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Number 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron (although His Majesty the King awarded No. V (Army Cooperation) Squadron) was a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It most recently operated the Raytheon Sentinel R1 Airborne STand-Off Radar (ASTOR) aircraft from RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, between April 2004 until March 2021.[2][3]

No. V (AC) Squadron RAF
Squadron badge
Active26 July 1913 – 1 April 1918 (RFC)
1 April 1918 – 20 January 1920 (RAF)
1 April 1920 – 1 August 1947
11 February 1949 – 25 September 1951
1 March 1952 – 12 October 1957
20 January 1959 – 7 October 1965
8 October 1965 – 30 September 2002
1 April 2004 – 31 March 2021
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
TypeFlying squadron
Motto(s)Frangas non flectas
(Latin for 'Thou mayst break, but shall not bend me')[1]
Battle honours
  • Western Front (1914–1918)
  • Mons (1914)*
  • Neuve Chappelle (1915)
  • Ypres (1917)
  • Loos (1915)
  • Arras (1917)
  • Somme (1918)*
  • Amiens (1918)*
  • Hindenburg Line (1918)
  • Waziristan (1920–1925)
  • Mohmand (1927)
  • North West Frontier (1930–1931)
  • North West Frontier (1935–1939)
  • Arakan (1942–1944)*
  • Manipur (1944)
  • Burma (1944–1945)*
  • Libya (2011)
* Honours marked with an asterisk may be emblazoned on the Squadron Standard[2]
Squadron badge heraldryA maple leaf, commemorating the squadron's close links with the Canadian Corps during the First World War. Approved by King George VI in June 1937.[2]
Squadron roundel
Squadron codesQN (Apr 1939 – allocated but possibly not used)
OQ (Sep 1939 – Feb 1941, Mar 1946 – Aug 1947)
B (Mar 1952 – 1955)
A (Aug 1986 – Dec 1987)
CA–CZ (Tornado F.3)

First formed in July 1913, the squadron served throughout the First World War, holding the distinction of gaining the first loss and kill for the Royal Flying Corps. No. V Squadron relocated to India in 1920 where it remained during the Second World War. During the Cold War, No. 5 (Fighter) Squadron flew the English Electric Lightning and Panavia Tornado F3.


Formation to First World War

A Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8, similar to what No. V Squadron flew between May 1917 and March 1918.
A Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8, similar to what No. V Squadron flew between May 1917 and March 1918.

No. 5 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed at Farnborough, Hampshire, on 26 July 1913,[4] from members of No. 3 Squadron.[5] Following the outbreak of the First World War, No. V Squadron deployed to France on 15 August 1914, equipped with a variety of aircraft types to implement reconnaissance for the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).[6] It flew its first missions on 21 August and on the next day, an Avro 504 of No. 5 Squadron was the first British aircraft to be shot down, its crew of pilot Second Lieutenant Vincent Waterfall and navigator Lieutenant Charles George Gordon Bayly being killed over Belgium.[6][7][8][9] On 24 August, No. V Squadron became the first unit in the RFC to shoot down an enemy aircraft with gunfire when Lt. Wilson and Lt. Rabagliati shot down a German Etrich Taube near Le Cateau-Cambrésis.[10][11]

From 24 March until 7 April 1917 the squadron was based at La Gorgue in northern France.[12]

No. 5 Squadron standardised on the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2, specialising as observers for artillery, re-equipping with the Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 in May 1917, and working closely with the Canadian Corps, through to the end of the war and into 1919, when it moved into Germany as part of the Army of Occupation.[13] (Its association with the Canadian Corps led to the incorporation of a maple leaf in the squadron's badge when it was approved in June 1937).[6]

Interwar years

No. V Squadron returned to the UK in September 1919 before disbanding on 20 January 1920.[10] The squadron was reformed at Quetta, India (now part of Pakistan) on 1 April 1920, when No. 48 Squadron was renumbered.[5] There it continued working in Army Air Cooperation for operations on the North West Frontier. Upon reformation the unit was equipped with the Bristol F.2B which were flown up until 1931.[14] In May 1931, No. 5 Squadron began to convert to the Westland Wapiti Mk.IIa.[15]

Second World War

Westland Wapiti Mk.IIas, similar to what No. 5 Squadron operated in India between May 1931 and June 1940.
Westland Wapiti Mk.IIas, similar to what No. 5 Squadron operated in India between May 1931 and June 1940.

At the outbreak of war in September 1939, No. 5 Squadron were based at Fort Sandeman, still equipped with the Westland Wapiti biplane.[16] The squadron became a light bomber unit when it converted to the Hawker Hart in June 1940. No. 5 Squadron further converted to the Hawker Audax in February 1941,[15] using it as a fighter.[16] In December 1941, the squadron relocated to RAF Dum Dum, Calcutta, and began to receive their first monoplane – the American-built Curtiss Mohawk Mk.IV.[16] Posted to RAF Dinjan, Assam, in May 1942, No. V Squadron became tasked with escorting Bristol Blenheim bombers over north west Burma.[14]

The Mohawks were replaced by Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIcs and Mk.IIds in June 1943 while the squadron was based at RAF Kharagpur.[16] In September 1944, No. 5 Squadron converted to the Republic Thunderbolt Mk.I and Mk.II.[15] In May 1945, No. V Squadron was withdrawn from the front line in preparation for the liberation of Malaya from Japanese occupation, however this was never carried out due to the Japanese Empire surrendering on 15 August 1945.[16]

Cold War

Remaining in India, No. 5 Squadron converted to Hawker Tempest F.2 in February 1946, but disbanded on 1 August 1947 due to the Partition of India.[17] On 11 February 1949, the squadron reformed at RAF Pembrey in Wales for target-towing duties when No. 595 Squadron was renumbered, however the squadron was shortly disbanded on 25 September 1951.[10] The squadron was reformed at RAF Wunsdorf, West Germany, on 1 March 1952, and were equipped with the de Havilland Vampire F.5.[5] No. V Squadron converted over to the de Havilland Venom FB.1 in December 1952.[18] The 1957 Defence White Paper saw the disbandment of No. 5 Squadron on 12 October 1957 while operating the Venom FB.5.[14]

On 20 January 1959, the squadron was reformed as a night fighter unit at RAF Laarbruch, West Germany, flying the Gloster Meteor NF.11.[10] No. 5 Squadron began converting to the delta winged Gloster Javelin FAW.5 in January 1960.[18] When No. 33 Squadron was disbanded on 17 December 1962, No. V Squadron was allocated the former unit's Javelin FAW.9, along with crew members.[5][19] No. 5 Squadron itself was disbanded on 7 October 1965 at RAF Geilenkirchen.[5]

Lightning and Tornado (1965–2003)

Four No. 5 (Fighter) Squadron Lightning F.6s in formation with an Avro Vulcan B.2, April 1968. (Note the Maltese cross zaps on the tails from an APC deployment to RAF Luqa in October 1967).
Four No. 5 (Fighter) Squadron Lightning F.6s in formation with an Avro Vulcan B.2, April 1968. (Note the Maltese cross zaps on the tails from an APC deployment to RAF Luqa in October 1967).

The squadron reformed as No V (AC) Squadron at RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire, on 8 October 1965 with the English Electric Lightning interceptor.[17] However, upon reformation the unit did not initially operate a Lightning, with the squadron first flying Hawker Hunter T.7A WV318 fitted with Lightning instruments.[20] No V (AC) Squadron's first Lightning arrived on 19 November, when Lightning T.5 XS451 was delivered to RAF Binbrook.[21] The squadron's first single seat Lightnings arrived on 10 December 1965, when Lightning F.3s XR755 and XR756 were delivered.[22] No. V (AC) Squadron received their first production Lightning F.6 on 3 January 1967, with the arrival of XS694.[23] Between 6 and 25 October 1967, the squadron deployed to RAF Luqa, Malta, with nine Lightning F.6s and a single Lighting T.5 for an Air Defence Exercise (ADEX) against Avro Vulcan B.2s of No. 50 Squadron. No 5 (AC) Squadron deployed to RAF Luqa once again between 1 and 8 August 1968 for Exercise Nimble.[24]

Notably, over Christmas 1969, V(AC) Squadron deployed on reinforcement Exercise Ultimacy to RAF Tengah, Singapore using in flight refuelling and stopping only once en route at RAF Masirah in Oman. Long-distance route proving with the new overwing tanks had taken place previously in 1968 with a limited non stop deployment to RAF Muharraq in Bahrain.[25]

In 1970, the squadron received a pair of Lightning F.1As (XM181 and XM183),[26] which were used as targets for the Lightning F.6s due to them being lighter and more nimble (these were later replaced with Lightning F.3s).[20] On 8 September 1970, the squadron lost Lightning F.6 XS894 when it crashed near Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, killing the pilot USAF Capt. William Schaffner.[27] No. V (F) Squadron deployed two Lighting F.3s, seven Lightning F.6s and a single two-seat T.5 to RAF Luqa between 18 November and 13 December 1974, as part of Exercise Sunfinder alongside Avro Shackleton AEW.2s of No. 8 Squadron and English Electric Canberra B.2s of No. 85 Squadron. Between 5 April and 7 May 1976, the squadron deployed to RAF Luqa with ten Lightning F.6s for an APC. No V (AC) Squadron's last APC deployment to RAF Luqa was between 31 March and 5 May 1977.[24]

In November 1987, No. V (AC) Squadron put up a nine-ship of Lightning F.6s to mark the type's impending withdrawal after 22 years of service.[20] The last Lightnings were withdrawn by December 1987,[18] with the squadron relocating to RAF Coningsby in preparation for the Panavia Tornado F.3.[10] No V (AC) Squadron received their first Tornado F.3 in January 1988.[28]

In August 1990, V (AC) Squadron was the first RAF squadron (accompanied by No. 29 (F) Squadron) to be deployed as part the UK's contribution to the Gulf War, with the first six Tornado F.3s arriving on 11 August at Dhahran Airfield, Saudi Arabia.[29] Between 1993 and 1995, the squadron helped enforce the no-fly zone over Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of Operation Deny Flight.[10] No V (AC) Squadron disbanded on 30 September 2002, with personnel being reassigned to other units.[30]

Sentinel R1 (2004–2021)

No. 5 (AC) Squadron Raytheon Sentinel R.1 ZJ692 at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, March 2019.
No. 5 (AC) Squadron Raytheon Sentinel R.1 ZJ692 at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, March 2019.

The squadron reformed on 1 April 2004 as No. 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron at RAF Waddington. The first production Raytheon Sentinel R1 made its maiden flight on 26 May 2004. The ASTOR system officially entered service with the No. 5 (AC) Squadron on 1 December 2008.[31] The fifth and last Sentinel to be delivered to the squadron was ZJ694 in February 2009.[32] Full Operating Capability was achieved at the end of 2010.[33] The new radar-equipped aircraft provides battlefield and ground surveillance for the British Army in a similar role to the American Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS aircraft.[34] In 2011, Sentinels from No. V (AC) Squadron participated in operations over Libya as part of Operation Ellamy,[35] which were later described as pivotal by RAF Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton.[36]

Between 2009 and 2011, No. V (AC) Squadron also briefly operated four Hawker Beechcraft Shadow R.1, based on the Beechcraft King Air 350.[37] The first Shadow R.1 (ZZ416) was delivered to the squadron in May 2009.[38] These were transferred over to the newly reformed No. 14 Squadron in October 2011.[39][40]

On 25 January 2013, a Sentinel R1 deployed to Dakar-Ouakam Air Base, Senegal, to assist with France's Operation Serval in Mali.[41] Over the course of a four-month long detachment, Sentinels flew a total of 697 hours across 66 sorties.[42] On 18 May 2014, the squadron deployed a Sentinel to Kotoka International Airport, Ghana, in order to assist with searching for 223 schoolgirls who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria.[43] In September 2014, the squadron temporarily relocated to RAF Cranwell along with No. 14 Squadron due to the resurfacing of RAF Waddington's runway which took over a year to complete.[44] No. 5 (AC) Squadron sent a single Sentinel R.1 to Exercise Red Flag 15–1 at Nellis AFB, Nevada,[45] between 26 January and 13 February 2015.[46] On 26 March 2015, No. 5 (AC) Squadron deployed two Sentinel R1s to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, in support of Operation Shader.[47]

In July 2017, Sentinel R.1 ZJ693 was withdrawn from use, with the remaining four Sentinels being given an out of service date (OSD) of 2021.[48] In February 2020, the OSD was confirmed by the Ministry of Defence as March 2021.[49] On 25 February 2021, ZJ694 carried out No. V (AC) Squadron's last Sentinel R.1 operational sortie.[50] Across the Sentinel's 14 years of service, the squadron flew 32,000 hours across 4,870 sorties.[51] The squadron was subsequently disbanded on 31 March 2021.[3]

Aircraft operated

Aircraft operated by No. 5 Squadron include:[10][15][18][20][52]

* Avro Type E (July 1913–July 1914)

See also



  1. Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 87. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. "V (AC) Squadron". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  3. "RAF Retires Sentinel Aircraft And Disbands V(AC) Squadron". Forces Network. 31 March 2021. Retrieved 31 March 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. Lewis 1959, p.14.
  5. "No 5 Squadron". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  6. Ashworth 1989, p.34.
  7. Jackson 1990 p.56
  8. "Casualty Details:Vincent Waterfall". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  9. "Casualty Details:Charles Bayly". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  10. "No.5 Squadron". Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  11. "5 (Army Cooperation) Squadron Royal Air Force". RAF-Lincolnshire. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  12. "La Gorgue". Anciens Aérodromes (in French). 7 March 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  13. Ashworth 1989, pp. 34–35.
  14. "5 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 11 April 2016. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  15. "No 5 Squadron Aircraft & Markings 1913 - 1951". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  16. "No. 5 Squadron (RAF): Second World War". History of War. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  17. Ashworth 1989, p.356.
  18. "No 5 Squadron Aircraft & Markings 1950 - Current". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  19. "No.33 Squadron". Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  20. "5 Squadron". The Lightning Association. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  21. "Lightning T.5 Production batch, 22 aircraft". The Lightning Association. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  22. "Lightning F.3 Production batch, 70 built". The Lightning Association. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  23. "Lightning F.6 production batch, 39 aircraft built". The Lightning Association. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  24. "Armaments Practice Camps – Lightnings". Aviation in Malta. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  25. Bowman, Martin (2009). Lightning Strikes Twice. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1848684935.
  26. "F.1A built at Salmesbury". The Lightning Association. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  27. "Accident English Electric Lightning F6 XS894, 08 Sep 1970". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  28. "United Kingdom". Panavia. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  29. "1990/91 The Gulf War - Operation Granby and RAF Tornado Dawn Tabuk". World Air War History. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  30. "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 12 Feb 2003". parliament.uk. UK Parliament. 12 February 2003. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  31. "ASTOR Enters Service in U.K." Raytheon. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  32. "Raytheon Delivers Final Sentinel R Mk 1 Aircraft for U.K. ASTOR System". Defence Aerospace. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  33. "ASTOR Enters Service". Air International, Vol 76 No. 1, January 2009. p.5.
  34.  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Air Force document: "Factsheets : E-8C Joint Stars". Retrieved 29 August 2014. August 2013.
  35. "Coalition operations in Libya to continue". gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  36. "Reprieve for axed Sentinel R1 spy plane". British Forces News. 23 November 2011. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  37. Royal Air Force Yearbook 2009, p23
  38. "Military Aircraft Markings Update number 49, June 2009" (PDF). Military Aircraft Markings. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  39. "UK commits to major upgrade for Shadow surveillance fleet". Flight Global. 14 September 2011. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  40. "14 Squadron". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  41. "RAF Sentinel aircraft deploys to Africa". gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  42. Hoyle, Craig (10 July 2013). "Royal Air Force lifts lid on Sentinel's role in Mali". Flight Global. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  43. "UK deploys RAF Sentinel to help search for missing schoolgirls". gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. 18 May 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  44. "RAF Waddington - Royal Air Force" (PDF). www.raf.mod.uk.
  45. Grant, Jason (14 February 2015). "Red Flag 15-1". Aero Resource. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  46. "Nellis AFB hosts Red Flag 15-1 Jan 26 to Feb. 13, 2015". Nellis Air Force Base. 5 December 2014. Archived from the original on 31 March 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  47. "UK troops to train moderate Syrian opposition". gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. 26 March 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  48. Allison, George (17 July 2017). "Sentinel fleet cut by one aircraft but gains reprieve until 2021". UK Defence Journal. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  49. Ripley, Tim (18 February 2020). "UK faces ASTOR capability gap from 2021". Jane's 360. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  50. Allison, George (25 February 2021). "Sentinel R1 completes final sortie before being sold". UK Defence Journal. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  51. "RAF Sentinel R1 aircraft conducts last operational flight". Royal Air Force. 26 February 2021. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  52. "Memories of a Line Chief, 5 Squadron Lightnings, 1967- 68". The Lightning Association. March 2003. Retrieved 24 April 2020.


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