RAF Brize Norton - Wednesday 29th November 2023


Knowing that 2 German Air Force Airbus A400M aircraft had deployed to Brize on Monday, November 27th, I took a gamble and ventured into Oxfordshire at the earliest opportunity to catch a glimpse of them.

Rumours suggested that Wednesday was departure day, following a sortie with the RAFs Voyager fleet over the North Sea the day prior. Arriving at the Black Bourton gate mid-morning, I wasn't greeted with the fleet of C-130s that I had become accustomed to over the past years. Instead, 5 A400s of both the RAF and GAF were on display on the ex 47 Squadron stands. Of the 5 A400Ms parked on the south side of the airfield, it appeared only 3 were in working order, and 2 were German! 

With my photos of the aircraft taken, I moved into position eagerly anticipating my scanner to come to life. Before that happened, however, crews had arrived at the German A400s are were prepping them for departure. The scanner then came to life with DREADNOUGHT69 (see below) and 54+36 GAF699 requesting engine start. The 2nd German, however, appeared to have shut down, with a tug moving into position to tow it. It seemed odd to me to tow the aircraft, so I wrongly assumed it had broken. Minutes later, GAF911 called up Brize Nortons Ground frequency requesting to be towed out behind GAF699. So, as GAF699 taxied past me to the active runway, the tug pulled 54+10 onto the taxiway where it started up and followed GAF699, departing just 7 minutes later. It was bizarre to see that happen, although I'm sure they had their reasons! 

The mighty Atlas' on the south side of the base, with the closest aircraft, ZM407 missing at least one set of propellers.

German Air Force Airbus A400M 54+36 GAF699

Barbed wire was my enemy, showing its face in a fair few of my shots, as you'll see below. 

German Air Force Airbus A400M 54+10 GAF911

Just before the German's departure, the RAF flew out on a low-level sortie with Atlas ZM412, taking in most of Britain at or below 2000 feet.

RAF Airbus A400M Atlas C.1 ZM412 DREADNOUGHT69

This Air Tanker A330 departed on a local sortie. It flew out to the English Channel where it made a U-turn and returned to Brize. 

Air Tanker Airbus A330 G-VYGJ TOWLINE800

The only C-17 I caught was ZZ174 departing on a training sortie as BLACKCAT815. Its flight saw it spend an hour working in the circuit at RAF Mildenhall before returning to Oxfordshire. 

RAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III ZZ174 BLACKCAT815

Going to join TARTAN39 over the North Sea was ZZ337 as TARTAN38, seen here rotating off of runway 25. 

RAF Airbus Voyager KC.2 ZZ337 TARTAN38

TOWLINE2142 was next to call up requesting engine start. I already suspected this aircraft to be departing as I had noticed it was pinging on Flightradar as G-VYGL, which was once in Jet2 markings. All my recent photos showed it devoid of such markings in an all-over white scheme. Imagine my surprise when it comes roaring down the runway with Jet2 plastered across it. While I'm certainly not a civvy spotter, seeing it marked up this way was a nice change. 

Air Tanker Airbus A330 G-VYGL TOWLINE2142

The sun reappeared at just the right time as ASCOT33 performed a touch-and-go on its return from Aberdeen on a local training sortie. 

RAF Airbus A400M Atlas C.1 ZM418 ASCOT33

And it just about stayed out for COMET453 departing just over a minute later. COMET flew the Daventry and Gamston Radar Corridors on its way to Newcastle for a practice diversion. It returned to Brize, but not before making an approach into Birmingham Airport.

RAF Airbus A400M Atlas C.1 ZM400 COMET453

This was the only RAF A400 that looked to be serviceable on the south side!

RAF Airbus A400M Atlas C.`1 ZM414