39 Squadron

Providing real-time surveillance, and close air support to frontline troops.

By day and night

A winged bomb.


  • Headquartered at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, but based at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, for RPAS training and operational missions
  • Formed in 1916 as 39 (Home Defence) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps
  • Aircraft flown include the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2; Westland Wapiti; Bristol Blenheim and Beaufighter; de Havilland Mosquito; Gloster Meteor NF13; English Electric Canberra PR3, PR7 and PR9; and General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper
  • In 2007, No. 39 Squadron became the RAF’s first RPAS squadron


1916 - Formed on 15 April, equipped with the B.E.2 and tasked with the air defence of northeast London. On 3 September, Lt William Robinson downed a Zeppelin airship over British soil for the first time; he was awarded the Victoria Cross for the action

1918 - Now operating the Bristol F.2B Fighter, 39 Squadron worked with 78 Squadron to shoot down a Gotha bomber on 19/20 May, during the final World War One raid on Great Britain. Posted to France, the unit disbanded in November

1921 - Began working up as an Airco DH.9A-equipped bomber squadron

1928 - Re-equipped with the Westland Wapiti and moved to India. Conversion onto the Hawker Hart began in 1931

1940 - Relocated for bombing attacks in the Middle East and Africa, equipped with the Bristol Blenheim

1941 - Set up base in Egypt during January and began training for maritime work with Blenheims and the Martin Maryland. Started torpedo-strike operations with the Bristol Beaufort in August, then began re-equipping with the Beaufighter in June 1943

1944 - Moved to Sardinia from Malta in February and began rocket attacks, initially over Italy and later Greece. Re-equipped with the Martin Marauder from December

1946 - Disbanded at Khartoum, as a Mosquito operator, on 8 September

1949 - Re-formed as a night-fighter unit flying the Mosquito NF36, from Khartoum, on 1 March. Re-equipped with the Meteor NF13 jet in 1952 and moved to Malta, then Cyprus

1958 - Disbanded on 30 June. Reformed as a Canberra PR3 operator on 1 July by renumbering 69 Squdron. Began operating the Canberra PR9 in 1962

1970 - Returned to the UK, based at RAF Wyton, after 42 years overseas

1982 - Disbanded on 28 May, although a remnant of the squadron remained as 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU). 1 PRU became a 'new' 39 Squadron in 1992. It moved to RAF Marham in 1993 and added the Canberra PR7 to its inventory

2006 - Disbanded on 28 July as the RAF’s final Canberra unit

2007 - Reformed at Creech AFB on 1 January as the RAF’s first Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) squadron, ultimately operating the MQ-9A Reaper

Battle honours

Home Defence 1916-1918

North West Frontier 1930-1931

Mohmand 1933

North West Frontier 1935-1939

East Africa 1940

Egypt & Libya 1940-1943

South East Europe 1944-45

Iraq 2003-2011


Please contact the home station (RAF Waddington) Media Communications team for more information or to contact the Squadron

Media enquiries details for RAF Waddington