Jet Fighter Years
The next day, 1 April 1946, the Squadron reformed at RAF Bentwaters with the renumbering of No 124 Squadron, who were equipped with the Meteor Mk.5. The next four years saw a number of RAF station changes until the Squadron settled for a decade at RAF Waterbeach in 1950. In 1954, the Squadron took possession of the Supermarine Swift Mk.1 and Mk.2, again as the first unit to do so. This ill-fated aircraft type never completely replaced the Meteor. The Swift was withdrawn from service three months before the last of the Squadron's Meteor Mk.8, which was replaced by the Hawker Hunter Mk.5 in 1955. Of interest, the Squadron continued to train on the dual-seat Meteor Mk.7 until 1960, when it was finally replaced by the Hawker Hunter T.7, which itself saw service until 1966.
On 10 July 1959, the Squadron moved to RAF Wattisham, a station that was to feature prominently in the Squadron's jet fighter years. Whilst there, in 1961, No 56 converted from the Hunter Mk.6 to the English Electric Lightning Mk.1A. In 1963, the Squadron was selected as the official Fighter Command Formation Aerobatics team. The Firebirds performed at a number of venues that year, including the 25th Paris International Air Show. The Squadron's Hunter T.7 was also used as an solo act. Between shows, the Squadron maintained its operational roles.
The next four years would see frequent detachments to Cyprus, until 11 May 1967, when the Squadron permanently moved to RAF Akrotiri as the All Weather Air Defence Force of RAF Near East Air Force (NEAF). The Squadron would remain there until 1975 flying the Lightning Mk.3, Mk.6 and T.5. The Squadron also flew the English Electric Canberra T4 and B2 in a training role as part of their Target Facilities Flight.
The next year, on 29 June 1976, the Squadron Standard was handed over to No 56 (Designate) Squadron, which had been formed 22 March at RAF Coningsby. Equipped with the McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR 2, the new 56 Squadron quickly moved to RAF Wattisham, where they remained until Jul 1992, when the No 56 nameplate was handed over to 229 (OCU) at RAF Coningsby. There, No 56, now designated a Reserve Squadron, undertook the role of the Panavia Tornado F3 Operational Conversion Unit. At the end of March 2003, No 56 moved to RAF Leuchars to allow the airfield to be readied for Eurofighter Typhoon operations.
Air C2ISR Test and Evaluation
On 18 April 2008, No 56(R) Sqn disbanded as the Tornado F3 OCU, and the number plate was passed to the Air Warfare Centre Air Command and Control Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C2ISR) Test and Evaluation Squadron, based at RAF Waddington. In this new incarnation, the Squadron has supported the operational development and optimization of the UK’s joint Air C2ISR capabilities. Though a move from fighters to C2ISR aircraft, it is also not a wholly new role for the Squadron, as test and evaluation has been part of its livelihood dating back to its formation and its efforts with the new S.E.5a aircraft.
Information taken from Operations Records available at the National Archives, the raf.mod.uk website and, with kind permission, the 56(R) Squadron archives. UK Crown copyright.