The Cold War is over, but task remains

The Cold War Years from the end of WW2 to 1991 were a very tense and busy time, especially for the RAF and its Air Defence elements. These comprised fighters, missiles airborne radar aircraft, refuelling tanker aircraft and a complex radar-based Command and Control System.

RAF Neatishead, the base of our Museum, was a key element in this advanced interlinked system for both the UK and with the NATO equivalents. The whole system covered from the North Cape of Norway, Central Europe and into the Mediterranean.

The RAF Air Defence Radar Museum will give you a comprehensive insight into how Cold War Air Defence Operations were conducted. The Cold War Room in the Museum is the Operations Room in virtually its original unchanged state. A visit to the Museum is an unrivalled chance to see this first hand, absorb the atmosphere and get a first-hand feel for those tense times.

RAF Neatishead wasn’t alone but part of an extensive UK-wide system, the UK Air Defence Region of NATO. The teeth of the system were the fighters supported by tanker refuelling aircraft and missile sites. These were based at airfields along the East Coast. The air space recognition teams at the CRCs monitored all air movements, civilian and military and were in constant contact with the Air Traffic Control agencies, both civilian and military. Their task was to identify all detected tracks. If a track was detected that couldn’t be identified the Command and Control element was immediately alerted.

If all attempts to identify the track failed, fighters were immediately scrambled to investigate. These fighters were part of the QRA(I), the Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptors) Force. Elements were based in both the North and South of the UK. They, and their aircrews and ground crews, were held at minutes notice and could be airborne very rapidly if scrambled by the Control and Reporting System. They would be vectored on to the unidentified track to visually identify it and report back. Usually, they were tasked to shadow and report any activity. This was not an exercise, the fighters were ‘live’ armed and could take drastic action should the need arise.

There is no better place to experience the atmosphere of those tense days than the ADRM where it all took place. Although the Cold War is over the task hasn’t gone away, it is here today 24/7. The technology and units have changed but we still need and have the ability to monitor and defend our Air Space. Sadly, it is a truism that ‘Freedom isn’t Free’.

We hope and look forward to seeing you at the ADRM.

Bloodhound Missile Outisde Air Defence Radar Museum