A defence minister has paid tribute to two Lincolnshire air bases at the very heart of British military capabilities at home and abroad.
Lord Astor of Hever, the Government's defence minister in the House of Lords, visited RAF Waddington and RAF Coningsby to find out more about the stations and the people who work there.
While at RAF Waddington today – hub of the RAF's intelligence-gathering aircraft - the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence visited some of the crews who operate the base's sophisticated aircraft and systems, as well as the Air Warfare Centre and the Air Battlespace Training Centre.
He met aircrew and vital ground support staff who keep the RAF's state-of-the-art reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft, the Sentry E-3D and Sentinel R1, flying to safeguard the country's airspace and to protect British soldiers operating as part of Coalition Forces in Afghanistan.
Lord Astor said: "RAF Waddington-based assets are providing vital situational awareness and information intelligence to decision makers on the ground; key to our continued success on operations."
"What has been clear from both my visits this week is that the shared history and sense of community that links the RAF and Lincolnshire is – rightly – a source of local pride."
Station Commander at RAF Waddington, Group Captain Al Gillespie said:
"We were delighted to host Lord Astor and for him to be able to witness first hand the much sought after capabilities RAF Waddington has to offer. In the air and on the ground our people continue to make a crucial contribution to current operations."
Lord Astor also learned more about the specialist work of the air, space and cyberspace experts who work at the base's Air Warfare Centre. He then viewed the Air Battlespace Training Centre, where state-of-the-art simulators are used to train RAF and Army personnel to work together in a more operationally effective and cost-efficient way prior to deploying on operations.
On Thursday, Lord Astor visited RAF Coningsby from where Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft on Quick Reaction Alert guard the UK's skies around the clock, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
The base is also home to the world famous Battle of Britain Memorial Flight which operates five Spitfires , the only flying Lancaster in Europe, two Hurricanes, a Dakota and two Chipmunks.
Lord Astor said: "The RAF's primary role is to control the air over and around the UK to ensure our security. The squadrons here maintain the highest level of readiness to intercept, identify and, if required engage unidentified aircraft.
"They also provide pilots to carry out similar duties in the Falkland islands, and this year sent aircraft to RAF Northolt as part of our Olympic air security plans. I have been impressed by their commitment to our security."
Station Commander at RAF Coningsby, Group Captain Martin "Sammy" Sampson, said:"It was an honour to be able to show RAF Coningsby's important work to Lord Astor. The recent stand-up of another Typhoon unit, 1 Squadron at RAF Leuchars, following our own role in Libya last year, shows the increasing importance of the multi-role Typhoon in delivering the UK's defence policy. The training offered by this station to the RAF's Typhoon fleet around the world is key to that."