No. 216 Squadron RAF

No. 216 Squadron RAF
216 Squadron badge
Active5 October 1917 – 1 April 1918 (RNAS)
1 April 1918 – 27 June 1975 (RAF)
1 July 1979 – 20 March 2014
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Air Force
Motto(s)CCXVI dona ferens
(Latin for 216 bearing gifts)[1]
Battle honours * Honours marked with an asterisk may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard
Squadron badgeAn eagle, wings elevated, holding a bomb in its claws. Approved by King Edward VIII in May 1936.[2]
Squadron codesVT (Apr 1939 – Sep 1939)
SH (Sep 1939 – Sep 1941)

Number 216 Squadron was a squadron of the Royal Air Force and, before disbandment operated the Lockheed Tristar K1, KC1 and C2 from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.

It was announced in July 2019 that the squadron will reform to become an experimental unit that will test future drone swarm technology.


First World War[edit]

No. 216 Squadron's beginnings can be traced back to August 1917 when No. 7 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) sent a detachment of four Handley Page O/100 to Redcar in order to fly anti-submarine missions. Moving to Manston in October, the unit was re-designated as 'A' Squadron.[3] At the end of October, 'A' Squadron was deployed to Ochey, France, joining No. 41 Wing as a strategic night bomber squadron.[4] On 8 January 1918, 'A' Squadron was re-designated as No. 16 Squadron (RNAS).[5] In March, the squadron began to convert to the Handley Page O/400.[6] On the night of 24/25 March, an aircraft from the squadron carried out an 8 and a half hour attack on Cologne.[3] On 1 April, while operating out of Villeseneux (south east of Reims), No. 16 Squadron (RNAS) became No. 216 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.[5]


Between the two World Wars the squadron used Vickers Vimy, Vickers Victoria and Vickers Type 264 Valentia aircraft on transport duties around the Middle East. No. 216 Squadron had their squadron badge approved by King Edward VIII in May 1936.[5]

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War, with a few exceptions, such as the attacks from 17 to 21 June 1940 by a single aircraft of No. 216 Squadron on the airfields of El Adem and Tobruk,[7] the unit was principally a transport squadron, operating the Vickers Type 264 Valentia, Bristol Bombay, de Havilland DH86, Lockheed Hudson and Douglas Dakota. It spent a lengthy time deployed to Greece from October 1944 to August 1946 as the primary transport unit for British forces involved in the Greek Civil War.


No. 216 Squadron leaving RAF Fayid (Egypt) for the UK in 1955
De Havilland Comet C.2 operating a VIP flight from London Heathrow Airport in 1965

In late 1949, the Dakotas were replaced by Vickers Valettas and Handley Page Hastings transport aircraft; in 1955 the squadron moved to RAF Lyneham from RAF Fayid in Egypt to operate the De Havilland Comet C.2 jet airliner until 27 June 1975, when No. 216 Squadron disbanded after 58 years of service.[5]

The squadron reformed at RAF Honington on 1 July 1979 as a maritime strike squadron assigned to Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) with twelve Blackburn Buccaneer S2[8] aircraft transferred from the Fleet Air Arm's 809 Naval Air Squadron. These aircraft had been embarked on HMS Ark Royal[9] until flying off for the last time in November 1978 for a delivery flight from the carrier in the Mediterranean to RAF St Athan. Designated Buccaneer S2A by the RAF, they were equipped with twelve WE.177A nuclear bombs,[10] free-falling conventional HE bombs and Martel missiles for non-nuclear strike. However, on 7 February 1980 a No. XV Squadron Buccaneer crashed after a wing failed in flight during the Red Flag exercise in the USA.[11] The resulting grounding and inspections saw the size of the Buccaneer fleet reduced, with the result that No. 216 Squadron had its assets merged with No. 12 (Bomber) Squadron barely a year after its reformation, however the squadron was not officially disbanded.[5][12]

Following the Falklands War, the RAF found itself lacking in the strategic transport capabilities required to sustain the expanded military presence there; this shortfall was filled initially by chartered British Airways Boeing 747s and Britannia Airways Boeing 767s. To address this, in December 1982 the RAF purchased six former British Airways Lockheed Tristar 500s. The aircraft had only entered service in 1979 but had been deemed surplus to requirements.

A No. 216 Squadron Tristar

No. 216 Squadron was reactivated on 1 November 1984 at RAF Brize Norton to operate the Lockheed Tristar.[5] The aircraft were operated initially in the air-transport role but the fleet's role was eventually expanded to Air-to-Air Refuelling with the addition of hose/drogue units.

The ex-BA aircraft were converted to K1 standard, operating as a single point tanker, as opposed to the Vickers VC10 which has three refueling points – both wings and the centre line. Four of these were converted to KC1 standard with the addition of a freight door, reinforced floor and cargo handling equipment.

In 1984, the RAF purchased a further three Tristar 500s from Pan-Am. One of these was stored and the others formed the backbone of the air trooping service to the Falkland Islands as Tristar C2s, carrying 267 passengers in an airline configuration. The stored aircraft was upgraded with military radios and avionics, becoming the C2A.

No. 216 Squadron deployed the Tristar fleet in support of many high-profile missions including the Gulf War (for which the aircraft received a desert paint scheme), Operation Allied Force (Kosovo), Operation Veritas and Operation Herrick (Afghanistan), Operation Telic (Iraq 2003) and Operation Ellamy (Libya).

The squadron was disbanded on 20 March 2014 at RAF Brize Norton,[13] with the last Tristar sortie being flown on 24 March.[14] On 11 October 2017, it was announced that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had approved the award of 'Iraq 2003-2011' and 'Libya 2011' Battle Honours to No. 216 Squadron (without the right to emblazon).[15]


On 17 July 2019, at the Air & Space Power Conference, the RAF announced that 216 Squadron would reform to become an experimental unit that will test future drone swarm technology.[16]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 59. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ "216 Sqn". RAF Heraldry Trust. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Squadron History". 216 Squadron Association. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  4. ^ "No 216 Squadron Aircraft & Markings". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "216 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 8 February 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Squadron History". 216 Squadron Association. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  7. ^ Playfair, Vol. I, page 113.
  8. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1980
  9. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1977–78
  10. ^ RAF nuclear front line Order-of-Battle 1981
  11. ^ "1980 losses". Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  12. ^ Weapon overview @ Carriage
  13. ^ "The disbandment parade of 216 Squadron took place yesterday at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire". Royal Air Force (Facebook). 21 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  14. ^ Hoyle, Craig (24 March 2014). "RAF TriStars to fly final sortie". FlightGlobal. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Royal Air Force squadrons recognised for gallantry". Ministry of Defence. 11 October 2017. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  16. ^ Jennings, Gareth (17 July 2019). "RAF announces AEW&C, space, 'drone' test squadrons". IHS Janes. London. Retrieved 18 July 2019.


  • Flintham, V. (1990) Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present. Facts on File. ISBN 0816023565
  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; with Flynn, Captain F.C. (R.N.) & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2009) [1st. pub. HMSO:1954]. Butler, Sir James (ed.). The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume I: The Early Successes Against Italy, to May 1941. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-065-3.
  • E.D Harding 1923. A history of Number 16 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service - Revised 2006 Peter Chapman

External links[edit]