As most readers will know, the United Kingdom features many world-class aviation museums. However, it is easy to forget sometimes how vibrant – and vital – the smaller museums often are. While they may not have the high profile and resources of the national institutions, they are no less dedicated to the important work of preserving aviation history, and often offer unique artifacts and experiences to visitors. One such example is the Bentwaters Cold War Museum located at the former RAF/USAF Bentwaters air station in East Anglia, near Ipswich, Suffolk. Not only is the museum preserving important Cold War-era military buildings for future generations, but they are also home to numerous aviation artifacts and several RAF and USAF jets of similar vintage. These included the following:
BAe Harrier GR.3 ZD667
English Electric Lightning F.53 ZF581
Fairchild A-10A Thunderbolt II 80-0219
Gloster Meteor F.8 WH453
Hawker Hunter GA.11 XE707
Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star 51-19252
Republic F-84F Thunderstreak 52-7133
SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1A XX741
McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2 XV401
Four of these aircraft are under active restoration to varying degrees of functionality at present. The most advanced of these efforts features Jaguar XX741. Indeed, we are happy to report that on March 15th, museum volunteers were able to perform the first fast-taxi run in this aircraft!
The museum has owned this former RAF ground attack/reconnaissance aircraft since October, 2009 and has steadily worked towards getting her ‘live’ again. While it is unlikely she will ever fly, they do plan to hold fast-taxi events for the public in the future. While an actual aerial demonstration is a virtual impossibility, given the regulatory and financial demands, fast-taxi events do offer an idea of what these important aircraft looked, sounded – and smelled – like during their operational heyday. Such events will also be a major draw and focal point for visitors. It is an exciting development for this marvelous museum, and should be celebrated as an important milestone on a broader level as well…
Such operations always depend upon the public’s support though, so please click HERE to see how you can help – especially if you have a personal connection to either RAF Bentwaters or Woodbridge! You can always join the Bentwaters Aviation Society which runs the museum too…
Construction no. – S.38
Place of manufacture – Warton, UK
Date of Manufacture – During early 1974, First Flown 4th October 1974
Type – Built as a GR.1, updated to GR.1A standard
Date of delivery to RAF – 18th November 1974
With 226 OCU at RAF Lossiemouth Scotland Moved to RAF Coltishall serving with 54 Sqn
At RAF Coltishall serving with 6 Sqn
Deployed to Thumrait, Oman on 11th August 1990 for initial aircraft deployment for the Gulf War, although XX7 41 returned to Coltishall and did not fly any active missions during the gulf war.
XX741 was the RAF Jaguar airshow display jet for 1993, participating in shows at North Weald & in Malta.
On charge with 226 OCU / 16(R) Sqn at Lossiemouth, although still retaining 6 Sqn markings, but with 04 code.
Final flight from RAF Lossiemouth to RAF Shawbury for deep storage on 14:05 hrs on 31st January 1994.
Sold to Everett Aero at Sproughton, Suffolk on 18/11/2005 Total flying hours – 4260.20
Date received by the museum – 16th October 2009
Museum Openings: The museum website states that they are “open to the public on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, as well as Bank Holiday Mondays, from April 2020. Group visits are possible by arrangement at other times. Outside the museum is a shop and snack bar, serving a selection of hot and cold drinks and cold snacks.” However, given the current world health crisis, there may be interruptions to the open day schedule, so it would be advisable to check in first with their Facebook Page to keep track of their status.
Many thanks to the Bentwaters Cold War Museum for granting permission to use the photographs you see in this article!