Although RAF Boulmer has been operational as an Air Defence unit for over 60 years, the RAF has had a presence in the area since 1940, when land near Boulmer was used as a decoy airfield to draw attacking enemy aircraft away from the operational fighter station at RAF Acklington.
From 1941 onwards the enemy air threat to the UK reduced and the RAF expanded; the expansion led to a requirement for more Training School and Operational Training Units (OTUs). Shortly after Number 57 OTU moved to RAF Eshott in November 1942, the decoy airfield at Boulmer was upgraded to full airfield status. The OTU's Advanced Training Squadron flew Spitfires from Boulmer until 6 June 1945. The airfield then acted as a 'Relief Landing Ground' for aircraft from RAF Acklington until it fell into disuse at the end of the 1960s.
As the Cold War set in, RAF Boulmer was selected to host a new hardened, underground air defence Control and Reporting Centre and associated radars and communications. Construction was completed in 1953, and in June RAF Boulmer opened as a Station in its own right with the establishment of Number 500 Signals Unit.
Throughout the Cold War, RAF Boulmer was periodically upgraded with new radars and command, control and communications equipment. It maintained a continuous watch over its assigned airspace and control of air defence fighters. From 1962, an Air Traffic unit was also established at Boulmer; 'Border Radar' operated until the late 1980s when Air Traffic Service provision was centralised at West Drayton and Prestwick.
The role of RAF Boulmer was expanded in 1975 with the arrival of 202 Squadron's 'A' Flight in the Search and Rescue role. Initially with Whirlwinds, it re-equipped with the Sea King in 1978. The disbandment of the RAF's Search and Rescue Force saw the final departure of the Sea Kings in 2015, with the Flight having rescued over 4000 people in its time at RAF Boulmer.
In the 1990s, RAF Boulmer saw the arrival of the School of Fighter Control (SFC) from RAF West Drayton, and the establishment of a deployable radar and tactical control unit, Number 1 Air Control Centre (1ACC). In 2009, the SFC was re-named the School of Aerospace Battle Management (SABM).
In 2004, a major equipment upgrade saw RAF Boulmer selected to become the main Control and Reporting Centre for the entire UK, a role it has held since. At the same time, No 1ACC re-located to RAF Scampton. RAF Boulmer was responsible for the air security operation to guard the airspace over the London Olympic Games in 2012. Modifications to the Air Battle Management training system in 2019 led to the departure of the initial training capability of the SABM to the Defence College of Air and Space Operations at RAF Shawbury, with the bulk of live training staying at RAF Boulmer under the new ASACS Operational Conversion Unit (OCU).
In 2021, RAF Boulmer was honoured to have the Control and Reporting Centre allocated Number 19 Squadron, while the ASACS OCU was allocated No 20 Squadron, recognising the key part those units play in the delivery of air power.