Gate Guardians

in Armed Forces

For many years, it has been the custom to have an aircraft on a stand at the entrance to an RAF airbase. Originally they were aircraft that were no longer in service but recently, this practice was stopped and fiber glass replicas were used because of the cost of maintenance. 

Gibraltar had a Vulcan Bomber on the south side of the runway, but it is said that the Spanish complained due to its Falklands connection and it was removed.   

It is now proposed to mount a Jaguar on the base. 

The Jaguar GR1 or Jaguar S, first entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1974 with 54 Squadron. 

It was designed to meet the Anglo – French requirements for a cheap, subsonic dual role trainer and light attack aircraft. However, this requirement changed to a ground attack, tactical strike and close air support role. 

France, Nigeria, Ecuador, India and Oman also operated this aircraft in its various configurations. It first saw action in the 1991 Gulf war with the French and British forces and later in the former Yugoslavia in French and UK colours and in India in the Kargil conflict.

At its peak, there were eight front line squadrons equipped with Jaguars although ten squadrons actually operated them from time to time.

No2sqd. RAF Laarbruch
1976 – 1978 – Strike/reconnaissance

No6sqd  RAF Coltishall
Finished 2007 – Attack

No14sqd  RAF Bruggen
1974 – 1985 – Strike

No16sqdRAF Lossiemouth

No17sqd RAF Bruggen
1975 – 1985 – Strike 

No20sqd RAF Bruggen
1977 – 1984 – Strike

No31sqd FAF Bruggen 
1976 – 1984 – Strike

No41sqd RAF Coltishall
Finished 2006 – Rec – Attack

No45sqd RAF Coltishall
Finished 2006 – Attack

No226sqd RAF Lossiemouth
became No16sqd

In 1983 the GR1 Jaguars were upgraded to GR1A with improved navigation and attack systems. Also the engines were upgraded to the more powerful 104. Other marks such as then GR3A were refitted with 106 engines. The aircraft was withdrawn from active operations in April 2007

The Jaguar to be installed in Gibraltar is a GR1 with a tail No 956. Its first flight was on the 26th of September 1975 and was allocated to 17 Squadron Bruggen. In October 1978 it was in 14 Squadron, returning to 17th Squadron in March 1979. In August 1984 it was reassigned to 31 Squadron where it stayed until returning to 17 Squadron in October 1984. In February 1985 it was sent to RAF Shawbury where it was laid up in storage until allocated as a Ground Instructional Aircraft at No1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton in early 1988. When Halton closed it was transferred to Cosford and then to RAF Gibraltar ownership in September 2008. It arrived in Gibraltar on the 19th of January 2009. During its career it made 2,284 landings, flew 2,130 hours and thirty five minutes before ending up in Gibraltar.

We look forward to seeing this proud aircraft standing guard over our airfield and hope that cross border politics do not spoil this project.


The initial RAF requirement was for 200 aircraft, which included 165 single seat attack aircraft and 35 duel seat trainers

The general specifications of the Jaguar are:
Crew one
Length 16.83m
Wingspan 8.69m
Height 4.92m
Wt. Empty 7000kg
Wt. Loaded 11,000
R.R/Turbomeca Ardour

Max speed 1593km/h mach 1.6
Range 535km
Service Ceiling 14,000m

It has been 10 years since the preceding article was published in the then newly formed History Society Gibraltar. It seems typical that the History Club should now report that our Gate Guardian is now to be dismantled and returned to UK, more likely totally scrapped. Even on its restoration a decade ago much of its fuselage was fibreglass. (Not a property to dismantle easily).

It is a shame that a maintenance programme was not activated when the original placement took place, the RAF General Engineering Section has long since been scaled down or disbanded so no military interest or help can be secured.

We have a superb civilian airport building with acres of space inside and out that could protect the Jaguar aircraft and give a glimpse of British greatness of bygone times, We as children have always looked on in awe at flying machines even today when a rare visit by an RAF transport plane happens cameras are activated and the social media photos are shared. Will was lacking to protect and save this machine for our posterity.

So the RAF Gibraltar Gate Guardian is to be no more, another loss of our link to the military and to the United Kingdom.

Article supplied by History Society Gibraltar.


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