RAF Khormaksar

In 1966, HMG announced in a white paper on defence that Britain would grant the former Aden Colony and the Protectorates independence in January 1968 and would withdraw all British forces from their bases in South Arabia either at that time or shortly thereafter. Consequently, during the early months of 1967 an initial proposal for the rundown and closure of the RAF stations at Khormaksar, Steamer Point and Riyan was drawn up and its contents are replicated below.

Planning for the rundown and withdrawal

Copied from Operational Order AFME/S216/Air, dated 23 May, 1967


In accordance with HMG policy, British forces are to be withdrawn from South Arabia when the country achieves independence in 1968. This order details the timescale and the policy for rundown of RAF Khormaksar during 1967 so that final withdrawal can be achieved seven days after independence is gained in January 1968.

The process of running down the Aden base will require various units be attached to or accommodated at RAF Khormaksar during the rundown period. These units will be from differing agencies and are discussed in the Execution paragraph below.


To rundown and close RAF Khormaksar in early January 1968.


General Outline

The rundown of RAF Khormaksar is to be in phase with the withdrawal of British Land Forces into Aden during 1967 and their subsequent withdrawal from the Aden Base. All Army units except for some small specialist detachments will have withdrawn into Aden by July and, in turn, from Little Aden during October. This latter move will entail the RAF Communications facilities at Hiswa being removed to RAF Khormaksar by 1 September. To enable our final withdrawal to take place within seven days of Independence being granted it is planned to reverse the polarity of AFME: instead of the main base area being in Aden, the Gulf will assume this responsibility with Aden functioning as a forward operating area for the minimum air forces remaining. From 1 October, RAF Khormaksar will come under command of HQ Air Forces Gulf with aircraft at RAF Khormaksar operating as detachments from Gulf units stationed at Muharraq and Sharjah. To permit the early run down of equipment holdings at RAF Khormaksar, second-line servicing for some aircraft will cease and together with bay servicing facilities will be transferred to the Gulf stations.

Later stages of the withdrawal

The task of helicopter support for any contingency intervention by British Forces in the Federation will pass on 1 November from the RAF to a RN Wessex in HMS Albion (LPH). IS helicopter tasks remain a responsibility for the specially equipped RAF Wessex Mk.10. HMS Eagle (CVA) arrives in Aden on 23 October and will begin an Air Defence work up and assume this role, and that of retaliatory strike, from the RAF on 15 November. The JMC at Barrack Hill will be closed and the secure teleprinter channels to Commcen Khormaksar transferred to Government House and/or Sheba. It is hoped to close RAF Steamer Point on 31 October. By 1 December all Army forces, stores and vehicles to be recovered will have been moved out of Aden, except for those remaining in the Khormaksar area to cover final tasks. The total RAF complement remaining on 31 December is estimated at 350. If the security situation permits all personnel of those final combat forces will be withdrawn by air from RAF Khormaksar. This lift will be by RAF ST aircraft at approximately three hour intervals and could begin at 00:01 hours on Independence Day. It is estimated that twenty four passenger and six freighter sorties would be required and that the lift could be completed by last light on the third day, assisted by the Theatre transport force where necessary. A detailed order covering the final withdrawal will be issued later.

Additional Responsibilities of RAF Khormaksar during the latter Stages of 1967

  1. Operations Room On 1 October, 1967, responsibility for tasking Maritime, Tac T (MR) and Tac T (SR) Fixed Wing (except for VIP Andovers and any communications aircraft remaining at Khormaksar) is to pass to the New Gulf Headquarters and AFM OC is to close and transfer its responsibilities to RAF Khormaksar Operations Room. To assist in the control of movement an ATOC is to be set up at Khormaksar on 1 October.

  2. Air Defence From 1 October the Station Commander RAF Khormaksar is to be responsible for the duty of Deputy Air Defence Commander. He may delegate this authority at his discretion to an officer not below Squadron Leader rank.

  3. Joint Tasking From September when AC helicopters arrive at Khormaksar a Joint Tasking cell will be required and the task of this cell is to be extended, on the arrival of the Strike Carrier and LPH to carry out joint tasking of RN/Army/RAF helicopters. All support tasking of helicopters is to be channelled through Khormaksar Operation Room.

  4. HQ Staff Accommodation Domestic and office accommodation is to be provided for residual Headquarters Staff when HQ AFME runs down in September and October and for HQ MEC staff after 15 November.

Attachment of Army units

During 1967 various Army units will deploy to and from Khormaksar. The run down of RAF Khormaksar is to take account of the needs of these units.

Deployment of Federal Units

During 1967 units of the Federal forces, including South Arabian Air Force (SAAF), will deploy to RAF Khormaksar. The run down of RAF Khormaksar is to take account of the needs of these units.

Withdrawal, Closure or Redeployment of RAF Units

Units are to be withdrawn or redeployed in accordance with, the timescale.

RAF Khormaksar is to issue the necessary operational orders, if possible, three months before the planned closure dates. To permit RAF Steamer Point to close, parenting responsibility for some of its units closure is to be transferred to RAF Khormaksar. The closure of 131 MU is to be effected in accordance with Administration Instruction No. 1/67, AFME/1825/1/Org dated 28 January, 1967.

Closure of RAF Riyan

The date of closure of RAF Riyan is tied to the withdrawal of Officials and British personnel from the Eastern Aden Protectorate; this political decision has not yet been made. Stocks and equipment at Riyan are being reduced to permit an evacuation in the event that withdrawal is necessary during the south west monsoon period.

Method of Movement of RAF Units and Handover of Tasks

  1. Units and Squadrons deploying to the Gulf are to move as formed units assisted, where necessary, by theatre transport aircraft.

  2. No. 78 Squadron, together with the two SAR Wessex allotted to Muharraq and the two command reserve aircraft, is to deploy to the Gulf by ship in two phases: it is expected that a LPD and LPH respectively will be used. SAR cover is to be taken ever by Wessex, when the Whirlwind returns to the UK, at a date to be decided. It is expected that both these moves will be by RN ship. Responsibility for contingency helicopter support to British forces reintroduced into the Federation will pass to RN Wessex in HMS Albion on 1 November, 1967. Responsibility for IS tasks is to be retained by RAF Wessex until final withdrawal.

  3. Hunter aircraft withdrawing to the UK are to do so in pairs.

  4. The final disposal of the Twin Pioneer and Beverley aircraft, when they phase out of the theatre, will be advised when known.

  5. Shackletons withdrawing to the UK are to be mutually supporting. Tasks will be assumed by a HQCC Squadron in Sharjah,

Command and Control

  1. Full Command AFME forces are to remain under the full command of AOC AFME until this responsibility is passed to Commander Air Forces Gulf (CAFG) on the departure of the AOC.

  2. Operational Command

Operational Control

  1. Units Deploying to the Gulf by Air Before 1 October, 1967 AFME units deploying to the Gulf by air before 1 October, 1967, are to come under the operational control of CRAFPG on first landing in his area of responsibility.

  2. Units Deploying to the Gulf by Sea AFME units which deploy to the Gulf by sea are to come under Naval operational control whilst embarked and whilst carrying out flying operations required by embarkation and disembarkation. After disembarkation they are to come under the Operational control of CRAFPG or command of CAFG as appropriate.

  3. Aircraft Returning to the UK Aircraft returning to the UK are to remain under the operational control of AOC AFME or CAFG, as appropriate, until arrival in UK when they will come under the command of HQ Transport Command.

  4. Non RAF Flying Units Operating from Khormaksar Non RAF flying units operating from RAF Khormaksar will remain under the command of MELF or the Federal Minister of Defence as appropriate but will come under the operational control of Officer Commanding RAF Khormaksar so far as use of the airfield is concerned.

Disbandment and redeployment of Squadrons

Subsequent revisions to the plan resulted in the following unit changes:


Security arrangements for the protection of personnel, aircraft, equipment arid installations against terrorist attacks are to continue until the withdrawal of all British Forces.

Travel Control Security

Training of the Federal force to undertake Travel Control Security (TCS) duties at the Civil Airport is to commence in mid-November and the Federal force will assume full responsibility on 1 December when the RAF personnel are to be withdrawn. Specialist training is to be given by RAF TCS personnel before withdrawal.

Meteorological Services at RAF Khormaksar

Meteorological Services at RAF Khormaksar will be reduced in accordance with instructions issued by C Met O (HQ MEC). Radiosonde observations will end on 30 November but all other observations will continue until withdrawal. Forecasts might have to be prepared at Muharraq due to reductions in communications equipment at Khormaksar, but a forecaster will be available at Khormaksar for briefing on a 24-hour basis until final withdrawal. Met broadcasts will close on 31 August.

Transfer of Facilities to Federal Government Departments

The policy and procedure for the transfer, to Federal Government Departments of fixed assets at RAF Khormaksar is to be as laid down by the Chairman of the Fixed Assets and Facilities sub-committee (Brig AQ, MELF). The policy and procedure for the transfer, to Federal Government Departments, of disposable assets is to be as laid clown by the Chairman of the Disposal Assets Sub -Committee (SESO AFME) .

ATC and Fire Services

Administration and logistics

Command and Signal

Point to Point Communication On the rundown of Commcen Aden it will be necessary to provide at Khormaksar terminal facilities for certain circuits currently operated from Commcen Aden. Accommodation will be required for the communication facilities detached below:

Detailed instructions for providing these facilities and for bringing them into operation will be issued by HQ MEC (CSO AFME).

Ground/Air Communication UHF Communications are to be progressively reduced in accordance with the requirements of air operations and all facilities are eventually to be recovered. Certain VHF communications facilities have been requested by the Federal authorities and these are to remain installed at Khormaksar.

Detailed instructions for the foregoing facilities will be issued by HQ MEC (CSO AFME).

Airfield Radio Aids Detailed instructions for disposal of radio aids will be issued by HQ MEC (CSO AFME), but the following information is given for guidance:

Air Defence Radars Details of the disposal of 303 Signals Unit are contained in AFME/S142/17/Air dated 18 February. However, it should be noted that there maybe a requirement to maintain the UPS1 up-country after its present withdrawal date, possibly up until the time that the CVA has assumed responsibility for Air Defence. Furthermore there may be a requirement to maintain the Marconi 308, its associated height finders and the UPS1 at Khormaksar after the arrival of the CVA.

Final force levels and personnel numbers

By 1 December 1967 our force levels to meet our final tasks will be as follows:

Royal Navy


Royal Air Force

Based on the above force levels and taking account of essential Government officials and MPBW civilian, present estimates of number of personnel to be withdrawn at Independence total approximately 2,350. These are made up as follows;

At HMS Sheba A total of approximately 100 officers and men; including the Joint Services Port Unit.

At Khormaksar

Embarked Elements Main bodies of the armoured car squadron, light battery and engineer squadron; administrative elements of major units ashore and elements of the Joint Headquarters. Total of some 400 personnel.

Civilians In addition, there will be a number of service sponsored civilians comprised mainly of MPBW for which we allow a total of up to 50, and there will be a number of essential Government officials and their families totalling 300.

Aircraft protection South Arabian Air Force