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Three RAFG Tornados lunch-stopped on 19th August 1999. 14 and 31 Squadrons are represented by these two aircraft taxiing onto runway 32. 
© Peter Greengrass
EOS-3, 100-400mm K64 320/f5.6
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208 (R) SQN

74 (R) SQNThe resident unit is Number 4 Flying Training School (4 FTS), which consists of 19(R), 74(R) and 208(R) squadrons. The R stands for reserve, whereby the unit instructors have a secondary role of point defence of UK airfields and defence sites, should an airborne threat ever arise. Indeed all three squadrons are former front-line units, 74 and 19 being famous historical fighter squadrons, previously operating Phantom FGR2's in the air defence role in the UK and Germany. 208 squadron was the final Buccaneer S2B squadron, disbanding in 1992. The ‘number plates’ of these famous units live on for now at Valley, but may be transferred back to the front line when the Typhoon is introduced in the coming years.

19 (R) SQN

What can be seen at Valley then? Well the first answer to that is Hawks, Hawks and Hawks, with 76 being on strength in early 1999. The aircraft are pooled between the three squadrons and operate from two flightlines. The basic model is the Hawk T1, the T1A has AIM-9 sidewinder capability but is otherwise the same. Both types are operated by all units. A typical clear day will see almost continuous Hawk activity, with aircraft launched and recovering in pairs and threes. Whilst not beating up the Welsh coast, or navigating the Snowdonia mountains, aircraft will spend time in the circuit, thus there is almost always a Hawk in sight, either launching, landing or circuit bashing.

Anglesey has surprisingly good weather (considering that it is in Wales) for much of the year, thus is a regular stop-off for other RAF types on training missions from bases in Scotland, East Anglia and Yorkshire. Often seen are Tucanos, Tornados (both mud-movers and fighters), plus Jaguars, Harriers and even Lakenheath F-15s.

22 SQNAlso home based are two Sea King HAR3 rescue helicopters forming D flight of 22 Squadron (based at RAF St Mawgan). Three Griffin HT1 helicopters on detachment from RAF Shawbury based 60(R) squadron operate as the Search and Rescue Training Unit (SARTU).

The Irish sea live weapons ranges are only a short flying time away, thus each summer the RAF fighter squadrons each send a detachment of Tornado F3s to Valley for Missile Practice Camp. Aircraft will await the launch from Llanbedr of a Jindivik drone, then depart to the range to ‘engage’ the towed target, with live Skyflash or sidewinder missiles. Every F3 pilot will get to shoot one live missile during his tour with the squadron, and all these missions are flown from Valley. Given the Tornado F3’s current poor reputation as a fighter (nowhere near the action again in Kosovo), these may well be the only times live weapons will ever be launched by the type.

Dominie T2 XS709, from 3FTS/55(R) Sqn at RAF Cranwell. After many years as the RAFs navigational trainer, there is currently no replacement type in sight.
EOS-3, 50mm K64 200/f8
F-16A FA-131 of 1 Sqn Belgian Air Force, with the new US style tailcode, FS denoting Florennes.
EOS-3, 50mm K64 200/f8
Hawk T1 XX154, the oldest Hawk currently flying, with ‘BAe Hawk 25 Years’ titles on the tail. The aircraft is operated by the Defence Test and Evaluation Organization (DTEO) at Llanbedr, 40 miles south of Valley, on drone chase duties.
EOS-3, 50mm K64 200/f8
Hawk T1 XX161, wearing ‘BAe Hawk 25 Years’ titles on the tail, but no squadron marks. The gloss black scheme is currently en-vogue with the RAF for training aircraft, supposedly having improved visibility over the previous grey and red/white schemes.
EOS-3, 50mm K64 200/f8
Three Tornado F3s from ‘Treble One’ squadron taxi towards runway 32 to depart to home base, RAF Leuchars in Scotland, following a weeks missile practice camp. A live Skyflash missile was fired in the Cardigan Bay weapons ranges earlier in the day
EOS-1N, 100-400mm K64 320/f5.6
Tucano T1 ZF347, which is the St Athan Station flight aircraft according to ‘Military Aircraft Markings 1998’. Anyone confirm?
EOS-3, 70-200mm K64 250/f8
Tornado GR1 ZA470 of 14 Sqn, RAF Bruggen, prepares to depart after a short lunch stop. The mission marks on the nose are from Operation Allied Force, and denote 5 bombing missions
EOS-1N, 100-400mm K64 320/f5.6
Griffin HT1 ZJ241, 60(R) Sqn SARTU, based on detachment at Valley for air-sea rescue training.
EOS-3, 28-70mm K64 200/f8
Hawk T1 XX172 wears a stunning Welsh dragon scheme. The aircraft is currently grounded, having exceeded its airframe fatigue life, but is kept in shiny condition and wheeled out for special occasions.
EOS-3, 50mm K64 160/f8
Tornado F.3 ZE794 from 111 Sqn. Valley is a photographer friendly base with taxiways and the approach very accessible for photos
EOS-1N, 70-200mm K64 200/f8
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The local Valley Aviation Society is to be commended for it’s organization of a Photocall on 20th August 1999. Whilst the types on display were limited, it was a good chance to shoot a variety of Hawks close up, and an excuse the spend an extra day by the seaside shooting Kodachrome in beautiful August sunshine.

Report:Tim Hunter
Photos:Peter Greengrass

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RAF Valley, located on the southern shores of the Island of Anglesey, North Wales, has been the RAF’s premier base for lead-in jet training for many years. With the closure of RAF Chivenor in Devon and RAF Brawdy in South Wales in the early 1990s, all of the RAF's fleet of British Aerospace Hawks allocated to the training role are now based at Valley.