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Thursday, March 25, 1999 Published at 13:23 GMT


Frontline squadron's proud history

No 1 Squadron has a distinguished history

The world's oldest air squadron is spearheading the UK's contribution to the Nato strikes on Serbia.

Kosovo: Special Report
The RAF's No 1 Fighter Squadron is based at RAF Wittering, Cambridgeshire.

But last month pilots and groundcrew flew to Gioia del Colle air base, in southern Italy, from where they took part in the first air strikes on Wednesday night.

Distinguished history

The squadron, which has eight Harrier GR7 ground attack aircraft taking part in the action, has a distinguished history.

It was founded in 1912 when it took over the balloons, airships and kits of No 1 Airship Company of the Royal Engineers, and was called No 1 (Airship) Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps.

The squadron progressed from airships to flying machines, and arrived in France six months after the outbreak of World War I.

[ image: Harriers are taking part in Nato air strikes]
Harriers are taking part in Nato air strikes
Today's squadron members are extremely proud of the heritage their predecessors established flying SE5 aircraft.

The squadron was the first British fighter unit to cross the English channel when World War II began.

It arrived in France on 8 September, 1939, with 15 Hurricanes. When it returned to England after Dunkirk, it had claimed 140 enemy aircraft destroyed for the loss of two missing pilots, two wounded and one captured.


During 1956 the squadron, which has the motto "In ombnibus princeps" (First in all things), took part in the Suez campaign

The No 1 Fighter Squadron later became the first air force squadron in the world to be equipped with vertical take-off aircraft.

[ image: No 1 Squadron:
No 1 Squadron: "First in all things"
It demonstrated the capabilities of its new Hawker Siddeley Harrier planes - the forerunners of today's GR7s - at the Farnborough Air Show in 1970.

The squadron was deployed on HMS Hermes during the Falklands conflict in 1982.

During their transit to Hermes, several aircraft flew non-stop from Wittering to Ascension Island, a distance of 3,670 miles (5,905km), with the help of in-flight refuelling from Victor tanker aircraft.

Versatile aircraft

The GR7s are versatile single-seater fighter-bombers - the latest version of the famous jump-jet.

[ image: Paveway II bombs are carried by G7s]
Paveway II bombs are carried by G7s
They are fitted with infra-red equipment and pilots wear night vision goggles, which means they can operate the planes at night or in poor weather.

The aircraft carry 1,000lb and 2,000lb Paveway II and Paveway III bombs which were used against the Iraqis in the Gulf last December.

They are also armed with Sidewinder air-to-air missiles for self-defence.

The Royal Navy's submarine HMS Splendid was also involved in Wednesday night's action against Yugoslavia.

It fired cruise missiles from the Adriatic - the first time the UK has used these weapons in anger.

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