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Station Information

Station History Summary

The history of RAF Akrotiri began on 1st July 1955 when the first 30 personnel posted to the ‘Unit’ established themselves in the flat, dry, rocky scrubland on the windswept Akrotiri Peninsula. Nicosia Airport was temporarily closed as a result of terrorist activity and the handling of the Island’s civil aviation was diverted to Akrotiri - with a tented ‘civil airport reception centre' to match. An RAF Regiment Light Anti-Aircraft Wing was also brought in. By the end of August 1956, Station strength had reached 260 officers and 2864 other ranks, a massive increase in 12 months. It brought with it 1430 personnel on the daily sick-parade, mainly a result of the over-crowding and insanitary conditions, as construction lagged behind the unforeseen demand for accommodation. From its rough beginnings with caravans and mud tracks, the Station was laid out, roads made, hangars and some permanent buildings constructed.

Following the withdrawal from east of Suez, the Station peaked in the 60s and 70s; Lightning, Vulcan, Hercules, Argosy, and Canberra aircraft and Whirlwind and Wessex helicopters all operated from RAF Akrotiri as permanently-based squadrons. By the end of the 80s only the helicopters of 84 Squadron remained and the Station began its life as a training, forward operating and forward mounting base.

Notable operations launched from RAF Akrotiri include GRANBY in 1990 (Iraq), TELIC in 2003 (Iraq), HIGHBROW in 2006 (Non-combatant Evacuation Operation from Lebanon), ELLAMY in 2011 (Libya), LUMINOUS in 2013 (air defence of Cyprus during Syrian Chemical Weapons Crisis). Akrotiri has also played host to the UK’s allies on numerous occasions to enable their training and operations.

Today’s Mission: Support Operations Today, Prepare for Tomorrow.

Today, RAF Akrotiri is the home of the Cyprus Operations Support Unit (COSU) which provides facilities for support to air, land and sea training and operations for British and allied forces by providing a secure airhead location usable by all but the very largest aircraft and with its own mole for replenishing ships. It has sufficient bulk aviation fuel stores, explosive storage and dispersed aircraft parking for high-tempo air operations. It can provide accommodation, transport and life support to exercising or operational troops as well as for those awaiting onward flights.

RAF Akrotiri is the airhead for British Forces Cyprus, receiving from and dispatching to the UK all British Forces Cyprus personnel and their families via the Cyprus Air Trooping Schedule, as well as all other UK and allied servicemen serving on or around the island. It is also a vital link in the Airbridge operating 24 hours a day in support of Op HERRICK and the wider KIPION Joint Operations Area, providing the staging post for the additional aircrew necessary to fly strategic loads over long distances. RAF Akrotiri is also the halfway point for troops returning home from Afghanistan as they undergo decompression, using all the sports and recreational facilities that the Station and British Forces Cyprus have to offer.

RAF Akrotiri is regularly used as a training base for air exercises such as Exercise SPRINGHAWK, the Red Arrows’ pre-display season training and selection camp. With dedicated airspace to the south of the peninsular, it can accommodate a variety of academic and air combat manoeuvre training with almost guaranteed good weather. It also has training areas suitable for land-based activities, including a mock Afghan compound.

Station-based operational flying is the preserve of 84 Squadron and its Griffin helicopters. These provide Commander British Forces primarily with Search and Rescue support, for which they regularly train with the Republic of Cyprus Police and National Guard Air Command. The helicopters are also used for communications, trooping and fire-fighting duties.

The Griffin’s fire-fighting capability is often called upon by the Republic of Cyprus to help tackle the brush fires that are common during the hot summers. The various British Forces Cyprus fire sections are also regularly called upon to assist in fighting these fires. Further fire-fighting support is given through the replenishment and refuelling of the Department of Forests’ dedicated fire-fighting aircraft, for which the RAF Akrotiri Fire Section is specially trained.

All of this is possible through the hard work of a very lean Joint team composed of RAF and Army personnel supported by UK-based Civilians, UK Dependants and Locally-Employed Civilians. This composition ensure close ties between the Unit and the local communities. No better was this illustrated than during the Spring 2013 banking collapse, when cash was flown into RAF Akrotiri from the UK to be distributed as wages via old-fashioned pay parades, thus ensuring the local economy continued to function.

As RAF Akrotiri looks forward, the next 3 years will see the whole airfield refurbished to accommodate the RAF’s new Voyager fleet, which will mean it will be safely able to accommodate most wide-bodied aircraft for a number of years to come. This will secure the airfield’s future as a vital asset to the UK’s interests in the region. The Peninsular will continue to be ready.

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