Wattisham Airfield is located north-west of Ipswich in Suffolk. It is the biggest centralised operational Army Airfield in the UK.
Wattisham Airfield Satellite View
It is home to 3 Regiment Army Air Corps and 4 Regiment Army Air Corps which are part of 16 Air Assault Brigade. They operate the AAC Apache AH1 which is in the process of being remanufactured into the latest AH-64E Apache Guardian standard.
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Wattisham Scanner Frequencies
Approach - 125.800, 389.225, *123.300
Director - 398.050, *123.300
Tower - 388.350, *122,100
PAR - 265.675, 386.725, *123.300
A/G - 125.800
ATIS - 277.925
*= NATO Common Frequency
Aircraft & Squadrons
Wattisham is the biggest centralised operational Army Airfield in the UK. It is home to 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps and 4 Regiment, Army Air Corps.
3 Regiment AAC consists of 653 Squadron, 662 Squadron, and 663 Squadron, all operating the Apache AH1 and 4 Regiment AAC consists of 656 Squadron, and 664 Squadron which also operate the Apache AH1.
Fifty of the Apache AH1s will be remanufactured into the latest AH-64E Apache Guardian standard. The first two Apache AH-64E helicopters were delivered to Wattisham on 26th November 2020 via an RAF C-17 Globemaster III transporter. The remaining Apache AH-64E helicopters will be delivered over the next two years and will fly for the first time in the UK in July 2021.
Wattisham is also home to 7 Aviation Assault Battalion (REME - 16 Air Assault Brigade) with a helicopter repair facility with worldwide capability, HQ Company, 71 Aviation Company (Aviation Support Company), 72 Aviation Company (Contingency Company) and 132 Aviation Supply Squadron (Royal Logistic Corps).
Royal Engineers (8 Engineer Brigade, 12 (Force Support) Engineer Group) are also based here with: Headquarters 20 Works Group Royal Engineers (Air Support) and 533 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Airfields).
The RAF maintains a presence at the airfield with the Brigade Parachute Squadron RAF.
The Anglia Gliding Club, and 1287 Sqn, Air Training Corps are also based here. There is a museum (Wattisham Station Heritage)
on site which tells the history of the airfield.
The police helicopter unit for Suffolk Constabulary also operates from Wattisham.
RAF Wattisham opened in 1939 as a medium bomber station using Bristol Blenheims, and later also Hurricanes, Fairey Battles, Douglas Bostons, Bristol Beaufighters and Airspeed Oxfords.
In September 1942 the base was handed over to the United States Army Air Force and work began on building concrete runways with the intention of adapting the airfield for heavy bomber use. It was later decided Wattisham would remain an air depot and also house a fighter unit. Work ceased on the runways and steel matting used to finish it off.
From October to December 1942, it was used by the Bell P-39D Airacobra. The Air Depot serviced many types of aircraft but, by late 1943, concentrated on fighter aircraft. More work was done to the airfield including hangars, technical area, hardstands, engineering complex, and taxiways. By 1944, Wattisham was responsible for the maintenance of all American fighters in the UK. Wattisham also hosted the 479th Fighter Group operating the P-38 Lightning by 1944.
In 1946, the base was returned to the Royal Air Force and the Gloster Meteor F.3 was operated from here in 1947. The Air Ministry Servicing Development Unit formed here on 1 January 1947, until 1950, with a number of aircraft including the Avro York I, Hawker Tempest V, Gloster Meteor F.4 & T.7, Avro Anson T.20 and the de Havilland Vampire F.3. In 1949, new runways were laid for the operation of jet fighters such as the Gloster Meteor and later Hawker Hunters in 1954.
The Royal Air Force's display team, the Black Arrows, was added to Wattisham's roster, flying the Hunters. Air displays were a regular feature from 1959.
During the Cold War in the late 1950s, Wattisham was home to the English Electric Lightning which operated from Quick Reaction Alert Sheds to counter threats from the east. The Lightnings were eventually replaced by the McDonnell Douglas Phantoms in 1974 which continued defending Britain's airspace until the end of the Cold War in 1992.
With the Cold War threat gone it was no longer needed by the RAF. Wattisham stood down as a fighter base on 31 October 1992 and was handed over to the British Army in March 1993. The Army Air Corps soon moved in and it rapidly became a major Army airfield. The Royal Air Force returned to operate Westland Sea King Search and Rescue helicopters on the site of the former QRA hangars. The Sea King Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters were stood down in 2015 with the privatisation of SAR.