-equipped submarines from 1969. One of the many effects on the RAF included re-roling the V-bomber force; Lincolnshire-based Vulcans were now employed on radar training, reconnaissance and even oil platform patrols in the North Sea.


It was during the Cold War era that Britain undertook Op CORPORATE to reclaim the Falkland Islands in 1982 after Argentina invaded. The most famous RAF contribution to the operation was the first Black Buck bombing raid by a Vulcan B2 on Stanley airfield from Ascension Island.

The Modern Day

.. to be continued!

> RAF history in Lincolnshire

The early years up to 1918
Early days in Saint Omer
The Inter-war years

World War TwoRAF
Cold War to the present

> The command structure

Bomber Command
Fighter Command
Coastal Command
Training Command
Balloon Command

> Airfield information

Generic airfield layout
Emergency landing grounds
Hangar types
FIDO fog dispersal
Airfield defences
Airfield call signs
Pundit codes
ICAO Codes

> Decoy airfields and deception

Q Sites
K sites
Starfish sites

> Other historical pages

Key dates of bomber offensives

Mission types

The secret, electronic war

Aircraft manufacturers in Lincolnshire

The US Air Forces in Lincolnshire

Selected books about Lincolnshire aviation history

The 'RAFwaffe'

History of the RNAS on the Fleet Air Arm Archive

The Architectural context -

> Sources

Official Records
Crashes and Oral History

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire

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