No XI Squadron was formed at Netheravon on the 14th February 1915, as the first unit in the RFC specifically tasked with fighter duties. The Squadron deployed to France on the 25th July 1915 with the Vickers FB.5 Gunbus and commenced operations four days later. The first ‘kill’ was made on the 5th September 1915.
Many combats followed, one notable engagement resulting in the award of the Victoria Cross to Lieutenant G S M Insall. This was the fourth VC to be awarded to a member of the RFC. Towards the end of 1916 the Gunbus was replaced with the FE2B. However, by October 1916 the Squadron was credited with the record number of ‘kills’ up to that date. After the battle of Arras the FE2B was replaced with the Bristol Fighter and it was with these aircraft that the Squadron first entered Germany in May 1919, as part of the Royal Air Force of the Rhine. By the end of the year, the unit had returned to England and was disbanded on New Years Eve 1919.
XI Squadron reformed at Andover on the 13th January 1923 and operated a variety of aircraft including the Fairey Fawn and Hawker Horsley. Activities during this period included participation in the air defence exercises of the period and during 1927 a tour of provincial towns. On the 29th December 1928 the Squadron departed for Risalpur on India’s Northwest frontier, equipment at this time was the Westland Wapiti. The Squadron did not return to the UK until it’s reformation at Leuchars in 1967.
The Wapiti’s were actively engaged in frontier operations against rebellious tribesmen, and crews found themselves flying in a country where the mountains were higher than the operational ceiling of their aircraft! In 1932 the ageing Wapiti’s were replaced by Hawker Harts which remained Squadron equipment until 1939 when they in turn were replaced by Blenheims.
Before the European conflict began, XI Squadron moved for a brief period to Singapore, and then in May 1940 to Aden to take part in the Abyssinian campaign. For the next two years the Squadron was moved regularly, serving at various times in Egypt, Greece. Crete, Palestine and Iraq. The Squadron then moved to Ceylon in time to defend the island from the Japanese Carrier Forces.
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In September 1943 the Squadron re-armed with the Hurricane 11C and moved to India where it engaged in offensive operations against the Japanese in the Arakan area of Burma. Offensive support for the 14th Army continued until 1945. On the 2nd November 1944 XI became the first Squadron to re-enter Burma when it landed at Tamu. After the Japanese surrender, the Squadron, now equipped with Spitfire XIVs, moved to Malaya and then in May 1946 to Japan as part of the Occupation Forces.
Here it remained until disbandment in February 1948.
In October 1948 the Squadron reformed in Germany and was equipped with the Mosquito FB.6 until August 1950 when it re-equipped with it’s first jet aircraft, the Vampire. Jet propulsion continued with the Venom Fighter Bomber in 1952. On the 28th August 1954, whilst stationed at Wunstorf, XI Squadron was honoured by the presentation of it’s Squadron Standard.
The Squadron was established as an interdiction unit when in 1959 it re-equipped with the Meteor NF.11. In 1960 the Meteors were exchanged for the Javelin FAW.4. XI Squadron continued to fly Javelins of various marks in Germany until it was disbanded in January 1966.
On the 1st April 1967 XI Squadron reformed at RAF Leuchars operating the Lightning F.6 as part of the Air Defence of the UK. In March 1972 the Squadron moved to RAF Binbrook where it continued it’s long association with the Lightning, ending up as the last Lightning Squadron in service.
XI Squadron re-formed with the Tornado F3 at RAF Leeming on the 1st of July 1988. However, the Tornado element, known as XI (Designate) Squadron, first formed up with the initial 10 crews at RAF Coningsby on the 18th of January 1988 - to undertake the Tornado F3 conversion course, together with the first elements of the groundcrew at RAF Leeming who were tasked with setting up the squadron hangar to receive the new aircraft which started to arrive in May. During this period the squadron standard was formally handed over at a parade held at RAF Binbrook on the 9th of May in the presence of the AOC 11 Group, AVM Roger Palin. The formal operational work up commenced on 1 July with just three aircraft, the remainder of a total of 12 aircraft arriving between July and mid-October, in time for the squadron to be declared operational to SACLANT on 1 November 1988 as the UK deployable air defence squadron.
Between 1990 and 2003 the Squadron represented the cornerstone of the UK's Immediate Reaction Force (Air) and deployed both to the Middle East and the Balkans in support of Operations Desert Shield, Deny Flight and Resinate. In November 2002 it was the first F.3 Squadron to deploy ASRAAM (Advanced Short Range Air to Air Missile) operationally during a routine detachment to patrol the No Fly Zone over Southern Iraq.
In early 2003, in the light of potential operations in Iraq, the Squadron undertook an additional role of SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defence) using ALARM (Air Launched Anti-Radiation Missile). In a little under one month the Squadron converted 11 aircraft and 14 crews to the new role and was declared operational on 1st March 2003. Retaining it's full air-to-air weapon fit, the renamed Tornado EF.3 was unique to XI(F) Squadron and was capable of both locating and destroying enemy SAM systems whilst fulfilling key fighter duties.
On 29th March 2007, XI(F) Squadron reformed at RAF Coningsby flying the Typhoon F.2 as the lead multi-role Typhoon squadron.