RAF(U) Swanwick

Badge for RAF(U) Swanwick

THE STATION

RAF(U) Swanwick in Hampshire is an Air Command Unit embedded within the London Area Control Centre run by National Air Traffic Services (NATS). Military and civilian Air Traffic Control staff work together to ensure the safe passage of civilian and military aircraft flying over England, Scotland and Wales (and their coastal waters). 

The Distress and Diversion Cell at RAF(U) Swanwick is an emergency centre ready to assist aircraft in distress.

The Military Airspace Booking and Co-ordination Cell manage the segregation of large areas of airspace for unrestricted military training. 

The Radar Analysis Cell work closely with the UK Airprox Board to provide radar data for investigations.

The Station is also home to the RAF Northolt radar controllers.

The Pilot Guide gives some key information for civilian pilots, flying instructors and students.

Commander

Portrait of Wing Commander Gerard Currie

Wing Commander Gerard Currie

Wing Commander Currie has been in the RAF as an Air Traffic Controller since April 1997.

He took command of RAF(U) Swanwick in August 2017 after tours at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, NATO’s strategic level headquarters, initially as a Strategic Plans Officer and then Branch Head for the Operations Assessment Branch.

ADDRESS

RAF(U) Swanwick, Sopwith Way, Swanwick, Hampshire, SO31 7AY.

Council: Hampshire County Council

Who's based here

KEY DATES

  • 2002 - NATS completed at Swanwick leading to the initial transfer of some civilian and military area radar control from West Drayton to Swanwick.
  • 2007 to 2008 - The remaining control functions, both civilian and military, moved to Swanwick, after which the West Drayton site was sold.
  • 2011 - Northolt Radar was transferred to Swanwick.
  • 2012 - The unit controlled the restricted airspace over London for the 2012 Olympics.
  • 2013 - All military area radar control moved to Swanwick following the closure of RAF Prestwick.  

HISTORY

Area radar came into existence in the late 1950s after it was found that the radars used by fighter controllers were also very good at providing radar coverage to aircraft transiting at high level.

Initially, there were three main military area radar units in the United Kingdom; RAF Sopley, RAF Lindholme and RAF Watton. In 1959, area radar control was introduced to RAF Sopley. During 1960s and 1970s both civil and military controllers worked there being known as the Southern Radar.

Also in the late 1950s, RAF Lindholme became the home of the Northern Radar. It provided radar services across the country using its Type 82 radar as well as links to other military radar heads.

In the mid 1960s RAF Watton became the home of Eastern & Border radar. Eastern radar operated between 1965-1988 and Border radar operated between 1989-1992.

In 1966 the London Air Traffic Control Centre (LATCC) opened in West Drayton. This centre became the area radar hub for many years where both civilian and military controllers worked alongside each other to provide radar services to a large parts of the UK.

2002 saw civilian area radar units move to Swanwick whilst the military and terminal control centres remained at West Drayton. It wasn’t until 2007 / 2008 that all radar units were located at Swanwick along with the Distress and Diversion Cell.

Northern radar, initially at Lindholme, moved to RAF Prestwick in Scotland until December 2013 when the military controllers all co-located to Swanwick. North civilian counterparts remain at Prestwick. 

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