No. 216 Squadron
Aircraft : Lockheed L-1011 TriStar K1 / KC1 / C2.
Motto : CCXVI dona ferens - '216 bearing gifts'.
Badge : An eagle, wings elevated, holding in the claws a bomb - approved by King Edward VIII in May 1936.
Battle Honours : Independent Force and Germany 1917-1918*, Egypt and Libya 1940-1942*, Greece 1940-1941*, Syria 1941*, El Alamein*, El Hamma, North Africa 1943*, Mediterranean 1943, Manipur 1944, North Burma 1944*, South East Europe 1944-1945*, Kosovo, Iraq 2003.
( * Honours may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard ).
History of No. 216 Squadron
No. 216 Squadron was formed on 1 April 1918, from 16 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service, at Villesneux, France, and was equipped initially with Handley Page 0/400 night bombers. It was tasked with strategic bombing duties for the remainder of World War I, and was transferred to Egypt in July 1919. Until the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East theatre in June 1940, the Squadron was engaged mainly in transport flying duties, being designated a bomber-transport squadron in April 1931. De Havilland DH10s replaced the Handley Page 0/400s in the 1920/21 period and these aircraft were progressively replaced by Vickers Vimy, Victoria and Valentia aircraft. With the arrival of the Bombay in October 1939, which were used for bombing duties, the Vickers Valentia became the Squadron's transport aircraft.
In 1940, the Squadron received its first Wellingtons. Its task was concentrated on transport flying, moving troops around the Middle East and Greek theatres of operations, as well as keeping open the supply and reinforcement route across Africa to the Gold Coast. Among the Squadron's duties for this period were flights to evacuate the troops from Greece and supplying the besieged bases at Habbaniya and Tobruk. In July 1942, the Squadron began to re-equip with Lockheed Hudsons and, in March 1943, the first Douglas Dakota arrived; later that year the last of the Squadron's Bombays were withdrawn. No 216 Squadron's wartime tasks also included dropping airborne forces in the Aegean Islands and resupplying the 14th Army in the Far Eastern theatre.
General transport flying duties continued after the War, with the Squadron's Dakotas being replaced with Vickers Valettas in November 1949. In November 1955, the Squadron returned to the United Kingdom; in June 1956, the Squadron received the first de Havilland Comet 2 aircraft, and become the first military Jet Transport Squadron equipped with the larger Comet 4c. The Squadron continued to operate these aircraft in the transport role, particularly for Royal and VIP flights, until being disbanded in June 1975.
No 216 Squadron's inactivity was, however, to be short-lived. In July 1979, the Squadron was reformed at RAF Honington, and equipped with the Blackburn Buccaneer S2B; for the first time in many years it had returned to the bombing role in the Maritime Strike/Attack field. In 1980, the Squadron was moved to RAF Lossiemouth, until the reduction in the number of aircraft engaged on this role necessitated the Squadron's retirement for the second time in its history.
Following the Falklands conflict in 1982, a requirement for more tanker aircraft became apparent. The Ministry of Defence purchased nine TriStar 500s from British Airways and Pan American Airways, and in August 1983, the first aircrew arrived at RAF Brize Norton to begin training with British Airways flight deck crews. By February 1984 the RAF crews were fully qualified and, in November 1984, No 216 Squadron was officially reformed. In December 1985, a thrice-weekly schedule to the Falkland Islands commenced and, although now reduced to a twice-weekly schedule, this remains the main task of the Squadron. In March 1986, the first of the converted tankers was delivered to the Squadron.
At the end of July 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. No 216 Squadron made a significant contribution to the Allied operation to defend Saudi Arabia and free Kuwait (Operation GRANBY). The Squadron transported vast quantities of personnel and materials from Germany, Cyprus and the UK to the Middle East. In addition, with the UK's other Transport Squadrons, the Tanker variants were in constant demand to provide Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) support for deployments of fast jet aircraft to and from the Gulf. On 6th January 1991 a single K1 aircraft, together with a small detachment of Squadron personnel, were deployed to Riyadh to support the RAF fighter force and other probe-equipped receivers. By the time this detachment was withdrawn in March 1991, the single aircraft had flown over 90 AAR missions, accumulating over 430 flying hours and transferring 3,100,00 Kg of fuel.
In response to the UN decision to establish a no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina, two K1 aircraft were deployed to Italy in June 1993 to provide AAR, primarily for the British combat aircraft. In March 1999, as the situation in the Balkan region deteriorated, Operation ALLIED FORCE was initiated, and No 216 Sqn was involved from the first night of the hostilities. Throughout the Operation, No 216 Sqn had five tanker aircraft in theatre, flying a total of 230 missions with a 100% success rate; some 13.5 million lbs of fuel were given to 1580 aircraft from seven countries. The success of the campaign resulted in the award of the DFC to one of the Squadron pilots, along with 4 other awards to aircrew for gallantry. The Squadron remained in Italy until July 2001, ensuring that peace prevailed in the volatile Balkan region.
Between August 2001 and March 2003, the Squadron took over Operation RESINATE (South) from No 101 Squadron. This detachment, based in Bahrain, supported the long-standing commitment by UN Forces to maintain the no-fly zone over Southern Iraq.
Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, No 216 Squadron has been heavily involved in Operation ORACLE, the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. During the course of operations, the Squadron had the distinction of being the first Allied tanker asset to enter Afghanistan airspace, and in a period of just 4 months had dispensed more than 10 000 tons of fuel to coalition aircraft.
The war in Iraq (Operation Telic) saw No 216 Squadron heavily involved in ensuring coalition victory. Throughout the duration of the conflict, the TriStars of No 216 Squadron flew approximately 300 AAR missions, amassing 1500 flying hours and dispensing in excess of 900,000 Kg of fuel to coalition aircraft. In the AT role the Squadron deployed 16,000 personnel and 700 tonnes of freight to the Middle East.
Bought as a response to the identified need after the Falklands War for a strategic tanker aircraft, the TriStar's capability for AT, AAR and joint AT-AAR operations produces a remarkably versatile type, which No 216 Squadron expects to operate well into the 21st century.