99 not out

The history of V(Army Co-operation) Squadron is one of varied aircraft, roles and bases. Over its 99 year life it has operated some of the most obscure aircraft and some of the most iconic. It has been disbanded and reformed 6 times and seen countless operational theatres with a list of battle honours extending from Somme to Burma and more recently Afghanistan and Libya.

5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron was formed at Farnborough on 26 July 1913. After little over a year, the Squadron was deployed to France to provide reconnaissance for the British Expeditionary Force in August 1914. The Squadron took a leading role in the development of aerial photography and wireless telephony during the early days of the War. Artillery observation was the main task with BE2C aircraft and in 1917 the Squadron formed a close association with the Canadian Corps, remaining with them after the Armistice. The relationship between the Canadian Corps was honoured by the Squadron by taking on the maple leaf motif on the Squadron crest. After the war, V Squadron was disbanded in January 1920 only to be reformed 3 months later at Quetta, India for army co-operation work on the North West Frontier. Its respected Bristol Fighters remained with them for 11 years until replaced in 1931 by Westland Wapitis. These outdated biplanes unbelievably remained until 1940 when they where replaced by equally ancient Hawker Harts. The arrival of the Hart saw the Squadron change its role from Reconnaissance to a Bomber unit. This role lasted for a brief 2 years until Mohawk fighters arrived in 1942 and the aircraft moved to Assam. Here the role was to escort Blenheims attacking targets in North West Burma. Subsequent types flown included Hurricanes, Thunderbolts and the Hawker Tempest before, in 1947, the Squadron was once again disbanded.

On 11 February 1949, it was reformed at Pembrey in South Wales on mundane target-towing duties. Its next incarnation was in Germany where it reformed in the fighter-bomber role equipped with Vampires on 1 March 1952. Re-equipping with Venoms in December 1952 it disbanded again on 12 October 1957. Just over a year later, 20 January 1959, No 68 Squadron was re-numbered V at Laarbruch. It was now a night fighter unit flying Meteors and, from 1960, Javelins FAW Mk 4s and 5s. With the disbandment of No 33 Squadron at Middleton St George on 18 November 1962, its Javelin FAW Mk 9s were allocated to No V, now at Geilenkirchen, along with many of the 33’s crews. The squadron disbanded again on 7 October 1965, only to be reformed the very next day at RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire with the all-new Lightning F6. These iconic aircraft remained the Squadron’s mount until 1987, being replaced by the supersonic Tornado F3 relocating to RAF Coningsby. A combined V/29 Squadron was the first RAF component to arrive in Saudi Arabia in August 1990 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Squadron was deployed to the Gulf for 3 months in August 1990, flying air defence missions out of Dhahran. In 2003 5 Squadron was disbanded at RAF Coningsby.

V (Army Cooperation) Squadron was reformed on 1st April 2004 here at RAF Waddington, marking the dawn of a new era in the world of military Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) for the Royal Air Force. The V Squadron of today has returned to its original roles of reconnaissance and Army Co-operation, moving away from the bomber and fighter roles of the later years of World War II and the Cold War era. It now operates the Sentinel R Mk 1 along with eight ground stations. The Sentinel is a modified Bombardier Global Express long range business jet, a Canadian made aircraft that mirrors the close association of working with the Canadians during World War I.

By Flight Lieutenant Dearing

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