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Report - RAE Thurleigh, Bedford - Nov 2011

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by a_little_feisty, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. a_little_feisty

    a_little_feisty 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    Ok, so here goes - my first location report ...

    Had the pleasure of exploring this place last month in the company of good friends and fellow explorers. It was very interesting with loads to see and a definite slice of peely paint heaven :)


    The obligatory background/history part


    RAE Bedford (from Royal Aircraft Establishment, Bedford) based near the village of Thurleigh, north of the town of Bedford in England, has been the site of major aircraft experimental development work.

    RAF Thurleigh was built in 1941 as a new RAF Station. It was home to the 306th Bombardment Group during the Second World War.

    In 1946 Thurleigh became the site for the second Royal Aircraft Establishment site. Two new runways were built in the post-war period to accommodate the Bristol Brabazon aircraft (which required a very long runway) that ultimately never went into production. One local road was dropped into a cutting so that it would not sit above the level of the runway.

    On 13 March 1961, a Hawker P.1127 (XP831), the prototype of what would become the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, took its first regular flight at RAE Bedford.

    The site supported some of the development work on Concorde's wings and was also a centre for the development of the Instrument Landing System.

    The site had several reasonably large windtunnels, one supersonic and one large subsonic. It also had a 'drop tower'. The drop tower is now used as a skydiving training venue. The supersonic tunnel was dismantled by 2005 and the building which held the fans and driving motors is now used as the set for the BBC popular science programme, "Bang Goes The Theory". The subsonic tunnel is sometimes used for testing cars on a rolling road.

    In March 1967 the U-2 flew out of RAE Bedford.

    During the 1970s RAE Bedford became home to numerous flight simulators, originally using model belts and camera technology, but later utilising computers. In the early 1980s the Advanced Flight Simulator was constructed, allowing pilots to be immersed in a fully three-dimensional moving simulation.

    Also in the early eighties, RAE Bedford oversaw the development of the Short Take Off & Landing STOL system for the Sea Harrier. This brought hundreds more takeoffs and landings that circled over Sharnbrook School — ironic considering that Thurleigh has one of the longest runways in Europe and was previously one of the Avro Vulcan Bomber dispersal bases.

    In April 1991 the Royal Aerospace Establishment (as the Royal Aircraft Establishment had been renamed) was merged with several other agencies to become the Defence Research Agency (DRA). The DRA would later become the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.

    The airfield was decommissioned in February 1994 after a lengthy study determined that flight operations should be centralised at Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. Due to the cost and impracticality of relocating the Advanced Flight Simulator system the site retains some of its development work (under the banner of the privatised arm of DERA QinetiQ).

    The airfield has been divided into two parts. The southern part is now known as Thurleigh Business Park, and includes the runway, which is currently used for the mass storage of new cars, although it remains intact for possible future use. The northern part is now Bedford Autodrome which also houses Thurleigh Museum.



    The photographs


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    Thanks for looking! :thumb
     

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