MoD Boscombe Down is a large airfield in Wiltshire on the edge of Salisbury Plain which is occupied by a civilian aircraft development company QinetiQ and the Empire Test Pilot School (ETPS). Suprisingly, Boscombe Down's current form originated from Upavon airfield, just to the north of Salisbury Plain near Pewsey.
On 12th May 1912 the Central Flying School (CFS) was formed at RAF Upavon with the objective to train proffesional war pilots. Very quickly the CFS began testing and dropping bombs on the Plain and an Experimental Aircraft Flight was formed.
In 1917 the flight was transferred to Martlesham Heath airfield and renamed the Aeroplane Experimental Unit, Royal Flying Corps and once Wold War I was over was it was renamed again to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) of the Royal Air Force. When World War II broke out, Martlesham was seen as an unsafe airfield due to it's close proximity to the East Coast and was therefore moved to a site at Boscombe Down.
In April 1995, A&AEE was combined with 4 other agencies:
- Admiralty Research Establishment (ARE)
- Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE)
- Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE)
- Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE)
This new umbrella organisation was named the Defence Evaluation Research Agency (DERA) which consolidated all the trials aircraft to Boscombe Down. DERA continued to operate until it's split in 2001 into Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and a commercial firm QinetiQ.
Today, QinetiQ maintains all aircraft at Boscombe Down and continues to carry out development and trials.
The MOD conducts its flight test and military evaluation in a Public–private partnership (PPP) with QinetiQ. This partnership is known as the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Collaboration (ATEC).
ATEC is divided into two primary sections:
- Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron (HATS)
- Rotary Wing Test Squadron (RWTS)
The Fast Jet Test Squadron (FJTS) moved to RAF Coningsby in 2010.
Other organisations at Boscombe Down:
- The Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS)
- Royal Air Force Aviation School of Medicine
- JHC Special Duties Squadron (Now disbanded)
(Correct as of 06 July 2018)
Empire Test Pilot School (ETPS) house fleet
Shorts Tucano T1 - ZF510
First flew on 27th October 1992 and delivered on 17th November to RAF Cranwell CFS. In February 1993 it was transferred with 511 to A&AEE Boscombe Down. It has been modified with; Duplex radio fit, Telemetry installation, Spin instrumentation, Automatic Voice Alert Device (AVAD), Air Data Acquisition Module (ADAM), Flight control position and control force indicators (both cockpits) and a Port wingtip boom with angle of attack and side slip vanes. ETPS primarily use the Tucanos for spins and stalling.
Shorts Tucano T1 - ZF511
First flew on 6th November 1992 and delivered on 25th November to RAF Cranwell CFS. In February 1993 it was transferred with 511 to A&AEE Boscombe Down. It has been modified with; Duplex radio fit, Telemetry installation, Spin instrumentation, Automatic Voice Alert Device (AVAD), Air Data Acquisition Module (ADAM), Flight control position and control force indicators (both cockpits) and a Port wingtip boom with angle of attack and side slip vanes. ETPS primarily use the Tucanos for spins and stalling.
Piper PA-31-350 Chieftain - ZF622
ZF622 was built in 1980 as N35487 and was later aquired to replace the De Havilland Devon in the light transport role at A&AEE. Nowadays it is used both as a crew ferry to pick up aircraft or for ETPS to use for courses.
Below is the current QinetiQ blue scheme and the old Raspberry Ripple colours...
BAe Hawk T1 ASTRA - XX341 - ETPS/QinetiQ
XX341 was delivered in 1980 to ETPS as a unique Hawk T1 ASTRA. The ASTRA stands for Advanced Stability Training Aircraft which allows the stability of the aircraft to be varied to train student test pilots how to cope and fly with various degrees of unstable flight. This aircraft used to in the Raspberry Ripple scheme but has been painted in this rather dull black scheme.
BAe Hawk T1 - XX154 - ETPS/QinetiQ
XX154 was built in 1974 and was the prototype and first production Hawk T1. The aircraft currently has her original old style Hawk wings which have around 1000 hours left before they need to be replaced. 154 saw it's career at DTEO Llanbedr used as a Shepherd aircraft to escort drones and unmanned aircraft. When the Alphajets arrived at QinetiQ, 154 was sent to Boscombe. It now works for ETPS conducting the usual student test pilot sorties...
Heavy Aircraft Test Squadron (HATS)
BAE Systems Avro 146-RJ100 – QQ101
QQ101 first flew on 14th March 2000 using test registration G6-368. On the 30th of the same month, she was delivered as G-BZAY to Cityflyer Express to fly out of London City Airport. She went on to fly with British Airways CitiExpress, BA Connect and BA City Flyer before going into storage at Kemble Airfield with Air Salvage International on 13th March 2010. With QinetiQ’s BAC 1-11 aircraft ageing, a modern replacement was sought resulting in acquiring G-BZAY and assigning her the military registration of QQ101. Below left is QQ101 seen at RAF Northolt and to the right it is seen arriving at Boscombe Down for the first time as G-BZAY.
BAE Systems Avro 146-RJ70 – QQ102
QQ102 first flew on 25th August 1994 and was delivered to Air Malta as 9H-ACM on 7th September that year. On 28th October 1997 she was re-registered EI-COQ and sent to Azzurra Air on lease from Air Malta. In 2004 she returned, keeping the EI-COQ reg. A year later she was sold to Transwede Airways before going out on lease to SAS Scandinavian Airlines a year later. When she returned to Transwede in 2009 she was sold to Malmo Aviation, completing in March 2010. On 26th February 2012 she was withdrawn from use (WFU). QinetiQ purchased this aircraft and stored it at MoD Boscombe Down wearing it’s new reg G-BVRJ. It was modified and painted in 2013.
RAF Centre Of Aviation Medicine (CAM)
BAe Hawk T1 - XX162- Centre of Aviation Medicine
162 was built in 1976 and assigned to 4 Flying Training School (4FTS) based at RAF Valley. A few years later it was sent to The Instutute of Aviation Medicine at Boscombe Down where it remained through the Institute's transition into the Centre
BAe Hawk T1 - XX327 - Centre of Aviation Medicine
Delivered to 151 Squadron at RAF Chivenor in 1980 as part of number 2 Tactical Weopons Unit.
327 then went to RAE Farnborough in the early 90's working for the Royal Aircraft Establishment. In 1998 the aircraft become part of the Aviation Medicine Flight of the newly formed Centre of Aviation Medicine. 327 is one of two Hawks dedicated to the CoAM at Boscombe Down.
Rotary Wing Test Squadron (RWTS)
Agusta A-109E Power - QQ100 - RWTS
Built in 2001 as B-7770 for Deer Jet who then sold it to Heli Transair Gmbh as D-HARY. A year later it went to Alburn Transport Ltd as EI-TWO until 2009 where it went to Castle Air Charters as G-CFVB. The aircraft was repainted at Castle Air and went to QinetiQ firstly as ZK185 then to QQ100. Below left: New scheme, Below Right: Old scheme
Agusta A-109E Power - ZE416 - RWTS
ZE416 started life in 2004 as G-ESLH and delivered to Euroskylink with just 10 hours on the clock.
In 2007 it was aquired by ETPS after a very brief stay at Castle Air Charters.
Below the new scheme can be seen on the left and the old on the right.
Westland Gazelle HT2 - XZ939
Also built in 1978 and appears to have gone straight to ETPS.
Westland Gazelle HT3 - ZB625
Built in 1982 and originally assigned to 2 FTS at RAF Shawbury before going on to ETPS/QinetiQ.
Westland Gazelle AH1 - XX453
Built in 1976. 453 was noted at 652sqn in 1999 and 654sqn in 2007 before
Westland Gazelle AH1 - XX449
449 was Built in 1976. The aircraft's history seems hard to trace but was noted based at AAC Wattisham in 2007 with 654sqn before being captured in 2009 working for QinetiQ...
Ex Boscombe Aircraft
Eurocopter Puma HC2 - XW232 - QinetiQ
Built in 1972 and served a long spell in Northern Island before returning to the UK and being the second to be converted to HC2 standard in Romania test flying as F-ZWDE . The cab is currently one of two conducting trials at MOD Boscombe Down with QinetiQ. It will eventually join the active RAF fleet.
Eurocopter Puma HC2 - XW216 - QinetiQ
Built in 1971 and served with both 33 then 230 squadrons before being the first to be converted to HC2 standard in Romania. The cab was one of the first two conducting trials at MOD Boscombe Down with QinetiQ. It has now joined the active RAF Puma fleet.
Westland Gazelle HT2 - XZ936
936 was Built in 1978 and appears to have gone straight to ETPS as the earliest photo of the aircraft that can be found dates to 1982.
This aircraft suffered a hard landing at Boscombe down in 2014. It is not known whether it will be repaired or used for parts.
Beagle B-206 Basset CC2 - XS743
26, 32 and 207 Squadrons (Communications)received their first Basset’s in May 1965. The type was retired from the RAF in May 1974 and sold for civil use, apart from two airframes which were were retained for trials. XS765 was operated by the A&AEE (Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment) from May 1972 until August 2004 and XS743 operated by ETPS which is still in service today. In the early 70’s Cranfield Institute of Technology modified the aircraft for variable stability. The modifications allow ETPS to simulate various sizes of control surfaces such as ailerons, elevator etc and also the wing dihedral.
Noorduyn AT-16 Harvard IIB - KF183
KF183 was built in 1944, making her without doubt the longest serving aircraft in UK history…possibly even the world! She has accumulated well over 15000hrs in the air where she has been used as a photo-ship for drops on Salisbury Plain and by ETPS for tail dragger courses.
British Aerospace BAC-111-539GL One-Eleven - ZH763 - HATS
This was the final 1-11 to adopt UK military markings and is currently one of six 1-11's left in the world. 763 was originally G-BGKE operating for British Airways before transferring to DRA. In 1994 it was delivered to Boscombe where it was converted into a flying laboratory for radar trials. A radar auxiliary receiving antenna was mounted on the starboard upper side of the fuselage as can be seen in the image to the left.
BAC 111-479FU One-Eleven - ZE432 - HATS
432 started life as DQ-FBV for Air Pacific before going to A&AEE and DERA which became QinetiQ.
Training stations were installed to the front half of the cabin whilst the rear retained the Air Pacific seating and over-head stowage. In 2009 it failed several corrosion inspections and it's almost definet that this aircraft will no longer fly.
BAC 111-479FU One-Eleven - ZE433
433 was built in 1972 and flew for Air Malawi and Air Pacific before joining DERA in 1984. Most noteably ZE433 was used as a testbed to develop the Eurofighter Typhoon's radar hence it's pointy nose. Even though the aircraft is still registered active, it is now only used for spares.
BAC 111-201AC One-Eleven - XX105
105 was the first 1-11 to adopt UK military markings when it was purchased from Caledonian/BUA in April 1971. 105's civilian registration was G-ASJD when it made a belly landing in a field a mile NW of Tilshead on Salisbury Plain. The aircraft was delivered to the Blind Landing Experimental Unit (BLEU) at Bedford in 1973 for autoland tests and to trial civil and military avionics systems before relocating to Farnborough and then Boscombe. At Boscombe it was fitted with a glass cockpit with touch-screen controls. XX105 was retired in 2003 and has now been scrapped.
Hawker Siddeley HS-780 Andover C1 - XS606 - HATS
Built in 1966, 606 is one of the oldest aircraft still in service with the RAF. She first saw service with 52 squadron in Singapore before transferring to RAE Farnborough in 1972 and then to Boscombe Down in 1975 where it spent the rest of it's service. At the time of writing 606 is still flying though it is rumoured it will be retired at the end of 2011.
Hawker Siddeley HS-780 Andover C1 - XS646 - HATS
646 was built in 1967 and the pinnacle of it's service career was conducting trials which saw it fitted with a Harrier FA2 nose as seen pictured. As of December 2013 she is on the dump at Boscombe Down ready for disposal after being grounded for 2 years.
Hawker Siddeley HS-780 Andover C1 - XS596
XS596 was the designated 'Open Skies' aircraft for the RAF and only recently stopped flying (Thought to be around 2008). Note 596 kept the old white scheme. The aircraft is pictured (left) sat on the dump awaiting disposal and has been since broken up.
Panavia Tornado GR1 - ZA326
This Tornado GR1 was the only one of it's time to sport the 'Raspberry Ripple' paint scheme. It was retired on the 15th December 2005 and went into storage to be used as parts until 2011 where it was placed on the dump to be disposed of. 326 spent most of it's 'testing' days with the Flight Systems division at RAE Bedford. 326 was purchased off QinetiQ and is being restored at Bruntingthorpe.
Panavia Tornado F3 - ZE203 - FJTS
Built in 1986 and served with 11 Squadron until 2006 followed by 43 Squadron from RAF Leuchars. The aircraft was aquired by QinetiQ when 43sqn disbanded in 2009 and has been used primarily for BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile) trials. The orange pods it wears under the wings are camera pods to help with the trial. The aircraft has since flown to RAF Leeming and has been used for spares to the GR4 fleet.
Panavia Tornado F3 - ZH552 - ETPS
ZH552 was built in 1992 originally intended for the Oman Air Force. This perticular part of the order was cancelled and the RAF claimed the batch. The aircraft was delivered to 56 Squadron 'Firebirds' before going to 111 Squadron. 552 went to QinetiQ when 111sqn disbanded at the start of 2011. 552 is primarily used by ETPS for their fast jet course. The aircraft has since flown to RAF Leeming and has been used for spares to the GR4 fleet.
Panavia Tornado F3 - ZE961 - ETPS
Built in 1989 and saw service with 56 Squadron 'Firebirds' until 2002 where it switched to 11 Squadron followed by 25 Squadron and 111 Squadron before arriving at Boscombe Down on the 24th March 2011 for QinetiQ. 961 is primarily used by ETPS for their fast jet course. The aircraft has since flown to RAF Leeming and has been used for spares to the GR4 fleet.
Panavia Tornado F3 - ZE794 - FJTS
Built in 1988, 794 served with 111sqn until 2003/2004 where it went over to 25 Squadron which it's markings can still be seen on the aircraft. In 2008 the aircraft become part of the QinetiQ fleet with it's primary use as a camera ship for the BVRAAM trial supporting ZE203. The aircraft has since flown to RAF Leeming and has been used for spares to the GR4 fleet.
BAe Hawk T1 - XX342 - ETPS/QinetiQ
XX342 is the only Hawk in the fleet to keep it's Raspberry Ripple colour scheme. This aircraft was built in 1981 and was delivered to ETPS at Boscombe Down. Today 342 makes occasional appearances flying circuits around local bases, part of formation trips and as a camera ship.
Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A - ZJ645
'45' began life with the German Air force as 41+62 and 98+62. It was delivered to QinetiQ on 24th March 2000 to replace the Hawks used to shepherd Drones at DTEO Llanbedr that were needed back in the training fleet. Nowadays 45 is part of the ETPS fleet teaching students to become test pilots. This is one of two of the Alpha Jets cleared to fly low level due to the equipment carried.
Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A - ZJ646
'46' began life with the German Air force as 41+55 and 98+55. It was delivered to QinetiQ on 31st March 2000 to replace the Hawks used to shepherd Drones at DTEO Llanbedr that were needed back in the training fleet. Nowadays 46 is part of the ETPS fleet teaching students to become test pilots.
Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A - ZJ647
'47' began life with the German Air force as 41+71 and 98+71. It was delivered to QinetiQ on 28th August 2000 to replace the Hawks used to shepherd Drones at DTEO Llanbedr that were needed back in the training fleet. Nowadays 47 is part of the ETPS fleet teaching students to become test pilots. This is one of two of the Alpha Jets cleared to fly low level due to the equipment carried.
Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A - ZJ648
'48' began life with the German Air force as 40+09 and 98+09. It was delivered to QinetiQ on October 2000 to replace the Hawks used to shepherd Drones at DTEO Llanbedr that were needed back in the training fleet. 648 hasn't been seen flying for quite sometime. The most recent report seems to sugest it last flew at the start of 2009.
Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A - ZJ649
'49' began life with the German Air force as 41+73 and 98+73. It was delivered to QinetiQ on 3rd November 2000 to replace the Hawks used to shepherd Drones at DTEO Llanbedr that were needed back in the training fleet. Nowadays 49 is part of the ETPS fleet teaching students to become test pilots.
Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A - ZJ651
'51' began life with the German Air force as 41+42 and 98+62. It was delivered to QinetiQ on 30th March 2000 to replace the Hawks used to shepherd Drones at DTEO Llanbedr that were needed back in the training fleet. Nowadays 51 is part of the ETPS fleet teaching students to become test pilots. This is one of two of the Alpha Jets cleared to fly low level due to the equipment carried.
Whilst only six Alpha Jets remain flying, 12 have been received by QinetiQ. The others are used for spares, these are:
ZJ650 - Ex 41+35 and 98+35 delivered 15/01/2001
ZJ652 - Ex 41+09
ZJ653 - Ex 40+22 and 98+22
ZJ654 - Ex 41+02 delivered 30/03/2000
ZJ655 - Ex 41+19 delivered 12/1999
ZJ656 - Ex 41+40 delivered 24/02/2000
Westland WG-13 Lynx AH7 - ZD560 - RWTS
Built 1987 and went to ETPS at Boscombe down almost immediatly in 1988. In 1994 the aircraft had it's rotor blades upgraded to composites. This aircraft has been retired.
Westland WG-13 Lynx AH5X - ZD559 - RWTS
Built in 1985 as one of two trial Lynx Mk5s and went to RAE Thurleigh. In 1988 it was transferred to Boscombe Down. This aircraft has been retired.
Westland Seaking HC4 - ZB506 - RWTS
506 was built in 1982 and was delivered to RAE Bedford before joining A&AEE at Boscombe Down.
There is a notch missing in the bottom of 506's nose which is from when the aircraft was the Bae Blue Kestral 5000 Maritime Surveillance Radar test-bed. This work went towards the radar that is now in use with the Merlin HM1 with the Royal Navy.
Westland Seaking HU5 - XZ575
XZ575 started life in 1976 as a HAS.2 with the Royal Navy and was later upgraded to a HU.5 in 1994. 575 came to A&AEE at Boscombe Down in 1998 in exchange for ZB507. 575 was the testbed to evaluate the new UOR Carson rotor-blades for the Mk4 Seaking and made it's first flight with them in 2006. 575 was flown to Colorado in a C-17 where it continued testing the blades in hot and high conditions which are similiar to Afghanistan. The aircraft has now arrived back at Boscombe Down and still has the Carson blades fitted.
Westland Seaking HU5 - XV651
Built in 1969, 651 was retained by Westland for hot weather testing at Edwards AFB. The aircraft then went to RRE Pershore and then to Bedford for radar trials. The aircraft was then delivered to the Royal Navy with 771sqn until 2006 when it was delivered to Boscombe Down to continue trials in replacement of XZ575 which went to the USA for Carson rotor blade trials. 651 continues to operate for ETPS/QinetiQ...
Westland Seaking HU5 - ZA137
Built in 1981 as a HAS.5, 137 served with 706 Naval Air Squadron until 2000 when it was allocated to 820NAS. In 2004 it was upgraded to HU.5 for Search And Rescue (SAR) duties and moved to 771NAS at RNAS Culdrose. In 2014 it was aquired by QinetiQ to replace XV651 which was withdrawn from use.
Westland Seaking HC4 - ZA314
ZA314 has served with the Commando Helicopter Force all her career, with time divided between 845NAS, 846NAS and 848NAS. 314 was acquired by QinetiQ in 2013 to divide the flying duties with XV651 (Now retired) and to replace ZB506.
Mil Mi-17MTV-1 - ZB697 - Special Duties Squadron
697 started life in the Bulgarian Air Force as '402' before being purchased by the UK Ministry of Defence. This was the first time the MoD have aquired a russian built aircraft.
This helicopter then spent a while training Afghan pilots on Salisbury Plain so they can serve with the Afghan National Army. 697 was donated to the ANA as a gift in 2010. More can be found here.
Mil Mi-17MTV-1 - ZB698 - Special Duties Squadron
698 also served with the Bulgarian Air Force as '403' before being purchased by the UK Ministry of Defence. This was the first time the MoD have aquired a russian built aircraft.
This helicopter then spent a while training Afghan pilots on Salisbury Plain so they can serve with the Afghan National Army. 698 was donated to the ANA as a gift in 2010. It has been since reported that it's now in storage at Eindhoven, Netherlands. More can be found here.