Seen at RAF
Genesis of the Jet: Frank Whittle
and the Invention of the Jet
John Golley, Bill Gunston
|The Isle of Anglesey,
or Ynys Mon in Welsh, lies
off the North West coast of Wales.
|RAF Valley is on the West coast
of Anglesey, between the towns
of Valley and Rhosneigr.
There is another RAF airfield
nearby at Mona, used for
diversions and for practice touch
View Larger Map
- On an average flying day there
will be Hawks, Hawks and more
Hawks. They will be lined up on
ramps either side of the control
tower, and over by the 22 Squadron
helicopter Search And Rescue base.
- If you like Hawks, red ones,
black ones, grey ones or blue
ones, then you will love it at
Valley. The weather would have
to be fairly poor for you not
to see dozens of movements a day
(Monday to Friday) by Hawks. Anglesey
is blessed with an excellent climate,
part of the reason the airbase
is there. The island is also very
flat, and adjacent to good low
level training areas in the Snowdonian
mountains, and to practice ranges
further down the Welsh coast.
- RAF Valley is now the only RAF
fast jet training base in the
UK. All fast jet pilots pass through
here, and since the closure of
other bases in England, they will
continue their training from the
unarmed and high viz Hawk T.1s
and onto the grey and fully combat
worthy T.1As. These can carry
Sidewinder missiles, gun pods
and iron bombs.
- However, though a major part
of Valley's function is to host
nearly all the Hawks in the RAF
inventory, there are frequent
visitors, passing trade like F-15Es
from Lakenheath, or regular camps
by other RAF squadrons to STCAAME
or STrike Command
Air to Air
- (New information, STCAAME
has been renamed the "Air
newer information, sadly the unit
has now closed! Which is a great
pity for spotters.)
- Valley is just a few minutes
flying time from ranges down the
coast, where live ordnance can
be used against offshore targets,
and air-to-air missiles against
pilotless target drones.
- In the 'good old days' not so
long ago there would be visiting
squadrons of Lightnings, Buccaneers
and Phantoms - now it's
Tornado F.3s, Tornado GR.1s,
Jaguars and Harriers GR.7s.
They tend to stay for a week or
a fortnight, fly once in the morning
and once in the afternoon, and
predicting their comings and goings
is a frustrating black art.
- Passing trade - Valley used
to get frequent visits from F-111s,
EF-111s, A-10s, even the odd
F-16. Now it's mostly 'only'
F-15Es from Lakenheath
that regularly pass by, or occasionally
land. There are frequent visits
from French Alpha Jets, Navy
Sea Harriers, Hercules of
all type, Andovers, Tucanos,
Nimrods, VC-10 and Tristar
tankers, AWACS Sentries, and
a few years ago we even had a
couple of German MiG-29s
flying around for several weeks.
Plus, once or twice a year at
least, Valley is visited by the
Red Arrows - and they may
put on a practice show, just for
you. And nowadays the most interesting
regular visitor is the Eurofighter
There are four main viewing points,
indicated by the four orange blobs
on the map above - and corresponding
to the main runway in use.
I should stress that RAF Valley
is a working airfield, not an entertainment
centre for us. There are dangers
involved in flying, so please be
careful and don't make things worse.
Very importantly, don't park in
places that could impede safety
vehicles - so that means anywhere
near the airfield other than the
designated spot close to the Base
main gates, see below.
There is a perimeter fence around
the base, please don't cross it,
and please don't allow dogs (or
children!) to go inside either -
they might shoot them. And finally,
avoid loitering near the runway
thresholds, you never know what
might land on your head!
Taking off towards Holyhead
mountain. Head for Rhosneigr,
and park somewhere near the
golf club. There are viewing
points on either side of the
threshold, the West side probably
Taking off towards the sea.
Come off the A5 towards the
Camp itself, follow the road
past the Camp housing, over
a railway bridge and park in
the area provided to the right.
This area has been created by
Valley for you, and is the recommended
parking area for visiting the
base. It is the closest and
safest place from which to view
the aircraft, and the pilots
always wave back. Don't feed
the birds, don't get run over
by a bowser as you snap a Harrier.
Taking off towards Snowdonia.
Follow the road around from
the above instructions for 19,
away from the Camp entrance,
take a left turn at the T junction
and follow the nasty narrow
road till you get to the rocks,
and all the other Rubber-Necks.
Take extreme care how you park
here, don't block the emergency
Taking off inland. Tricky if
you're idle. Park up either
as for 32 or 19 above, and walk
on the gloriously empty beach
around to the end of the runway.
Avoid getting too close to the
runway threshold again, stay
well to one side or another.
From here you'll also see the
yellow Sea King helicopters
of No.22 Squadron, and the black
and yellow Griffins,
& SARTU the Search
And Rescue Training
Unit) on the way.
They get visits from Pumas,
Gazelles, Chinooks, Lynx
- and more.
The airfield itself has three runways,
however only two are used on a regular
basis, 32/14 (the main runway) and
19/01. Hawks, the aircraft based
at Valley and by far the most commonly
seen, can use either runway. Visitors
usually stick to 32/14 due to it's
length, though of course Harriers
can use as short a runway as they
like! On a windy day Tornado F.3s
can use 19/01, but that's rare.
Also, you can get quite close to
AGWOEU from the
beach, just about near enough to
get pictures of aircraft on the
ramp - with a 200mm lens. There
is a nice high sand dune at the
point where the two beaches meet
which gives a panoramic view of
the whole camp. And as you walk
back to Rhosneigr along the perimeter
fence you will pass a largely complete
(less engines) venerable old Phantom
- with a black Tiger tail - now
used for fire drills. (Oh no
you won't, suddenly it's disappeared.
Damn. It's been replaced by a strange
red mock up Hawk used for fire fighting
||Swanwick Mil North West
||Swanwick Mil South West
||Scot Mil Icf
||Pembrey Range Join
||Pembrey Range Icf
||St Athan Tower
||St Athan Ground
||UK Low Level
||Rsf Sc Quiet
The Down Side...
The down side to the glamorous
world of flying fast jets is that
you can get killed doing it. Sadly
this happened on the 13th February
1996 at RAF Valley. The first flight
of every normal working day is the
Weather Hawk, usually taking off
at 7:30, 7:45 or 8am. A young chap
called Flt Lt Simon Burgess
set off on one of these routine
missions and didn't make it half
way down the runway. It appears
his Hawk T.1 (XX164) started to
roll as soon as it was airborne,
due to a control linkage fault.
Simon ejected but was killed.
Aviation experts and
personal injury lawyers did an investigation on what happened.
His mission had been to report on
the cloudbase, visibility and general
weather type information which would
be useful to the less experienced
flyers following him into the air
that day. His mission a few years
previously (Jan 24th 1991) had been
to fly a Tornado GR.1 (ZA403) into
Iraq during the Gulf War. He was
shot down, captured and tortured
by the Iraqis in much the same way
as his more famous colleagues John
Peters and John
Nichol (who now has a web
He was the youngest of all the captured
airmen, and on his release returned
quietly to the job of flying fast
jets. A very sad loss.
May I recommend
a visit to the RAF's official
site, which now contains an
excellent write-up about the
past and the present of RAF
Valley by Flight
Lieutenant Greg House.
Here you will find four pages
of interesting info about
the base, its history, and
descriptions of all the units
Click : http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/valley.html
read an interesting article
from the 2003 RAF Yearbook
on Valley, click
own web site!