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92 Squadron

The Squadron that ensures RAF training and tactics are front and centre of all operations

AIRCREWS from across the world recently departed UK shores following a near month-long involvement in Operation Cobra Warrior, a biannual exercise bringing together allies for training in high-intensity, large-force, tactical air warfighting.

A total of 70 aircraft took party, involving participants from Belgium, India, Saudi Arabia, Finland and Singapore, working alongside home crews and UK-based USAF aircraft, the event co-ordinated by No. 92 Squadron, Squadron Leader John McFadden labelling it a “challenging, air-led, multi-domain exercise”.

The largest air exercise organised by the RAF, Cobra Warrior is essential in maintaining the readiness of air forces from across the globe to counter any potential threat, and while co-ordinated from RAF Waddington, it saw aircraft operating across UK airspace, involving a number of stations and even Carlisle Airport.

No. 92 Squadron’s role is to provide training and tactics advice to commanders and units, identifying how best to use aircraft and utilise air power, their current dating back to 2009, but the squadron’s roots were forged back in WWI: No. 92 was formed at London Colney in Hertfordshire in September 1917 as a scout fighter squadron, initially operating Sopwith Pups.

Moving to France in July 1918, the unit operated SE.5a biplanes in the Dunkirk area, a location the unit would revisit 22 years later. The squadron was heavily involved in the Somme Offensive during August and September 1918, continuing to fly operations over the Western Front until the Armistice, claiming a total of 38 victories during their WWI service.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb R6923 of 92 Squadron in 1941

(Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb R6923 of 92 Squadron in 1941)

On August 7, 1919, No. 92 was disbanded, the squadron spending 20 years in limbo before being reformed at Tangmere in Sussex on October 10, 1939, as a fighter unit, a month after war was declared. Initially operating Bristol Blenheims, No. 92 was equipped with Spitfires in March 1940, the unit carrying out missions over Dunkirk during the German Blitzkrieg in May and June of that year, flying out of RAF Croydon; a short spell in Wales followed. Involved in defensive duties before operations from Biggin Hill commenced during the Battle of Britain.

In February 1942, their role operating from home soil ended when they were posted to Egypt in support of the North African campaign, initially without aircraft – their aircrews flying the Hawker Hurricanes of No. 80 Squadron when available. The squadron’s Spitfires arrived in August with No. 92. providing air cover during the Battle of El Alamein, with the unit moving to Malta in June 1943, from there providing cover for campaigns in Italy.

92 (F) Squadron Canadair Sabre F.4 XD769 in 1955

(92(F) Squadron Canadair Sabre F.4 XD769 in 1955)

When Sicily was taken, the squadron moved there, continuing to operate missions over the Italian mainland as Allied forces advanced through the country. The successful invasion saw No. 92 move into Italy itself in September 1943, and by the end of hostilities the unit had claimed the highest number of victories in the entire RAF – 317 – eventually disbanding at the end of 1946.

On January 31, 1947, No. 91 Squadron was disbanded at RAF Acklington in Northumberland, before being immediately renumbered as No. 92 (Fighter) Squadron, forming part of Fighter Command, flying the first UK jet, the Gloster Meteor. Relocating south to RAF Duxford in Cambridgeshire, the unit heading back north to Linton-on-Ouse in October 1949, later re-equipping with Canadian Sabre F.4s in February 1954, joining No. 66 Squadron as the only Sabre wing in Fighter Command.

Hawker Hunter F6 XG186 of 92 Squadron flying from RAF Linton-on-Ouse in July, 1962

(Hawker Hunter F6 XG186 of 92 Squadron flying from RAF Linton-on-Ouse in July, 1962 - 📸 Darren B Hillman)

Converting to Hunters in 1956, the unit moved regularly around a number of bases in the north-east of England during the mid-1950s including RAF Middleton St George and RAF Thornaby, and in 1961 they were chosen as Fighter Command’s aerobatic squadron, the Black Arrows rechristened as the Blue Diamonds, precursors of the Red Arrows, becoming the first team to loop 16 aircraft in close diamond formation.

The unit continued their displays until 1962, and in April, 1963, they were equipped with English Electric Lightnings, heading overseas in December 1965, No. 92 relocating to RAF Geilenkirchen in Germany to operate in tandem with No. 19 (F) Squadron. Both units then moved on to RAF Gütersloh, 92 remaining there until the squadron was disbanded in March 1977. On March 31, 1977, the Phantom element at RAF Wildenrath was renumbered 92 Squadron, the unit operating the aircraft for 15 years.

92 Squadron Phantom landing at RAF Wildenrath on 25 April 1990

(92 Squadron Phantom landing at RAF Wildenrath on 25 April 1990 - 📸 Rob Schleiffert)

Whilst flying the Phantom, No. 92 was involved in one notorious incident that saw a Jaguar of No. 14 Squadron shot down by mistake near Bruggen, close to the border with the Netherlands. On May 15, 1982, two Jaguars were en route back to Bruggen at the same time as Wildenrath was conducting an air defence exercise, Phantoms scrambled to intercept other aircraft but operating with ‘inert’ missiles.

Encountering the Jaguars, one of the Phantoms proceeded to make the intercept, setting up a simulated attack but when the pilot pressed the missile release, a Sidewinder was accidentally fired, hitting the Jaguar’s tail section. The pilot of the Jaguar successfully ejected but the aircraft was destroyed, a later inquiry finding a chain of events led to the firing of a live missile, including the plane used being allocated to QRA (quick reaction alert) duties from Wildenrath that day so was armed with live missiles, and a failure to secure the master arm switch in the ‘safe’ position in the Phantom cockpit.

After spending some time as cover at RAF Akrotiri in the summer of 1990, No. 92 was disbanded on July 1, 1991, as RAF strength in Germany began to draw down following the fall of the Berlin Wall. A year later, No. 151 (Reserve) Squadron was renumbered No. 92 (Reserve) Squadron at RAF Chivenor, forming part of No. 7 Flying Training School (FTS), the unit operating Hawk T.1s; when No. 7 FTS’s role was transferred to No. 4 FTS at RAF Valley in 1994, No. 92 (R) Squadron was disbanded.

There followed the unit’s longest hiatus since the end of WWI, before they were stood up again on June 30, 2009 as the training and tactics element of the Air Warfare Centre at RAF Waddington – No. 92 (Reserve) Tactics and Training Squadron created.

The Reserve tag was removed from No. 92 a decade later, and they continue to this day helping co-ordinate events such as Operation Cobra Warrior, the latest iteration producing a typically British cessation of activities for one day: flying from Waddington cancelled on March 9 due to snow.

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