RAF Scampton used by the Dambusters and home to the Red Arrows will be axed and put up for sale by the end of next year in cost-cutting bid to save the Ministry of Defence £140 million

  • RAF Scampton near Lincoln will go on sale next year as part of cost-saving measures the MoD has confirmed
  • The base is the current home of the Red Arrows display team who are set to move to nearby RAF Waddington
  • News was confirmed in letter to Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh who laid out ‘ambitious plans’ for the site

The RAF airbase used by the Dambusters, which is now the home of the Red Arrows, will be up for sale by the end of next year, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed. 

RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire will be axed as part of cost-saving measures, with the move set to save the MoD an estimated £140 million over the next 10 years. 

Opened in 1916, the base is famous for being the headquarters of 617 Squadron as they prepared for the daring Dambusters mission.   

It has also been home to the Red Arrows display team for over 20 years. The famous red jets will jets will remain in Lincolnshire, and are set to move to nearby RAF Waddington.

The sale has been verified by the MoD in a letter from Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin, to Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh, the BBC reports. 

The document also confirmed there were ‘ambitious plans’ to transform the site into an area that ‘provides the greatest benefit for the local community’.  

RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, the home base of the Red Arrows, will be axed as part of cost-saving measures, the MoD confirmed

The move is set to save the MoD an estimated £140 million over the next 10 years. The famous red jets will jets are set to move to nearby RAF Waddington


The sale has been verified by the MoD in a letter from Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Jeremy Quin (pictured left), to Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh (right), the BBC reports

The document also confirmed there were ‘ambitious plans’ to transform the site into an area that ‘provides the greatest benefit for the local community’

 There were fears when the sale was first suggested in 2018 that there may be protests due to the historical nature of the RAF base

The famous red jets will jets will remain in Lincolnshire, and are set to move from Scrampton to nearby RAF Waddington

RAF Scampton is believed to be the base from which 617 Squadron took off on May 16, 1943 on their mission to attack the dams of the Ruhr valley in the heart of industrial Germany

The Dambusters raid marked a critical turning point in World War Two and delivered a critical blow to the Nazi war machine

On May 16, 1943, 19 Lancaster bomber crews gathered at a remote RAF station in Lincolnshire for a mission of extraordinary daring – a night-time raid on three heavily defended dams deep in Germany’s industrial heartland.

The dams were heavily fortified and needed the innovative bomb – which bounced on the water over torpedo nets and sank before detonating.

To succeed, the raiders would have to fly across occupied Europe under heavy fire and then drop their bombs with awesome precision from a mere 60ft above the water.  

Skilled RAF pilots flew low over the dams to release bouncing bombs in the Dambusters raid of 1943

The Mohne and Eder Dams in the industrial heart of Germany were attacked and breached by mines dropped from specially modified Lancasters of No. 617 Squadron.

The Sorpe dam was was also attacked by by two aircraft and damaged.

A fourth dam, the Ennepe was reported as being attacked by a single aircraft (O-Orange), but with no damage.

Up to 1,600 people were estimated to have been killed by floodwaters and eight of the 19 aircraft dispatched failed to return with the loss of 53 aircrew and 3 taken prisoner of war.

Wg Cdr Guy Gibson, Officer Commanding No. 617 Sqn, is awarded the VC for his part in leading the attack. 

The raid, orchestrated by Guy Gibson and the RAF’s 617 ‘Dambuster’ Squadron, was seen as a major victory for the British, and Wing Commander Gibson is recognised as one of the war’s most revered heroes. 

Their success was immortalised in the classic 1955 film The Dambusters, its thrilling theme tune and gung-ho script evoking the best of British derring-do.

Details of the plans were not released but Mr Quin has been working with West Lindsey District Council on the project. 

The letter stated that the Red Arrowswould be able to continue training in the airspace over RAF Scrampton.

 But their their ability to do so in the future would be ‘contingent on the scale and nature of the development delivered to the base’. 

The distinctive Red Arrows planes were seen rehearsing their synchronised moves above RAF Scampton yesterday.

It is the first time they have been photographed training since returning from Greece, where they spent the Spring perfecting their display, and they are set to perform at their first air show of the season at the Midlands Air Festival in Warwickshire next weekend on June 5 and 6.

Plans to sell off the airbase were first announced in 2018, and at the time there were fears its sale would prompt protests due to Scampton’s historical links. 

It is believed to be the base from which 617 Squadron took off on May 16, 1943 on their mission to attack the dams of the Ruhr valley in the heart of industrial Germany.

The Dambusters raid marked a critical turning point in World War Two and delivered a critical blow to the Nazi war machine. 

Wing Commander Guy Gibson, 24, was given permission to hand-pick his bomber crews from other Lancaster squadrons to give the mission the greatest chance of success. 

For months the select few RAF pilots underwent gruelling training for their dangerous mission.

They spent hours training in low-level flying, grazing the ground at a death-defying 100ft.

Their Wing Commander whipped them into shape, himself being a veteran of 72 bomber operations and 99 sorties as pilot of a night-fighter.

The mission required 19 specially-adapted Lancasters to carry out the attack on the night of May 16/17 1943.

Also, the specially-designed ‘bouncing bomb’ had to be dropped above the water at an exact height of 60 feet and a speed of 220mph. 

The crews successfully managed to breach the Mohne and Eder dams, but failed to destroy the Sorpe and Schwelme.

Gibson, to give his fellow flyers the greatest chance of success flew above the dams to attract anti-aircraft fire while his men lined up their repeated attacks.

For this, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

In total, eight of the 19 crews did not return from the mission.

The success of the pilots was immortalised in the classic 1955 film The Dambusters, with its thrilling theme tune and gung-ho script evoking the best of British derring-do. 

The Red Arrows have also become well known British icons, although the aerobatics display team was formed decades after the Dambusters raid. 

Officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the team was formed in late 1964. 

The distinctive Red Arrows planes were seen rehearsing their synchronised moves above RAF Scampton yesterday

It is the first time they have been photographed training since returning from Greece, where they spent the Spring perfecting their display

They are set to perform at their first air show of the season at the Midlands Air Festival in Warwickshire next weekend on June 5 and 6

 The Red Arrows, pictured during during Scampton Airshow. were initially based at RAF Little Rissington in Gloucestershire

They moved to RAF Kemble, now Cotswold Airport, in 1966. They moved again in 1983 to RAF Scampton, but when it closed in 1995, so they moved just 20 miles to RAF Cranwell

 They returned to Scampton in 2000 and have been based there for the past two decades

The Red Arrows: The face of Britain’s airforce at home and abroad

Officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the team was formed in late 1964.

Ironically, as their home base is being closed as part of cost-cutting measures, the Red Arrows were themselves born of an austerity drive. 

Before the war, almost every squadron of the RAF had its own aerobatics team. 

But the post-war defence cuts of the 1960s found this to be unsustainable, so brought the teams together under one banner.   

The team were initially based at RAF Little Rissington in Gloucestershire, but moved to RAF Kemble, now Cotswold Airport, in 1966. 

They moved again in 1983 to RAF Scampton, but when it closed in 1995, so they moved just 20 miles to RAF Cranwell. 

They returned to Scampton in 2000 and have been based there for the past two decades.

Ironic as their home base is being closed as part of cost-cutting measures, the Red Arrows were themselves born of an austerity drive. 

Before the war, almost every squadron of the RAF had its own aerobatics team. 

But the post-war defence cuts of the 1960s found this to be unsustainable, so brought the teams together under one banner.  

They have since become one of the most famous aerobatics teams in the world and are seen as the public face of the RAF, both at home and abroad.

The Red Arrows or ‘the Reds’, as they are known in RAF circles, have reportedly performed over 4,800 displays and flypasts in 57 countries worldwide.

Stunning pictures capture them flying over New York with the US Air Force in 2019, shooting past the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco and also releasing their trail of red white and blue as they perform a display over Niagara Falls in Canada.

They have come a long way from the group of seven display pilots flying Folland Gnat trainer jets in the 1960s. 

Another two planes have been added to the formation, giving them their famous diamond shape, and today they instead fly British Hawk jets – the plane they switched to in 1979 and have flown in ever since.  

The team were initially based at RAF Little Rissington in Gloucestershire, but moved to RAF Kemble, now Cotswold Airport, in 1966. 

They moved again in 1983 to RAF Scampton, but when it closed in 1995, so they moved just 20 miles to RAF Cranwell. 

They returned to Scampton in 2000 and have been based there for the past two decades. 

The Red Arrows or ‘the Reds’, as they are known in RAF circles, have reportedly performed over 4,800 displays and flypasts in 57 countries worldwide. Pictured: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, flypast

The Red Arrows are the most famous aerobatics teams in the world and are seen as the public face of the RAF, both at home and abroad. Pictured: Niagara Falls flypast, Canada

The British display team flies above Central Park (pictured) with the East River in the background in 2019

British Hawk jets: The official plane of the Red Arrows

Hawk T1: 

Wingspan: 30 feet

Height: 13 feet

Length 39 feet

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 18,000 pounds 

Combat Radius: 345 miles

Max Speed: 920mph

Source: Royal Air Force (RAF) 

Due to its significant history, campaigners have launched bid to protect the historic site and called for the air base to be run by a charitable trust.

The Save Scampton group also suggested a heritage centre and museum should be built on the site of the air base.

The plans would be to also have a working runway, as well as a base for small private aircraft and executive jets. 

Their reaction to the news was one of fury, with a spokesperson writing on their official Twitter page: ‘Have no doubt, we will continue to fight those with power, money and influence for what is right.’ 

It continued: ‘#SaveScampton its history and the memory of those who fought from there.’

Annette Edgar, 70, who is leading the group, previously told The Telegraph the options were either to ‘walk away’ or ‘fight on to try and save this most valuable heritage asset’. 

Their campaign has garnered international support. A petition set up by Save Scampton read: ‘This RAF air station is part of our national heritage from the Dambusters right through to today and the Red Arrows. 

‘It should be turned into a visitor centre and kept for the nation.’

The MoD, who were contacted by Mail Online for comment, previously said it recognises RAF Scampton as ‘a site of historical significance’.

In a statement to The Telegraph, a spokesperson added that it ‘will look at options to provide a sustainable solution for preserving the story’.

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