A formal parade took place at RAF Leuchars in Fife on Tuesday 22 April 2008 to mark the handover of Number 56 (Reserve) Squadron's number plate to the Intelligence Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Operational Evaluation Unit (OEU) at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
The disbandment of 56 (Reserve) Squadron as a Tornado F3 Operational Conversion Unit comes after almost 92 years of service as a Fighter Squadron, the last five years of which were spent at Leuchars.
The occasion was additionally marked on Friday 18 April when nine Tornado F3s from the Squadron carried out a diamond formation flypast across parts of eastern Scotland.
The Squadron name will however go on, as the new 56 Squadron will be based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. As the ISTAR OEU, 56 Squadron will now be responsible for Operational Test and Evaluation of Sentry AEW1 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS); Sentinel R1 and associated Airborne Stand Off Radar (ASTOR) systems; Nimrod R1, Nimrod MR2 and Nimrod MRA4 aircraft. In addition, 56 Squadron is also responsible for a wide range of ground system testing including Air Defence radars and the Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) weapon system.
The Parade Reviewing Officer for the handover was Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, a former Station Commander at RAF Leuchars.
This disbandment follows the introduction of Typhoon to the RAF's inventory and the subsequent rationalisation of the Tornado F3 Force which saw 43 (Fighter) Squadron and 56 (Reserve) Squadron amalgamate.
43 Squadron will continue in its front line role, taking over the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) role that was undertaken by 56 (Reserve) Squadron. The latter will now be operated as an Operational Conversion Unit Flight within the enlarged Squadron, alongside the front-line role.
Wing Commander David Hazell, formerly Commanding Officer of 56 (Reserve) Squadron, and now Commanding Officer of 43 Squadron, said:
"There were a lot of proud people at the parade amongst the ground and air crews and a certain amount of sadness because of the long history 56 Squadron has had with the fast jet world.
There will be no loss to front line Air Defence capability as a result of this move; two front line Air Defence Squadrons will continue to operate at RAF Leuchars.
Wing Commander Hazell is succeeded as Officer Commanding 56 Squadron by Wing Commander Rob O'Dell who is the first Fighter Control Officer to be awarded command of a numbered RAF Squadron. Wing Commander O'Dell has previously served on the Sentry at Waddington with both 8 and 23 Squadrons.
Image 1: (Large size) 56 (Reserve) Squadron handover parade.