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Cold War structures at the former Upper Heyford Airbase

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Cold War structures at the former Upper Heyford Airbase

List entry Number: 1021399


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Oxfordshire

District: Cherwell

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Somerton

County: Oxfordshire

District: Cherwell

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Upper Heyford

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 30-Nov-2006

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 30906

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The archaeological remains of the Cold War are the physical manifestation of the global division between capitalism and communism that shaped the history of the late 20th century. Of particular resonance are the remains of the Cold War airbases, with their nuclear weapon capability which defined the military strategy of the period. This was based on providing a nuclear deterrent to the perceived threat to Western Europe from the Soviet Union. From the early 1950s, the doctrine of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) with its emphasis on the early use of nuclear weapons and massive retaliation led to the creation of ever larger and more advanced stockpiles of weapons and the necessary infrastructure to maintain and deliver them to their targets. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1963 and partly as a result of changing military technology, the potentially apocalyptic policy of MAD, with its reliance on wholesale nuclear retaliation to a Soviet attack, was replaced during the 1960s and 1970s by the more pragmatic doctrine of `flexible response' designed to provide a graduated reaction to any Soviet aggression. Upper Heyford is representative of both the above strategic doctrines. During the 1950s, when it was one of the four main American bases in England used by the USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC), Upper Heyford hosted the long range strategic nuclear bombers, such as the B-47 Stratojet, which were the West's strike force prior to the development of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) in the early 1960s. The Northern Bomb Stores at Upper Heyford are illustrative of this period. The introduction of the ICBM and the long range B-52 Stratofortress, as well as the creation of Britain's nuclear armed V-force and US economy drives and involvement in the Vietnam War, meant that there was little development on US airbases during the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, the new tactics developed as a result of the `flexible response' strategy included the basing of the sophisticated F-111 all weather bombers at Upper Heyford. The primary role of these aircraft was to carry NATO's intermediate-range nuclear weapons and to be effective in this role they needed to be ready for immediate take-off and were therefore permanently armed and located in `quick reaction alert' areas. The 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day War highlighted the vulnerability of aircraft in unprotected shelters and from the early 1970s, under the European Defence Improvement Programme, NATO began to build hardened shelters to ensure that sufficient forces would remain in the event of a Soviet pre-emptive strike to mount a counter-attack. This resulted in a range of new structures and security compounds at bases both in Germany and Britain including Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HASs), Hardened Avionics Maintenance buildings, Hardened Telephone Exchanges and Hardened Battle Command Centres, all contributing to the infrastructure required to protect and maintain aircraft capable of rapid launch in the event of a conflict with the Soviet Union. Upper Heyford therefore retains some of the key buildings related to the Cold War policy of deterrents. Within the context of Upper Heyford as a whole, they form an iconic group of related and nationally important Cold War buildings.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


A group of Cold War structures at the former Upper Heyford Airbase comprising five distinct areas of protection. These are, firstly, the QRA (quick reaction alert) or Victoria Alert Hardened Aircraft Shelter complex, including aircraft shelters, security fence, watch tower, fuel supply point and hardened crew building; and, secondly, to the north-east, the Northern Bomb Stores and Special Weapons Area contained within a security fence; thirdly, the Avionics Maintenance Facility; the fourth area of protection is the hardened Telephone Exchange; and fifth, the Battle Command Centre. Upper Heyford Airfield has a long history of military aviation activity which spans the 20th century. It retains a number of buildings and elements of its earlier World War II phases but its most important and unusual structures relate to its Cold War phase. The United States Air Force began to operate nuclear bombers at Upper Heyford in the 1950s and it is during this phase that the Northern Bomb Stores were built. These consisted of four individual concrete mounded `Igloo' stores built within a double fenced enclosure, a feature which typifies the protection against ground attack of nuclear facilities in the period. At each corner of this complex stood an octagonal guard tower on a concrete base. All but one of these towers have since been removed but the bases remain. As more specialised nuclear weapons and delivery systems were developed, the storage needs changed and a further double fenced Special Weapons Storage Area was built immediately to the west. This included a guardhouse and pillbox controlled entrance and a set of two rows of a total of twenty one Igloo cells for storing weapons. In addition, a further large Igloo store was also constructed along with a trigger store; built in concrete with no windows but disguised externally to look like a double storey office block. During the 1970s the change in aircraft design and capability led to a new policy of all weather and around-the-clock quick reaction. It was at this time that the key hardened buildings began to be constructed with a view to co-ordinating a NATO counter-attack to any pre-emptive strike by the Warsaw Pact. This included a hardened Battle Command Centre from which aircraft could be controlled and the airfield defence organised, a hardened telephone exchange to provide secure landline links around the field and to other NATO sites, and the Avionics Maintenance Facility. These structures all had decontamination facilities and generators to allow them to function after an attack. The Avionics facility was designed to continue to maintain aircraft, primarily F-111, for as long as possible after an attack, even when the aircraft were contaminated. Its size and construction reflect this. The aircraft themselves were housed, when on alert, in the Victoria Alert Hardened Aircraft Shelter complex, a complex of nine massive hardened aircraft shelters within a double fenced compound. The shelters each measured 21.5 metres wide by 36.6 metres long and stood up to 10 metres above ground level. Each housed a single 'ready to roll' aircraft and the complex also included hardened crew facilities, access to fuel and a steel Brunswick watch tower. In 1986 F-111s from Upper Heyford and Lakenheath attracted worldwide attention for a retaliatory strike on Libya, while in 1990 Upper Heyford's F-111s participated in operations Desert Shield after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait. In 1993 in the defence draw-down after the end of the Cold War, and in part due to the obsolescence of the F-111, the aircraft was withdrawn from the base. Shortly afterwards Upper Heyford was returned to the RAF which declared it surplus to military needs.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details

National Grid Reference: SP 50439 26019, SP 50693 26983, SP 51188 25965, SP 51260 25961, SP 52147 27315


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This copy shows the entry on 18-Aug-2018 at 11:43:26.

End of official listing