RAF Brampton bids farewell to Gate Guardian

IT has been a Huntingdonshire landmark for two decades but the fighter jet outside RAF Brampton is on the move – it’s being dismantled and moved to Suffolk prior to the closure of the base next year.

Military and civilian personal at RAF Brampton took part in a ceremony on Thursday (January 12) to say farewell to its long-standing ‘gate guardian’ – the McDonnell-Douglas Phantom FGR jet fighter/bomber.

Over the coming months the plane will be dismantled and transported to RAF Wattisham in Suffolk as part of preparations by the MOD to close RAF Brampton in 2013 and use the land for new homes.

Brampton Station Commander, Wing Commander Robert Cook, presented the plane’s maintenance log to Colonel Neale Moss, Station Commander of RAF Wattisham in front of a crowd which included pilots past and present.

Also in attendance was retired Air Chief Marshal Sir John Allison, Wing Commander Mark Mainwaring and retired Squadron Leader Anthony Boxall, all of whom flew the Phantom while it was in service.

Sir John told The Hunts Post: “I am passionate about these aircraft and when they were decommissioned I did everything I could to save as many as possible.”

Out of a fleet of 90 planes, Sir John managed to secure the futures of 20, which saw them live out their days in museums or as gate guardians at bases around the country.

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“This particular aircraft was very special to me,” he added. “My son wanted to be a RAF pilot but was unable to fly due to colour blindness, so I managed to get him a flight in it as a passenger, which made it particularly special.”

Once at RAF Wattisham, Zulu, as the fighter jet is affectionately known, will be restored to her former glory.

But her loss from Huntingdonshire leaves just two gate guardians in the district. The others stand at RAF Wyton, where a Martin B-57 Canberra guards the base, and at RAF Alconbury which is guarded by an American F5.

Defence Estates, which manages the land at RAF Brampton on behalf of the MOD, has drawn up plans for a residential development to be built on the site. Last year Huntingdonshire District Council produced an urban design framework proposing the building of 400 homes.