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Number 99 Returns to the Air

Added: (Tue Dec 12 2000)

Pressbox (Press Release) - NUMBER 99 RETURNS TO THE AIR

The Royal Air Force is bringing back one of its historic squadrons after a quarter of a century to operate the latest addition to its transport fleet.

Number 99 Squadron will be reformed at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, to fly four giant C-17 cargo aircraft being leased from Boeing for seven years and due for delivery between May and August 2001.

It is a significant move. No 99 was originally formed during the early days of military aviation in 1917, predating the RAF itself. Beginning as a bomber squadron in World War 1 with the Royal Flying Corps, it saw action continually in the 1920s and 30s, operated against both the Germans and the Japanese in World War 2, and continued afterwards as a transport squadron on routes around the world until being disbanded in 1976.

With a staff of 158, the revived 99 will be led by Wing Commander Malcolm Brecht, a former pilot with the Royal Squadron as well as the Tristars of No 216 Squadron. He commented: “It is a great privilege to be given command of a squadron whose history and reputation stretches back to the earliest days of the RAF.

“The squadron will undertake a vital role of providing strategic airlift for the UK’s mobile forces. All of us, aircrew and ground crew alike, are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead in preparing No 99 Squadron for future operations.”

Some £4.4 million is being spent on a new building and support equipment at Brize Norton, including a squadron headquarters, storage area and tail dock. A mock C-17 fuselage will also be installed at the Joint Air Transport Establishment Unit for load planning and development tasks.

The C-17 is already in service with the US Air Force and was used to support airlift operations in the Balkans. Judged particularly flexible and capable for transporting large military equipment, it was identified in the Government’s Strategic Defence Review as the best solution to meet Britain’s Rapid Reaction Force requirements.

The leasing project is being managed by a Defence Procurement Agency team at Abbey Wood. Training for the air and ground crews has already begun, with the senior pilots and air loadmasters attending three-months long conversion courses at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma. This will be followed by a further three months spent flying at Charleston Air Force Base. Other aircrews and engineering staff will be sent on courses throughout the year as the squadron builds up.

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