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Celebrating 60 years of RAF Fylingdales

Royal Air Force Fylingdales, in North Yorkshire, held an anniversary event on Thursday 21 September to celebrate 60 years since the establishment of the station.

Officials sat on chairs in front of the Fylingdales radar

The Chief of the Air Staff, the professional head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton, was joined by General James Dickinson, the Commander of United States Space Command, in addition to several senior representatives from the military, commercial sector, and academia, to commemorate six decades of service by the unit.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton and General James Dickinson

First declared operational in September 1963, RAF Fylingdales is the UK’s primary military space sensor. Its primary duty is ballistic missile early warning, ensuring a surprise missile attack cannot succeed. RAF Fylingdales has a secondary Space Domain Awareness role. Personnel there routinely conduct 10,000-12,000 tracks of objects in Low Earth Orbit every day, and the radar can detect objects the size of a drinks can up to 3,000 miles into space.

“For 60 years, the whole force team of military, civil service, and contractors at RAF Fylingdales has provided an essential missile warning service to the UK and its allies. Today, its space surveillance capability is enabling us to track thousands of objects in space. Daily life around the world depends on space satellites and systems, and Fylingdales has never been more important as we work to keep space safe, secure, and sustainable."

Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey
Commander of UK Space Command

"The 60th anniversary of RAF Fylingdales is a milestone that reflects a legacy of collective safeguarding through cooperation and shared interests between the United Kingdom and our United States partners. The unit’s motto is Vigilamus, always watching, and our mission has expanded from   Missile Early Warning to include Low Earth Orbit space monitoring in response to the growing importance and use of that domain.”

Wing Commander Thom Colledge
Station Commander of RAF Fylingdales

Situated on the North Yorkshire moors, RAF Fylingdales’ three distinctive ‘golf ball’ radomes became an unmistakable landmark until their replacement in 1992 by the pyramid shaped SSPAR (Solid-State Phased Array Radar). It was established as a joint venture between the RAF and United States Air Force, and it remains a joint enterprise between the UK and the United States Space Force.

Wing Commander Thom Colledge and General Dickinson

RAF Fylingdales now sits under the responsibility of UK Space Command, UK Defence’s lead organisation for space operations, capability, and workforce. It also operates as part of Space Delta 4, a US Space Force unit that provides strategic and theatre missile warning to the United States and its international partners.

Warrant Officer of the RAF chatting to senior officals outside the Fylingdales radar

RAF Fylingdales is an integral part of the local community with approximately 320 personnel, including military personnel, Ministry of Defence Police, civil servants, and contractors. The base has provided employment opportunities, supported local businesses, and engaged in various community initiatives.