RAF Barkston Heath

Royal Air Force Barkston Heath or RAF Barkston Heath (ICAO: EGYE) is a Royal Air Force station near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England.

RAF Barkston Heath
Near Grantham, Lincolnshire
A Grob Prefect T1 of the type based at Barkston Heath.
RAF Barkston Heath
Shown within Lincolnshire
Coordinates52°57′44″N 000°33′42″W
TypeRelief Landing Ground
Area224 hectares (550 acres)[1]
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 22 Group (Training)
Site history
Built1938 (1938)
In use1938–1943 (Royal Air Force)
1943–1945 (US Army Air Force)
1945 – present (Royal Air Force)
Garrison information
Airfield information
IdentifiersICAO: EGYE
Elevation111.8 metres (367 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
06/24 1,868 metres (6,129 ft) Asphalt
10/28 1,319 metres (4,327 ft) Asphalt
18/36 1,280 metres (4,199 ft) Asphalt
Source: UK MIL AIP Barkston Heath[2]

RAF Barkston Heath has the Naval and Army Elements of No. 3 Flying Training School RAF (No. 3 FTS) which, for a period between approximately 1995 and 2010, operated the Slingsby T67M260 Firefly, followed by the Grob Tutor T1 which operated between 2010 and 2018.

No. 3 FTS currently provide elementary flying training for Royal Navy and Army Air Corps students on the Grob Prefect T1. 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.

United States Army Air Forces use

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.

61st Troop Carrier Group

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.

349th Troop Carrier Group

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.

The squadrons of the 349th TCG were coded as follows: the 23rd -08, 312th -9E, 313th -3F, and 314th -LY. It was assigned to the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing.

In May, a detachment of C-46s from this group returned to airlift British 1st Airborne Division troops to Norway.

Royal Air Force use

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.

Elementary Flying 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.[3]

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.[4][5]

In November 2009 the Fireflies were retired and replaced with the Grob Tutor T1.[4]

Other units

The following units were also here at some point:[6]

Infrastructure and facilities

The RAF Barkston Heath site extends to 224 hectares (550 acres).[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

Out of six T2 type hangar and one B1 type constructed during the Second World War, only two T2 type remain on the site.[10] 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.

Role and operations

Defence Elementary Flying Training School

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.[5] 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.

Although the school trains Fleet Air Arm and Army Air Corps crews, it is under the command of the RAF's No. 3 Flying Training School, based at nearby RAF Cranwell.[11]

703 Naval Air Squadron

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.[5]

No. 674 Squadron

No. 674 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.[11]

Relief Landing Ground

Barkston Heath acts as a Relief Landing Ground for the flying training activities at RAF Cranwell, which is four minutes flying time away.[11]

Based units

The following flying units are based at RAF Barkston Heath. The station is also regularly used as relief landing ground by aircraft based at nearby RAF Cranwell.[11]

Royal Air Force

No. 22 Group (Training) RAF

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.


  1. "Defence Estates Development Plan 2009 – Annex A". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 July 2009. p. 18. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  2. "UK MIL AIP Barkston Heath" (PDF). UK Military AIP. No.1 Aeronautical Information Documents Unit. 3 January 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  3. March, Peter R. (1998). Brace by Wire to Fly-by-Wire – 80 Years of the Royal Air Force 1918–1988. RAF Fairford: RAF Benevolent Fund Enterprises. p. 164. ISBN 1 899808 06 X.
  4. "Flight of the Slingsby Firefly". BBC News. 17 November 2009. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  5. "Fleet Air Arm | 703 Naval Air Squadron | Elementary Flying Training". Royal Navy. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  6. "Barkston Heath". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  7. "Defence Estates Development Plan 2009 – Annex A". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 July 2009. p. 18. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  8. "UK MIL AIP Barkston Heath" (PDF). UK Military AIP. No.1 Aeronautical Information Documents Unit. 3 January 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  9. "Cutting-edge milestone for UKMFTS programme" (PDF). desider. Ministry of Defence / Defence Equipment & Support. 115: 12. February 2018.
  10. Historic England. "RAF Barkston Heath (1383736)". PastScape. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  11. "RAF College Cranwell". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 16 April 2019.


  • Bruce Barrymore Halpenny Action Stations: Wartime Military Airfields of Lincolnshire and the East Midlands v. 2 (ISBN 978-0850594843)
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0-900913-80-0
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1996) The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle ISBN 1-85409-272-3
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
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