Established in 1963, Tactical Wing or Khormaksar East, as it was colloquially called, was situated on the Eastern side of the airfield next to the Civil Airport. The Wing itself consisted of a Headquarters and Operations Staff commanded by Wg Cdr J.T. Jennings, who was responsible to the Station Commander for the co-ordination and control of Tactical Flying at Khormaksar.


The Units comprising Tactical Wing were Nos. 8, 43, and 208 Day Fighter Ground Attack Squadrons; No. 37 Maritime Shackleton Squadron; No. 26 Belvedere Squadron, together with an SAR Element of Sycamore Helicopters; No. 1417 Fighter Recce Hunter Flight, and No. 225 G. L. Section.


The main responsibility of Tactical Wing was to defend Aden and the Federation from external attack and to maintain internal order within the territory. Units of the Wing would also have been called upon to operate, as required, elsewhere within the area of military responsibility of Middle East Command. This area stretched from Kuwait in the North to Nairobi and Mombasa in the South, a distance of some 2,600 miles. A most important aspect of this work was that of Search and Rescue Operations which were flown far out in the Indian Ocean by Shackleton aircraft of 37 Squadron or around the beaches of Aden by the Sycamore, and subsequently, Whirlwind helicopters of the Search and Rescue Flight.


FGA.9s, FR.10s and a T.7 of 8 Sqn being prepared for duty on the Khormaksar Hunter pan, viewed from the cockpit of a 233 Sqn Valetta in the summer of 1962 as it was taking off, .....

..... and an extended view taken a few seconds later as the Valetta banked sharply over the civil airport, looking down the full length of the airfield with Hunters from 208 and 8 Sqns in evidence (both, Keith Webster)

View along the front of the Khormaksar Hunter line in March 1964 with FGA.9s, FR.10s and T.7s from 1417 Flt, 8 and 208

Rear view of the same Hunter line at Khormaksar, March 1964 (both, author)


Hunter Operations were rarely seen by the inhabitants of Aden as these were mainly confined to the ‘up-country areas’. Nevertheless, many disgruntled tribesmen were persuaded, at the sight of a pair of low flying Hunters, to return to their village in peace. The Hunter squadrons were maintained at a constant state of readiness throughout the hours of daylight to either drop leaflets or ‘flag wave’ an area of discontent.

The Operations Room in Headquarters controlled and co-ordinated the activities of all tactical flying ordered by HQ Middle East. Briefing of pilots and crews of the Wing for Operational flying, crews of the many visiting aircraft of other commands, and visiting aircraft of the Royal Navy were part of its many duties.


Number 225 G. L. Section was a small Army Unit commanded by a Major whose prime task was to provide the vital link in the briefing of Hunter pilots in the intricacies of the many tribal feuds and warlike activities which occurred from time to time within the Federation. To obtain this information, often very confused and involved, close liaison was maintained with the Federal Government, Federal Regular Army and Political Advisers.

A more peaceful aspect of Tactical Wing was the provision of aircraft for fly pasts at ceremonial parades and similar occasions involving a vast amount of detailed planning and organisation to achieve precision flying and timing.


Strike Wing


Along with the increase demand for air support during the Radfan War of 1964, Tactical Wing was renamed Strike Wing as it now incorporated the Shackleton Mark 2s of 37 Squadron. Random mortar attacks by dissidents brought the need for greater security both around and within the confines of the Khormaksar airfield complex. Perhaps the most noticeable internal change was the installation of robust security fencing around each of the pans to prevent insurgents sabotaging aircraft.