RAF Odiham

Royal Air Force Odiham or more simply RAF Odiham (IATA: ODH, ICAO: EGVO) is a Royal Air Force station situated a little to the south of the historic village of Odiham in Hampshire, England. It is the home of the Royal Air Force's heavy lift helicopter, the Chinook. Its current station commander is Group Captain Nicholas Knight OBE RAF.[3]

RAF Odiham
Near Odiham, Hampshire in England
An RAF Chinook HC6 based at Odiham.
Promise and fulfil
RAF Odiham
Shown within Hampshire
Coordinates51°14′03″N 000°56′34″W
TypeMain Operating Base
Area263 hectares (650 acres)[1]
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byJoint Helicopter Command
Site history
Built1925 (1925)
In use1925 - present
Garrison information
Group Captain Lee Turner
Occupants See Based units section for full list.
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: ODH, ICAO: EGVO, WMO: 03761
Elevation123.5 metres (405 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
09/27 1,838 metres (6,030 ft) Asphalt
Number Length and surface
09/27 905.2 metres (2,970 ft) Grass
05/23 496.9 metres (1,630 ft) Grass
Source: RAF Odiham Defence Aerodrome Manual[2]


Aircraft operations began from the site in 1925 but it was not until October 1937 that it was opened as a permanent airfield.[3]

Second World War

During the Second World War North American Mustangs and Hawker Typhoons were flown out of the base. After the Allied invasion of Europe the site became a prisoner of war camp.[4]


Fighter role

Following the end of the War RAF Fighter Command assumed control of the base.[13] No. 247 Squadron was re-equipped with Vampires in June 1946,[13] while No. 54 Squadron and No. 72 Squadron were both re-equipped with Vampires in July 1946.[14] No. 54 Squadron and No. 247 Squadron both converted to night fighter units equipped with Meteor F.8s in 1951.[14] As part of her coronation celebrations the Queen reviewed the Royal Air Force at Odiham in 1953.[15]

No. 46 Squadron was re-formed at RAF Odiham on 15 August 1954 as a night fighter unit equipped with Meteor NF12s and 14s.[14] In 1955 No. 54 Squadron and No. 247 Squadron started receiving Hunters and, in 1956, No. 46 Squadron began converting to Javelins with the first arriving in February.[14] Odiham closed as a fighter base in 1959.[14]

Support helicopters

After a short period in "care and maintenance" status the base was reopened as part of Transport Command in 1960.[14] In this role No. 72 Squadron was re-equipped with Bristol Belvedere helicopters in 1961 and then with Westland Whirlwind helicopters in 1964.[11] The Westland helicopters were joined by the Aérospatiale Pumas of No. 33 Squadron and No. 230 Squadron in 1971.[16]

The first Chinook HC.1s arrived at Odiham in 1981. These were replaced by the Chinook HC.2 in 1993. The RAF ordered the Chinook HC.3, a special forces variant, in 1995. After being in storage for eight years due to avionics certification problems, the HC.3 airframes were retro-fitted with HC.2 avionics during 2009 and 2010, to enable them to finally enter RAF service.[3] The Mk6, which incorporates a new Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS), is a new buy of 14 aircraft which arrived in 2013.[17]

No. 618 Volunteer Gliding Squadron arrived in July 2000. The Unit operated the Vigilant T Mk 1 self-launching glider, providing basic flying and gliding training to members of the Air Cadet Organisation. Due to a fleet-wide airworthiness issue, the Vigilant (and its cousin, the Viking conventional glider) were grounded in April 2014. No. 618 Volunteer Gliding Squadron was subsequently disbanded.[18]

In May 2015, it was announced that the Chinook Operational Conversion Flight, comprising six Chinooks and 150 personnel would transfer from Odiham to RAF Benson to form a joint Puma and Chinook Operational Conversion Unit.[19] The move began in December 2015 as the unit joined their Puma counterparts at Benson under a reformed No. 28 Squadron.[20]

With the Lynx reaching the end of its operational life in January 2018, No. 657 Squadron of the Army Air Corps and their Lynx AH9A disbanded in May 2018.[21]

Role and operations

RAF Odiham's mission statement is to Deliver and sustain Chinook and Special Forces aviation operations world-wide, in order to support UK defence missions and tasks”.[22]

Support Helicopter Force (SHF)

To fulfil this mission, the station is home to No. 7 Squadron, No. 18 Squadron and No. 27 Squadron, all operating the Boeing Chinook and forming part of the RAF's Support Helicopter Force.[23] The Chinook is a heavy-lift helicopter used for tactical troop and load movements and casualty evacuation across the battlefield. The aircraft can carry up to fifty-five troops or around ten-tonnes of mixed cargo either internally or as an under-slung load.[24]

The Chinook Display Team is also based at the Station.[23]

Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing

Odiham is home to the headquarters of the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW). The wing is a Royal Air Force and British Army organisation that coordinates the provision of rotary wing aviation support to the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF). Providing this role are Chinooks of No. 7 Squadron at Odiham and Army Air Corps Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin II and Westland Gazelle AH1 aircraft based at Stirling Lines in Herefordshire.[25]

Other activities

The Kestrel Gliding Club continues to fly from Odiham at weekends, having become part of the Royal Air Force Gliding and Soaring Association in 2006.[26]

Based units

The following flying and notable non-flying units are based at RAF Odiham.[23][26]

Royal Air Force

Joint Helicopter Command

No. 22 Group (Training) RAF


  • Kestrel Gliding Club


Station badge and motto

RAF Odiham's badge, awarded in November 1951, features a port portcullis between two towers each displaying a red rose behind two silver arrows with red feathers, crossing one another. The arrows are entwined by a jess and surmounted by a bell. The portcullis and towers relate to Odiham Castle, a ruin dating from the 13th century, located approximately 2 km north of the station. The portcullis also originates from the badge of Fighter Command, under which the station operated during the 1950s. The roses reference the Hampshire coat of arms and the arrows represent the speed of the aircraft flown from the station. Representing a falconer and bird, jess and bell, refer to the control of hunting aircraft and refer to the role of squadrons at the station.[27]

The station's motto is 'Promise and Fulfil'.[27]

Gate Guardian

RAF Odiham's gate guardian is a former US Army Boeing CH-47F Chinook. The airframe was donated by Boeing and reassembled at the station by Boeing and the RAF, using retired parts from several US and RAF Chinooks. It was unveiled in May 2012 by Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond during a visit to the station to celebrate 30 years of RAF Chinook operations.[28][29]

List of station commanders

  • 1938–1940: Group Captain Freddie West; recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • 1949–????: Acting Group Captain Deryck Stapleton
  • 1950–1952: Group Captain Harold Maguire
  • 1952–????: Group Captain John A. Kent
  • 1955–????: Group Captain Ken Gatward
  • 1981–1983: Group Captain Sandy Hunter
  • 1985–1987: Group Captain Timothy Garden
  • 1987–1989: Group Captain John Day
  • 1989–1991: Group Captain Joe French
  • 2001–2003: Group Captain Andrew Pulford; later Chief of the Air Staff
  • 2005–2007: Group Captain Sean Reynolds
  • 2007–2009: Group Captain Paul Luker
  • 2009–2011: Group Captain Steve Shell
  • 2011–2013: Group Captain Dom Toriati
  • 2013–-2015: Group Captain Richard Madison
  • 2015–2017: Group Captain Philip Robinson
  • 2017–2019: Group Captain Lee Turner
  • 2019–present: Group Captain Nicholas Knight

See also



  1. "Defence Estates Development Plan 2009 – Annex A". GOV.UK. Ministry of Defence. 3 July 2009. p. 15. Retrieved 24 March 2019.
  2. "RAF Odiham Defence Aerodrome Manual (DAM)" (PDF). RAF Odiham. Military Aviation Authority. 1 March 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  3. RAF Odiham website
  4. "Meeting the service men and women at RAF Odiham". Hampshire Life. 23 September 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  5. Jefford 2001, p. 23.
  6. Jefford 2001, p. 24.
  7. Jefford 2001, p. 28.
  8. Jefford 2001, p. 42.
  9. Jefford 2001, p. 43.
  10. Jefford 2001, p. 45.
  11. Jefford 2001, p. 50.
  12. Jefford 2001, p. 53.
  13. Birtles 2012, p. 46.
  14. Birtles 2012, p. 47.
  15. "RAF Coronation Review 1953". Forces.net. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  16. Jefford 2001, pp. 76–77.
  17. "RAF Chinook". www.raf.mod.uk. Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  18. Brazier MP, Julian. "Air Cadet Aviation Relaunch: Written statement". parliament.uk. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  19. "Six Chinooks and 160 staff transfer to RAF Benson". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  20. "Chinooks leave RAF Odiham". Farnham Herald. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  21. Banner, David (17 January 2018). "Pride and sadness as Lynx bows out at RAF Shawbury". Shropshire Star. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  22. "Welcome to RAF Odiham". RAF Odiham. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  23. "RAF Odiham – Who's Based Here". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  24. "Chinook". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  25. "JSFAW - Responsibilities and Composition". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 27 February 2014.
  26. "Kestrel Gliding Club". Kestrel Gliding Club. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  27. "Odiham". RAF Heraldry Trust. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  28. "Aviation Photo #2295334: Boeing CH-47F Chinook (414) - UK - Air Force". Airliners.net. 3 August 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  29. "Defence Secretary Unveils Odiham's Gate Guardian". LZDZ. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2019.


  • Birtles, Philip. UK Airfields of the Cold War. Midland Publishing, 2012 ISBN 978-1857803464.
  • Jefford, C.G. RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
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