25 Surface to Air Missile (SAM) Squadron
The role of 25 Surface to Air Missile Squadron was to defend the three airfields at RAF Laarbruch, Bruggen and Wildenrath in the Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2 ATAF) area of operations against air attack from aircraft of the Warsaw Pact in the event of a conflict with the Soviet Union.
These units were approximately 150 miles from the border of the Federal Republic of West Germany (GDR) and the German Democratic Republic of East Germany (DDR). In terms of flying time, this was literally only a few minutes away.
Autonomous control of the six Missile sections of the squadron was undertaken from the operations room at RAF Bruggen.
From 1975, Bruggen was equipped with 4 squadrons of BAE Jaguar ground attack aircraft. The aircraft and airfield’s nerve centre, the Combat Operations Centre were all housed in hardened shelters. However 25 Sqn’s Operations room, which could arguably be said to be the most important operations room of all considering the squadron’s role in the defence of all three airfields, had no protection at all, apart from sandbags!
The Squadron Operations Room
It was quite a small room, and in exercise and war conditions would be manned by a total of 5 personnel at any one time, comprising two Controllers, an Operations Clerk and two target plotters all dressed in full Mk2 Nuclear, Biological & Chemical (NBC) suits, S10 respirators and steel helmets.
The room had three tote boards and an operations desk.
On the left hand tote general information and the current alert state was displayed.
The central tote showed the Missile Engagement Zones (MEZ) was used for plotting incoming targets and was made of Perspex.
The tote plotters would stand behind the tote and plot the course of an incoming target with a chinagraph wax pencil writing the information backwards! The Engagement Controller (EC) would pass information on the target from the Launch Control Post (LCP) to the Operations Room giving the bearing of the target in degrees, range in nautical miles from the missile section, the height in feet, direction in degrees and the target’s speed in knots.
A typical incoming track report might read as follows:
Black section tracking 060, range 25, height 2.5k (2,500 ft), heading 230, speed 450.
EC would update the position of the target shortly afterwards and then the
Room Controller would make the decision as to whether the target was potentially
hostile or not.
was decided the target was going to be declared hostile, a simultaneous call
would immediately be made to the Combat Operations Centres at all three
airfields declaring an Air Raid warning. Sirens would quickly begin to wail and
a verbal warning Air raid warning RED ,RED, RED would be made.
At the same time the Operations Room Controller would give the EC the order ‘Clear engage’.
The next report might be:
Black section firing 060, range 15.
Finally if the target was hit, the EC would call ‘Splash’.
The right hand tote was an electronic missile states board showing the six missile sections and their missiles. Each serviceable missile on its launcher would be indicated by a green light. When the missile had been fired, the light was changed to red.
The Squadron practised its role every month during station Mini-Evaluation exercises (Minival) and also during Maxi-Evaluation exercises (Maxeval) and annual Tactical Evaluation exercises (Taceval).
Personnel at Bruggen could never and were never allowed to forget what they were for. A large board near the entrance to the station read ‘The role of this station in peace is to prepare for war, and don’t you forget it!’
In addition to the monthly station exercises the squadron carried out other exercises and tasks on a regular basis to ensure the squadron’s serviceability, readiness and effectiveness. For the operations room personnel this could take the form of tote training exercises and simulator training for the Engagement Controllers. In addition, the Type 86 Target illuminating radars would be calibrated by the engineering staff using Canberra aircraft from 100 Squadron RAF Wyton
in Cambridgeshire to ensure they could perform within their specifications
and both radar and missiles would be tested in an electronic jamming environment by Canberra TT17 aircraft from 360 Squadron also from RAF Wyton.
This is but a short illustration of the work of the Squadron during its time in Germany whose personnel worked tirelessly to ensure its remained ready to execute its role at any time.