The RAF’s Aerobatic Team was moved from its home at Scampton last year so the Lincolnshire base could be converted to house asylum seekers.
But its new life at Waddington – described by the RAF as one of its “busiest stations” – has not been easy. The biggest issue is finding a suitable training area for stunts, because of heavy air traffic and a punishing training schedule for other aircraft.
RAF Waddington acts as the hub of UK Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance, and is the main operating base for airborne intelligence aircraft and systems.
Its fleet of Beechcraft Shadow R1 planes is set to expand and undergo full upgrades. Earlier this month it was revealed the UK was employing these over Gaza to conduct surveillance missions in search of Israeli hostages being held captive by Hamas.
The base is also preparing to deal with
a fleet of US-made Protector drones. But their ongoing trials, piloted remotely from Waddington, will be disruptive until they are deployed next year. “It is rather challenging to have Red Arrows jets training over, or near, the base with Shadow R1 intelligence aircraft and Protector drones also requiring air and ground space,” said a senior RAF source last night.
The Red Arrows are in “special measures” following an internal report which found predatory behaviour towards women was “widespread and normalised”.
Despite assurances by Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton that the squadron would not be axed, senior members of the team fear the new arrangements were a sign they are being marginalised, sources said.
“Before leaving Scamp- ton, the team were promised they would be given everything required to practice at Waddington,” said the source. “It didn’t happen. The team began to feel they were in the way and this was a harbinger of things to come.”
However an RAF spokesperson denied there were any problems with crowded airspace at the base.