RAF Brize Norton, UK
In the early years of the Cold War the British and American governments reached an agreement under which elements of the USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) would be based in the UK. Bases had already been established in East Anglia -- at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath -- but they were considered to be too vulnerable to bomber attack and airfields further behind the RAF fighter defences were sought. Four RAF airfields were selected to receive SAC units -- RAF Brize Norton, RAF Fairford, RAF Greenham Common and RAF Upper Heyford.
On 01 June 1950 RAF Bomber Command took control of Brize Norton and a week later the first SAC elements arrived from RAF Marham. Considerable work was needed to adapt the airfield for the SAC bombers. Work began on extending the 6,000 ft wartime runways to 9,000 ft and construction of new dispersals and secure special weapons storage areas began. Brize Norton was officially handed over to the USAF on 16 April 1951, but it was not until the following year that the first SAC aircraft arrived.
On 27 June 1952, in a spectacular arrival, 21 Convair B-36 Peacemaker bombers flew to Brize Norton from the 11th BW(H) at Carswell Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas. The bombers stayed for two weeks before departing. The next major deployment was in December 1952, when the 301st Bomb Wing from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana conducted a wing deployment for a 90 day TDY (Temporary Duty). All sixty aircraft, 45 B-29 MR and 15 KB-29M stayed until mid April 1953. The B-29 Stratofortresses of the 301st BW(M) were replaced by the B-50D bombers of the 43rd BW(M), establishing a rolling series of 90 day SAC detachments at Brize Norton.
American nuclear weapons were deployed and stored at Brize Norton. They were maintained by the 30th SSDS, which was a small special weapons depot, and shared its area with the 4th ADS where weapons maintenance and aircraft loading took place.
In September 1953 the first B-47E Stratojet 6-engined bombers of the 305th BW deployed to Brize Norton from Limestone (Loring) AFB in Maine. These aircraft brought with them the KC-97G boom equipped tankers. From December 1954 until September 1955 KC-97G tankers of the 40th, 310th and 321st ARS would operate from Brize Norton until September 1955 when repair work began on the runways. B-47 Stratojets returned in July 1957. Over the next few years the B-47 force dominated the dispersals at Brize Norton. The 90-day rotation for SAC Units was discontinued in favour of short 21-day Reflex alert deployments.
On 16 January 1957 the first Boeing B-52B to land in the UK arrived at Brize.
The supersonic B-58 Hustler bomber first visited Brize Norton in January 1964. However, only a handful of B-58s ever visited the station. The Stratojets, and a few other SAC aircraft such as the U-2, continued to deploy to Brize until 1965. On 3 April 1965 the last B-47E left Brize Norton and an era ended. On 1 April 1965 the RAF took back control of Brize Norton, which was to become a Transport Command base.
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