Friday, 12 April saw the end of 17(R) Test & Evaluation Squadron (TES) as a Typhoon unit at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. More than a decade after its inception at BAE Warton on 1 September 2002, the Operational Evaluation Unit (OEU) for the Typhoon is moving home to 41(R)TES Squadron, whilst 17(R) moves across the pond to Edwards Air Force Base in California and a new role; bringing the F-35B Lightning II into service . Glenn Beasley reports.
The new squadron standard was paraded at Coningsby on 12 April in front of Air Marshal Greg Bagwell. The event also marked the end of Wing Commander Steve Williams’ tenure of 17(R) as Officer Commanding (OC), who flew the unit’s final Typhoon sortie on 5 April.
Whilst the squadron arrived at Coningsby on 1 April 2005, I first began to seriously visit Lincolnshire on a regular basis in December of the same year. My first couple of visits just before Christmas brought wonderfully frosty starts, turning into clear sunny winter days and 17(R) was flying its new Typhoon T1s and F2s. It really did seem like the start of a brand new era in the RAF.
Just over seven years later and it’s fair to say I’ve captured the Typhoon’s ‘test’ squadron from a wide variety of angles as they have changed airframes and upgraded to FGR4 standard, continuing to test, drive forward and evaluate the Typhoon as a combat platform. Exciting times to say the least, which have seen the Typhoon undertake its first combat deployment during Operation ELLAMY over Libya in 2011.
It seems all too soon to be consigning a Typhoon squadron to history, but it isn’t quite so, as the aircraft will re-appear under the command of 41(R) TES Squadron and continue to push the operating envelope of the RAF’s spearhead combat platform. A little time then, to pause for a moment and reflect on a job well done and bid a fond farewell to 17(R) as a Typhoon unit. Good luck in your next assignment. We hope to see you back in the UK soon.