Station Readiness and Dispersal (1962 – 1982)

Research Notes

Scramble 4-ship Finningley 1981 [Source: Fred Martin (Vulcantothesky)]

Bomber Command Main Airfields / Dispersal Airfields

The Main Bomber Force operated out of ten main airfields: Coningsby, Cottesmore, Finningley, Gaydon, Honington, Marham, Scampton, Waddington, Wittering and Wyton

In addition, it had 28 dispersal airfields: Ballykelly, Bedford, Boscombe Down, Brawdy, Bruntingthorpe, Burtonwood, Coltishall, Cranwell, Elvington, Filton, Kinloss, Leconfield, Leeming, Leuchars, Llanbedr, Lossiemouth, Machrihanish, Manston, Middleton-St-George, Pershore, Prestwick, St Mawgan, Stansted, Tarrant Rushton, Valley, Wattisham and Yeovilton

Alert and Readiness Procedures

The Bomber Command Alert and Readiness Procedures (1st August 1962) set out the Alert and Readiness procedures for the V Force aircraft and crews.

  • Alert Condition 4 was the the normal state of alert in peacetime
  • Alert Condition 3 (Precautionary Alert) could be issued (along with the action to be taken) to some or all squadrons in periods of political tension
  • Alert Condition 2 (Generate Aircraft) required the squadron “to recall all available personnel and to prepare the maximum number of aircraft to combat serviceability. Aircraft planned to operate from the main bases are to be prepared for operational take off and crews are to standby at 15 minute readiness. All other aircraft are to be armed and prepared for take-off to their dispersal airfields”.
  • Alert Condition 1 (Disperse Aircraft) required the squadron “to disperse its aircraft to their dispersal airfields and on arrival to be prepared for operational take-off; crews will then be at 15 minutes readiness as would the aircraft and crews at the main bases”.

The Alert Conditions were utilised in conjunction with Readiness States which were as follows:

  • “One Five” required all combat ready aircraft to be prepared to take off within 15 minutes
  • “Zero Five” required all combat ready aircraft to be capable of being airborne within 5 minutes
  • “Zero Two” required all combat ready aircraft to start engines and taxi to the take-off position and to await further instruction
  • “Scramble” required all combat ready aircraft to take off on their operational mission

Dispersal Exercises

The following exercises were utilised to test these procedures:

  • Mick: To test Alert Condition 2, with aircraft loaded with training rounds of Yellow Sun 2 (later WE177)
  • Kinsman: To test dispersal airfield procedures, with aircraft either flying unarmed or loaded with a “shape” (inert bomb)
  • Mickey Finn: To test Alert Condition 1, with aircraft loaded with training rounds of Yellow Sun 2 (later WE177)

Quick Reaction Alert (1962 – 1968)

Whilst 35 Squadron was based at Coningsby and Cottesmore (1962 to 1968), three QRA aircraft, along with one crew from No. 9, No. 12 and No. 35 Squadron, were on “One Five” readiness at all times.