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RAF specialists support Middle Eastern air operations in the United States

RAF personnel are supporting the coordination of airspace activities in the Middle East from across the Atlantic at a US Air Force Base in South Carolina.

RAF and USAF personnel standing together.

Deployed to Shaw Air Force Base, the team of nine is comprised of Weapons Controllers, Air Traffic Controllers, System Operators and Air and Space Operations specialists who work as part of a coalition force alongside US Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force contingents at the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, known as KINGPIN.

Five servicepeople's arms, with KINGPIN patches worn

KINGPIN provides around the clock tactical command and control of 1.1 million square miles of airspace including Iraq, Syria and the Arabian Gulf. It serves as the lead control and reporting centre directly providing the Combined Air Operations Centre, located in the Middle East, with a common air picture contributing to the stability and security effort in the region.

“KINGPIN is the only coalition tactical command and control unit actively involved in 24/7 combat missions with RAF personnel at the core of the UK’s contribution to these combat operations. The team seamlessly operate alongside coalition members, continually strengthening relations with our partners in an environment within which the UK will most likely function in future operations.”

Squadron Leader Wright
UK’s Detachment Commander

There is no delineation between nations within the KINGPIN operating centre; allies are embedded together working as one team to direct a range of coalition aircraft to manage the battlespace and deter any adversary threat within the area of responsibility. The UK contingent have been fully integrated into this process, governing a range of RAF aircraft, including Typhoons, Atlas and Voyagers

Silhouette of serviceperson

“UK personnel are split onto different crews which enables strong working relationships to be forged with the other nations. The importance of these relationships cannot be overstated as, like all command and control components, communication and teamwork are the foundation of making the operation a continuing success."

Flight Lieutenant Johnston
Detachment’s Civilian Air Traffic Control Liaison

Flight Lieutenant Johnston said, “The KINGPIN Task Force has shown for 3 years now that it can provide an identical output from a safer operating area, which is not only essential for the enduring nature of the activity but demonstrates that in the face of evolving security challenges and geopolitical dynamics, it can rapidly and effectively respond from anywhere in the world.”

The KINGPIN detachment relocated from Al Dhafra AFB, UAE, in 2021 and it is planned to move to 728th Battle Management Squadron, based at Robins AFB, in Georgia, during 2025.