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Cold War Aviation Tour


7-16 August 2020


Enjoy a unique and interactive opportunity to explore the history of Cold War aviation with our 9-night hosted tour. Visit the places, learn about the people and see the technology behind the first jet engine, the V-force bombers carrying Britain’s nuclear deterrent, the Lightning supersonic jet fighters of the sixties to the swing-wing Tornados intercepting Soviet bombers over the North Sea in the late eighties.

Throughout the tour you will be accompanied by our expert tour guides, Dave Harrigan MBE and Matthew Twynham.

Dave served in the RAF for 37 years, many of which were during the Cold War, as an intelligence linguist in Russian, German and Spanish. His postings included 15 years in Berlin at the front line of the then East/West border. Since leaving the RAF he has been the Aviation Heritage Manager for Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire, tasked with promoting aviation history and education throughout 'bomber' county.

Matt spent 5 years in the RAF from 1986 to 1991 during the final stages of the Cold War. Trained as an Aerospace Systems Operator and Fighter Control Assistant. Matt's postings included 18 months at the RAF's most Northerly UK Sector Operations Centre at RAF Saxa Vord in the Shetland Islands. His role included monitoring the airspace over the North Sea and assisting with QRA scrambles to intercept the almost daily incursions by the Soviet Air Force. As well being the control assistant on the first Tornado F3 / TU-95 Bear intercept, he flew on the AWACS airborne early warning aircraft and concluded his service developing the new United Kingdom Air Defence Ground Environment 'digital' radar systems.

Your tour starts in the UK with visits to the National Cold War Exhibition at RAF Cosford and the RAF Radar Museum Cold War Control and Reporting Centre at RAF Neatishead in Norfolk. We then move on to explore the former East German capital of Berlin, notorious for being the centre of Cold War tensions across the impassable Berlin Wall. With behind-the-scenes access to Cold War jets, airfields, air defence systems and military installations, we will take you on a journey through an intense period of geo-political tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and its allies.

The highlight of your tour will be a flight in a 2-seat fast jet trainer, the Czech designed and manufactured Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatross, as used by the Soviet and Warsaw Pact Air Forces during the Cold War.

  Your chance to be 'Top Gun-ski' for the day with the ride of a lifetime in the L-39 Albatross 2-seat fast jet trainer

The Tour commences on Friday afternoon as you check-in to our London hotel. In the early evening we make our way to a welcome drinks reception and dinner at the RAF Club's central London location in Pall Mall, where we have a special guest speaker to entertain you into the evening.

Enjoy drinks and dinner at the historic RAF Club in Pall Mall

Leaving our hotel after breakfast we head north to the National Cold War Exhibition at the RAF Museum Cosford. The Exhibition houses 19 aircraft, tanks, vehicles, models and memorabilia and is the only place in the UK where you can view all three of Britain’s V-Bombers: the Vulcan, Victor and Valiant in one location. We have arranged for a private guided tour and behind-the-scenes access to several cockpits and flight decks of important aircraft. You will also have time to explore other areas of the museum including the 'Test Flight' and 'War in the Air' collections.

The National Cold War Exhibition at the RAF Museum

In the afternoon we make our way to Bruntingthorpe Airfield in Leicestershire. Initially constructed in 1942 for use by the heavy bombers of WWII, Bruntingthorpe is steeped in aviation history and proudly holds onto its rich heritage by encouraging the growth of the Cold War Jets Collection. Today the aircraft museum boasts a wonderful collection of historical jets, serviced and in pristine condition. These include a Victor, Hunter, Comet, Starfighter, Sea Vixen, Canberra, a number of Buccaneers, Lightnings, Jet Provosts, Nimrod MR2 and their newest aircraft a Sea Harrier and an ex-Boscombe Down 2-seat Jaguar.

Tonight's dinner will be at nearby Lutterworth, famous for being the home to Sir Frank Whittle and his Power Jets company that created and developed the worlds first turbojet engine. Incredibly the initial development version of the 'Whittle Unit' ran successfully in 1937 whilst the RAF were still using bi-planes. Despite the fact that the Germans made the first jet powered flight, Sir Frank Whittle will always be recognised as the 'Father of the jet engine'. Tonight we have a special guest joining us for dinner who is an authority on the subject.

A late afternoon visit to the Cold War Jets Collection at Bruntingthorpe Aviation Museum


Sunday: Heading east once more on Sunday morning it's time to enter the secretive world of Britian's Cold War air defence network. At the end of World War II the air defence of the UK was reorganised with fewer but more advanced radars to meet the new Soviet air threat. RAF Neatishead played an increasingly important role and in 1953, as part of the upgraded ‘ROTOR’ system, operations were relocated to a new three storey bunker, deep underground, designed to withstand a nuclear attack.

The bunker was destroyed by fire in 1966 and for 8 years Neatishead took on a limited operational role and became a trials unit for the next generation of search radars, the Type 84 & 85. In 1974 RAF Neatishead once again became fully operational as a Sector Operations Centre and as a Control & Reporting Centre. Operating from the old building, but with a new standalone computerised command and control system, the unit became a key element of the UK Air Defence Ground Environment. CRC Neatishead task was to track and identify all aircraft within the southern sector of the UK and to conduct the NATO air policing of the airspace. Supported by remote radars in the Hebrides, the Shetlands, Cornwall, North Yorkshire and CRC Boulmer, Northumberland, these stations helped protect the UK from a Soviet air threat up until the end of the Cold War in 1991.

When you walk in to the Operations Room it's very easy to imagine the hum of activity at the height of the Cold War. With Soviet reconnaissance aircraft and nuclear bombers being regularly intercepted and shadowed by our QRA fighters.

The museum is opening exclusively for us and there will be several expert guides available to talk you through the Cold War scenarios.

The Cold War 'Command & Reporting Centre' Sector Operations Room at RAF Neatishead


Monday: This morning we transfer to London St. Pancras station to board the Eurostar train to Brussels. Travelling with Eurostar is comfortable, easy and hassle-free with no excess baggage headaches or liquid restrictions. Stretch out in the spacious seats and enjoy the view as we speed along in style and comfort. On arrival in Brussels we'll be met by our premium tour coach and make our way to Berlin, our expert tour guide pointing out some important Cold War sites throughout the journey.

Our home for the next 3-nights is the charming 4* Hotel Indigo. Set in the East Side Gallery and overlooking the 1.3km remnants of the original Berlin Wall. It's conveniently located for our tour excursions, with panoramic views, a modern but friendly ambience and spacious rooms. Our early evening arrival leaves plenty of time to sample the local cuisine and with a plethora of restaurants right outside the door it's just a short walk to dinner and a well-earned night cap.