The Spadeadam Rocket Establishment, near Carlisle, was opened in the late 1950s as a test area for the British Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM). The research program was split between Rolls Royce and Dehavilland (later Hawker Siddley). Dehavilland were responsible for the airframe and Rolls Royce for the RZ 2 rocket engines.The first rocket firing took place in August 1959, but by this time the Fixed Site Ballistic Missile (FSBM) was being phased out. The British program was cancelled in 1958 after the deployment of American THOR missile sites in eastern England.
Spadeadam was split into 5 areas:-
- Administration including assembly hangars.
- Liquid oxygen factory - owned and run by the British Oxygen Company.
- Component test area situated at Rushy Knowe.
- Engine test area situated at Prior Lancy.
- Rocket test area situated at Greymare Hill.
Many of the buildings were demolished in the years following the project's end but the remaining buildings, such as the rocket plinths at Greymare Hill, engine test plinths at Prior Lancy and the control bunkers at both sites may be scheduled as historic monuments by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments in England.
RAF Spadeadam is a No 1 Group Station although Functional Command was delegated to the Commandant Air Warfare Centre in August 1998. In practice, this means that the focus of the primary task - operating the Electronics Warfare Tactics Range - is led by the Air Warfare Centre at RAF Waddington. RAF Spadeadam's task is to train aircrew to fight and survive in a hostile Electronic Warfare environment.
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