RAF Cottesmore, sun, a southwesterly wind putting the much loved runway 22 in use and eleven Harriers in two hours; it doesn’t get much better than that in my book and this is what greeted me on Tuesday 27th April. I’ve not seen Cottesmore like this since early 2004, the days before their Op HERRICK deployment and when there was still three active frontline squadrons operating from here. It was good to see it like this again.
A sign of the Harrier’s involvement in Op HERRICK was clear to see with five Harriers flying with the Sniper ATP targeting pod purchased under a Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) to assist the Harrier with providing Close Air Support (CAS) to the troops in Afghanistan.
RAF Harrier GR9 ZD352 with a Sniper ATP targeting pod
RAF Harrier GR9 ZG477 with a Sniper ATP targeting pod
Harrier GR9A ZD433 / 45A is also still sporting it’s mission marks (minus a few bomb marks covered up by a patch to the nose). This is the one of the last active Harrier that still has the marks on from Op HERRICK.
1 Sqn RAF Harrier GR9A ZD433 with mission markings from Afghanistan
Harrier GR9A ZG505 on Runway 22
One downside of all this Harrier activity was when Nimrod MR2 XV226 arrived to perform a flypast on its final flight before landing a Bruntingthorpe to become part of the museum collection it found four Harriers in the circuit, one in the hover and another two inbound. Rather than performing an approach the Nimrod elected to perform a high overshoot on the Cottesmore hangars leaving me with only an underside photo.
Nimrod MR2 XV226 on approach to Cottesmore
Nimrod MR2 XV226 final flight
I also managed to finally catch the Royal Navy Harrier Special Tail flying! This Harrier, along with the FRADU Hawks had a special tail applied to mark 100 years of naval aviation (2009) but the Harrier had suffered a number of technical faults meaning it missed both the Yeovilton and RIAT airshows. Good to see it in the air again.
Royal Navy Special Tail Harrier ZD406 flying
Royal Navy Special Tail Harrier ZD406
After a great morning at Cottesmore I decided to pop over to RAF Cranwell.
As well as the usual Grob Tutors, King Airs and Domine T1s that you would usually find flying at Cranwell I managed to catch a HS-125 CC3 from RAF Number 32 (The Royal) Sqn that was performing a flying visit.
A little over 10 minutes is all that was needed for the VIP aircraft to land, either drop off or pickup its passengers and then peform a priority departure.
To complete my mini tour I moved onto RAF Waddington to catch a French Air Force Alpha Jet that was night stopping. Originally due were three Alpha Jets but the plan changed at the last minute.
FAF Alpha Jet E129 314-LP landing
FAF Alpha Jet E129 314-LP touchdown