British Military Aviation in 1966


In a revision of the stance adopted in July 1964, the British Government announces that it would not retain a military base in Aden after independence. This led to a further worsening of the security situation, as elements previously loyal to the British administration became disaffected – terrorism within Aden became rife. RAF units supported the British Army in its attempts to control the situation.

Sufficient numbers of Shorts Tigercat SHORAD missiles, a variant of the Seacat maritime surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, are ordered to equip one squadron of the RAF Regiment. No.48 Squadron RAF Regiment was subsequently selected to operate this system.

22 February
Following cancellation of the British Aircraft Corporation TSR2, it is announced that 50 General Dynamics F111A variable geometry (‘swing-wing’) strike aircraft would be ordered from the USA to replace the RAF’s English Electric Canberras. This order was subsequently cancelled on 16 January 1968.


A detachment of No.37 Squadron RAF (Avro Shackleton) arrives at the French airfield at Manjunga in Malagasy, to commence patrols in support of the Royal Navy’s blockade of the port of Beira in Mozambique, following the imposition of sanctions against Rhodesia. The ‘Beira Patrol’ commitment was maintained until February 1972 by Avro Shackleton detachments from Nos. 37, 38, 42, 204 and 210 Squadrons.

1 April
The RAF Airfield Construction Branch is disbanded. Personnel from this branch were transferred to other branches, or to the Royal Engineers.

The Supply Control Centre opens at RAF Hendon. Its £2.5 million computer made it the largest stock control system in Europe at that time.

The RAF Technical Branch is renamed the Engineer Branch.

30 November
Following the withdrawal of the last flying unit to be based at Gibraltar, a maritime reconnaissance squadron equipped with Avro Shackleton aircraft, during October 1966, AHQ Gibraltar is disestablished at midnight 30 November. RAF North Front was renamed RAF Gibraltar, being controlled directly by Headquarters, No.19 Group, RAF Coastal Command.