current chief of the Air Staff is Llu Awyr Cadlywydd Syr Pedr Andreivich Lobanov-Rostovskii (Marshal of the Air force Sir Pedr Lobanov-Rostovskii) who is based at the Air force's main base in Llanilltyd Fawr in Morgannwg.
Order of Battle
No 1 (Southern) Command
Llantwit Major AFB
No 1 Fighter Squadron – F16 Viper – Air DefenceThe Vipers of No 1 (Fighter) Squadron cover the countries Southern approaches and provide fighter cover for the Capital city. They also assist A-S RAF patrols in covering the UKs Southern Air Defence Zone as part of treaty obligations with London. The Unit transitioned to the F16 in 1986 converting from the Mirage III. No 1 Sqn will retain its F16 fighters following the Defence review of 2011.
No 66 (Dragon) Squadron – C130J Hercules/ Boeing 767 - Transport
The Dragons have been operating in the Transport role since 1935 when the unit formed with Junkers 52 aircraft. In 1977 the Squadron received 20 C130E aircraft from the USAF, refurbished by the Welsh Aircraft Corporation in Wharton. In 2000 the J model Hercules replaced these older E models. The Hercs provide Tactical Air Transport for the Air Force and have been used by the Army for Parachute operations and Tactical transport. The four Boeing 767s provide Tanker support and long range transport as well as VIP transport for Government officials.
Two of these aircraft were deployed in support of NATO forces in Afghanistan, providing an Air-Bridge for A-S Army and Welsh military units. With the Welsh involvement in Afghanistan ending in 2014 all LAFG units returned to the mainland. The Fleet will reduce to 12 airctraft by 2015.
No 100 (Breheinol) Squadron – AB206 Jet Ranger, Dassault Falcon – VIP TransportThe Royal Squadron, four Jet Ranger and four Falcon aircraft provided Air Transport for the Royal Family. The current King is an avid helicopter pilot and his personal Jet Ranger, a newer model 206 in gold paint scheme, can usually be seen in the air near Cardiff. With monetary constraints biting in 2013 two Falcons and a Jet Ranger were sold. The Sqn has now displaced to Cardiff International Airport.
No 8 (Western) CommandSt Davids AFB
No 5 Fighter Squadron – BAe Gripen F1 – Air Defence
5 Sqn maintain Air Defence of the Western approaches and a limited strike role. They transitioned to the Gripen in 1999 following the retirement of the Mirage III. A Gripen from the unit was involved in a crash near Mount Snowdon in late 2011, the pilot, Air Major Colm McReadie, an Irishman, survived and was commended for staying with his plane until the last minute, thus avoiding hitting a farm near the mountain. 5 Squadron flew five planes at Khandahar AFB in support of NATO operations, finally returning to Wales in August 2013. They cover Ireland's Southern Flank in a treaty agreement with Dublin. They took on 9 Sqns duties following the disbandment of the unit and sale to Croatia of the Older A model F16s.
No 14 (Maritime) Squadron – P3 Orion, AB412 Griffon, Dornier 228 – Maritime Patrol/SAR
14 Squadron are a composite unit flying six Orion, four Griffon and six Do228s in a number of roles. The Orions cover long range Anti Ship/Anti Sub missions in the Western approaches and following the RAFs retirement of the Nimrod also assist in covering the UKs southern approaches. The Griffons provide Search and Rescue cover for the South Coast and often operate in tandem with Coast Guard units from Pembroke Dock and RAF and RNLI units from Cornwall. The Do228s are operated in support of fisheries protection in the area as well as anti drug duties and short range transport. Lately they have participated in SAR operations acting as command and control platforms.
No 10 (Support) Command
No 8 Squadron – C130J Hercules – Transport/AARThe 15 C130J Hercules of 8 Sqn are the Air Forces main Tactical Air transport Unit. It can trace its history back to 1936 when it formed as a bomber squadron flying He 111 aircraft from Llantwit Major. The squadron recently flew in support of the Welsh military in operations in Afghanistan and also trains over Wales. Five of the Hercs are used as AAR aircraft and deploy with other units in support of fighter and helicopter operations. Five aircraft will be sold by 2015 as the Air Force reduces it size.
No 56 Squadron - CH47F Chinook - Assault Transport
The eight Chinooks of 56 Sqn are all from a diverted order for Libya. All eight are undergoing a mid life upgrade and will receive new avionics and engine upgrades. The debate as to whether they may be replaced by Osprey aircraft or retired in total was answered in June 2013 when a life extention programe was announced.
No 60 Squadron – C27J Spartan – Transport
This unit is the newest unit in the Air Force and stood up at Ludlow in 2009. They currently have eight of 12 aircraft delivered and fly short range tactical transport missions in support of the Army's Special Forces units as well as some shorter in theatre support missions in Afghanistan. Three Aircraft were based at Camp Bastion flying channel flights between KAF and Bastion. In Sept 2014 the remaining four airframes were cancelled and transfered to the Omani Air Force.
No 63 Squadron – UH60F Blackhawk – Army Co-operation
This unit flies 20 Blackhawks in support of the Army and also provides two helicopters in support of Police border duties. One in the North and one in the south.
No 99 Squadron – UH60C Blackhawk/UH72 Lakota – Army Cooperation99 fly in support of Special Forces operations. Five Blackhawks and five Lakotas are deployed to the SF HQ unit; little is known about their exact duties but at least one has been lost in Afghanistan to enemy ground fire. All have now returned to Wales as the Afghan mission draws down.
No 111 (Redbirds) – AH1W Cobra – Attack
The Redbirds fly Cobras in the attack role supporting Army units and also act as airborne Forward Air Controllers supporting NATO and Air Force strike missions. No 111 Sqn will stand down on 01 March 2015 and reequip with AH64 Longbow Helicopters.
No 1 FTS – Grob Tutor/BAe Hawk/Bell 212/Pilatus PC9/Beech King Air – Pilot Training
The Flying Training School trains all Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Police pilots. They also recently took on, in tandem with RAFC Cranwell, the training of Iraqi and Afghan military pilots. Following the tragic crash of an RAF Hawk from the Red Arrows the T1 fleet was grounded with the PC9 fleet taking over certain roles such as ground attack training and some of the tactical flying training. By August 2014 the LAFG Hawk fleet had been grounded for many months and hopes that the aircraft would be back in service by Dec 2014 almost dashed. It remains to be seen if they will be returned to service or sold on. Finland have expressed interest in the 10 Hawks.
No 32 (Northern) Command
No 7 Fighter Squadron – Gripen F1 – Air Defence/Strike/Maritime Strike
7 Sqn transitioned to the Gripen in 2009 following the disbandment of six Sqns Mirage F1s and 23 Sqns F16s. They carry out Air Defence in the Northern approaches as well as ASV duties. A forward deployed flight is based at Belfast City airport in support of peace keeping duties in the six counties. They also cover Ireland's Northern ADZ in a treaty obligation to Dublin. The sqn controversially shot down a Cessna aircraft suspected of drug running between Belfast and Liverpool. The units future is, at present, in flux. REports abound that the Gripens will be sold to a South American nation and the Navy's cancelled Hornet order will in fact go to Holyhead.
No 22 Squadron – AB412 Griffon – SAR
The unit operates SAR aircraft in the Northern Maritime Protection zone. They also jointly cover the A-S North West in tandem with the RAFs 202 Sqn Sea Kings. In 2010 a Griffon and Sea King rescued the entire crew of an Irish trawler as it foundered off Belfast. Air Captain Bruce Williams and Flt Lt Harry Welsh both received the highest commendations in a joint investiture at Buckingham Palace from King William, himself a former SAR pilot with 202 Sqn.
No 30 Squadron – P3 Orion – Maritime Patrol
The Orions of 30 Sqn, three-time winners of the Fincastle trophy, fly long range maritime patrols and assist in SAR duties. They also cover the A-S Northwestern approaches following the retirement of the Nimrod by the RAF.
No 50 Squadron – C27J Spartan – Transport
Formerly C Flight of 60 Sqn, the five ship detachment was given Squadron status on 1 April 2011. They provide transport support for Northern Command as well as channel flights to the six counties in support of operations there. One aircraft is permanently deployed to Belfast to provide support to Army units in the six counties.
Caerodor Naval Air Station
Naval Air Squadrons are Numbered 770 to 779. The aircrew are drawn from the LFAG and despite remaining in the Air Force are fully integrated into the LFG.
No 771/777 Sqn - EADS Rafale M - NF1 - Multi Role
8 Ex French Navy Etendard were originally flown by 771, purchased in 1995 these eight aircraft were split between the two carrier groups. In 2011 the role was taken over by the Rafale. Licence Built in Wales by the Welsh Aircraft Corporation 25 Rafale Ms are currently operated by the LFAG. They are currently split between two Squadrons, with 10 each on the Carriers and 5 flying as an operational conversion unit alongside Hornet NF3s. Both units will disband on 01 Mar 2015. It is unclear what il happen to the aircraft.
No 772/778 Sqn - McDonnell Hornet NF3- Multi RoleLicence built examples in operation since 1993. The 25 Hornets are similarly split between the carrier groups. These aircraft currently provide a long range strike force and are flying in support of NATO operations over Libya. Two types are flown. The single seat version flown as a fighter with a back up strike role and two seat airframes flown as trainers and in the 'Strike Hornet' role. 778 Squadron will convert to Helicopters in 2015 with 772 being disbanded completely. The Hornets will be subsumed into current LAFG units.
No 773 Sqn - Grumman Hawkeye - AWACS
Licence built, in operation since 1992, replaced the Tracker/Tracer. Four each fly from the Navy's carrier groups. They are due to be upgraded in 2012. The carrier group that is not deployed at sea provides two aircraft to cover the Motherlands air defence. One flying from Holyhead and one from St Davids. The Hawkeyes will continue to fly from surface establishments fllowing the scrapping of both carriers in 2016. They will be joined by 3 Greyhounds from the soon to be disbanded 775 sqn.
No 774 Sqn - Eurocopter Dauphin 65 - SAR/ASW
Ex US Coast Guard and French Navy, purchased in 1985 replaced the Sea King. An unknown number of these nimble helicopters fly from the Navy's Frigates and destroyers. At least one has been shot down by Somali pirates whilst on station in the Indian Ocean. The Dauphin is to be withdrawn by April 2012 with 774 Sqn receiving NH90s. The unit will continue in its current role under the defence review.
No 775 Sqn - Grumman Greyhound - Transport/Tanker
New Build under licence. Replaced the Gannet in 1982. Six Greyhounds fly from Caeroder in support of Carrier operations and from forward locations in support of Marine operations. Two further airframes were purchased from the USN and converted by Cambridge Aviation to provide carrier based tanker aircraft. These replaced the limited buddy system previously operated by the A4 Skyhawks then the Rafale. 775 will disband on 01 Mar 2015 in line with the defence review. 3 of its aircraft will return to the US Navy to replace lost aircraft. The remaining aircraft will join 773 Sqn.
No 776/779 Sqn - AB 412 Gryfen, NH 90- Shipborne ASW/SAR
Sqn provides helicopters for all surface vessels. Again an unknown number of aircraft are stationed aboard Navy vessels. The SH60s provide assault transport for Marine operations and VERTREP between Naval surface groups. At least two black painted examples serve in support of the Submarine fleet on unknown duties.
Current Air Force OperationsThe LFAG currently supports a number of NATO and National Deployments. It also attends many exercises with NATO and other allied nations. The following details a few of these.
Operation Pipecleaner - NATO No-Fly zone - Libya
March 2011 to November 2011
No 1 Sqn F16Di - RAF Gioa Del Colle Italy
The six F16Di Improved Vipers of the squadron were deployed alongside the RAFs Tornados and Typhoons to RAF Gioa del Colle in support of the NATO no fly zone. In Nov 2011 the force returned home following the end of NATO operations.
No 66 (Dragon) Sqn C130JS
One C130JS tanker and a C130J transport were also deployed to GDC with 1 Sqn to support the Vipers and the small LFAG Detachment.
14 Sqn Dornier Do228 - Forward Operations Base Algeria
Allegedly two 228s from 14 sqn provided support to NATO SF units. This is unconfirmed, but two unmarked olive green 228s had been spotted in Algeria being flown by military pilots.
Carrier Air Wing One - Various SqnsRafale NF1
F/A18 C/D Strike Hornet NF3
HMBS White Hart was deployed to the Mediterranean in support of the NATO operation against Libya. Its Air Wing, currently CAW1, operated as part of the NATO operation. Four of the D model Strike Hornets have been sprayed in the so-called Libya One scheme of grey, green and black to operate as Night Hornets on night strikes against Libyan targets. Pilots call them Toads due to the green in the scheme. The White Hart remains on station in the Mediterranean and is currently exercising with Italian and US Naval units near Sardinia.
Operation Celtic Unity - Peacekeeping Operations - Ireland
Various units provide support on this large scale operation. UH60s from 63 Sqn regularly rotate through Belfast City Airport as do UH72 Lakotas of the SF flight. 1 C27J Milwr of 50 Sqn is permanently deployed here as theatre transport and more can deploy as needed from Holyhead. Profile flights are made regularly by Gripen F1s of 7 Sqn in support of anti drug trafficking duties and also to patrol the Northern Irish coastline.
Operation Glyndwr III - NATO Operations - Afghanistan
5 Sqn - Gripen F1 - Khandahar AFB
5 Airframes from the Sqn fly from KAF in support of NATO operations in the Helmand area.
63 Sqn - UH60F Blackhawk - Camp Bastion
10 Blackhawks fly in support of Welsh Army units in the Helman province. Two are also on permanent MERT duties for theatre casualty evacuation.
99 Sqn - UH60 Blackhawk/UH72 Lakota
Not much is known about the role or location of these aircraft apart from their attachment to the SF community. They have been spotted at Bastion, KAF and in Kabul. It has been noted that CY522, a UH60, has been spotted with US Army markings hastily painted over its Welsh ones. A ploy that may confuse casual observers except for the fact that the aircrew wore Welsh Army uniforms and that the aircraft carried weapons that the US Army has not cleared for flight on the Blackhawk!
60 Sqn - C27J Milwr (Trooper)
Three3 Aircraft fly from Bastion in support of NATO ops. They fly scheduled 'Channel' flights between KAF and Bastion carrying cargo and replacements. At least one further plane, painted in a black scheme has been spotted at KAF but it is unknown if it is a Welsh aircraft or an American plane employed on SF duties.
8 Sqn - C130J
Seven Hercs fly from KAF in support of NATO ops. These fly tactical transport, general freight and casevac missions. They fly intra theatre and also to RAF Akrotiri to meet incoming passenger flights.
With effect from 31st August 2014 all Welsh Forces had withdrawn from Afghanistan. The final flight of LAFG Aircraft consisted of the Gripens of 5 Sqn supported by RAF Voyager Tankers. They made Landfall at RAF Brize Norton on 01 September 2014 before continuing on to their home station.
Six F16s of No 1 Sqn, due to its experience on Op Pipecleaner, fly from RAF Akrotiri in support of Peshmurga forces fighting ISIL. They use USAF tanker support and so far have been utilized widely by coalition commanders.