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John D Salt

Off the top of my head, I would have gone along with the consensus so far that 12 is the right number. When I worked for Hunting Engineering Ltd in the late 1980s, our aircraft availability simulations always assumed a squadron strength of 12 aircraft, with 3 spare airframes. Mostly we dealt with rotary wing squadrons, but 12 was the number we used when trying to predict the availability of the (then fairly new) Tornado.

As with all organisations, there is bound to be a certain amount of deviation from ideal “book” strength because of operational losses, airframes away for major servicing, or just organisational oddity.

As an example, just yesterday I stumbled across (while looking for something else) the rather nice response to a Freedom of Information Act request at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/474520/20151019-Aircraft_Details_Tornado_and_Typhoon.pdf which lists every fighter in the RAF as at 19 Oct 2015. There are tail numbers, too, for the real spotters. In summary, there were:

Operational with Squadrons and Flights [107]:

XV(R) Sqn, Lossiemouth [11]:
5 Tornado GR4
6 Tornado GR4A

1435 Flight, Mount Pleasant [4]:
4 Typhoon FGR4

29(R) Sqn, Coningsby [20]:
10 Typhoon FGR4
10 Typhoon T3

3(F) Sqn, Coningsby [15]:
14 Typhoon FGR4
1 Typhoon T3

41(R) Sqn, Coningsby [8]:
3 Tornado GR4
4 Typhoon FGR4
1 Typhoon T3

1(F) Sqn, Lossiemouth [11]:
10 Typhoon FGR4
1 Typhoon T3

6 Sqn, Lossiemouth [13]:
12 Typhoon FGR4
1 Typhoon T3

II(ac) Sqn, Lossiemouth [12]:
11 Typhoon FGR4
1 Typhoon T3

XI Sqn, Marham [13]:
12 Typhoon FGR4
1 Typhoon T3

Sustainment Fleet: [98]

RAF Marham Tornado Pool [57]:
39 Tornado GR4
8 Tornado GR4A
10 Tornado GR4T

Lossiemouth [7]:
7 Tornado GR4

Coningsby [20]:
15 Typhoon FGR4
5 Typhoon T3

Shawbury [1]:
1 Typhoon FGR4

Warton [13]:
13 Typhoon FGR4

Leeming (awaiting disposal) [11]:
6 Tornado GR4
2 Tornado GR4A
3 Tornado GR4T

QinetiQ Boscombe Down [3]:
3 Tornado GR4

On loan to BAES Warton [4]:
3 Typhoon FGR4
1 Typhoon T3

As can be seen from this, 12 fighters plus one trainer is the “most common” strength, but that reflects only 2 of the 8 squadrons. 29(R) Squadron is the Operational Conversion Unit for Typhoon, which explains its unusual strength, half of which is trainers. It is especially noticeable that over half the total number of airframes are not in service with squadrons or flights at all, but in the sustainment fleet, awaiting disposal, or being used by civilian organisations for experimentation. In the event of a shooting war, it therefore seems likely that squadron stengths could be sustained for a considerable time, as long as sufficient pilots were available.

All the best,