DIO Holbeach Air Weapons Range
DIO Holbeach is a busy Air Weapons Range (AWR) parented by RAF Marham; it is remotely located on the Lincolnshire coast around 8 miles North-North-East of Holbeach town. The AWR is open 0900 – 1700 Monday to Thursday and 0900 – 1200 on Fridays. During the Winter months, the range is open for night flying on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
There are 2 AWRs on the Lincolnshire coast, DIO Holbeach near Dawsmere and DIO Donna Nook at North Somercotes. Both AWRs employ a number of Civilian contracted workers who manage the estate, assist in the control tower, target score and deal with ordnance clearance from the range. The infrastructure is maintained by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) represented by Sqn Ldr Christa Lawrence, the Range Training Safety Officer.
Holbeach AWR is utilised by tri-service, USAF and other NATO Air Forces for academic bombing and strafing practice. It has 8 separate targets suitable for a variety of weapons and different delivery methods. Joint Tactical Air Controllers (Forward Air Controllers) enjoy the challenging terrain and diversity of targets available during their training for overseas Operations.
The Primary air users of the range are:
RAF Leeming - Hawk T1
RAF Coningsby - Eurofighter Typhoon
RAF Marham - Tornado GR4
RAF Odiham – Chinook
RAF Lakenheath - F15C, F15E & HH60G
RAF Mildenhall - CV22 Osprey
Rather surprisingly, it also provides a haven for wildlife which is a major consideration when planning operations. The current range boundary covers an area extending from the estuary of the River Welland to the North West along the Wash coast to the estuary of the Great Ouse River to the East. The Air Danger Area – EG D207, extends vertically to 23000 feet above mean sea level.
The casual observer sees only a bleak and inhospitable area of coastline, but the sands and marshes are an ideal habitat for the flora and fauna which remain largely undisturbed by the general public. The Wash marshes are of great importance to nature conservation and the range area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Ramsar (Wetland of International Importance) area. During the Winter months thousands of Brent geese arrive from their breeding grounds along the Arctic coast to feed on Zoster weed which grows on the foreshore. Unfortunately they are also partial to winter wheat much to the dismay of local farmers!
Barn Owls, Tawny Owls and Kestrels regularly patrol dykes in search of food and there have been frequent sightings of Merlin and Marsh Harriers. During the Summer a wide range of migrant birds, such as the rare Black Redstart and Isabelline Wheatears visit the range and in 1993 the latter successfully reared their young in the area. A great variety of wading birds are always busy on the mudflats following the tides; including Curlews, Oyster Catchers and White Egrets. Seals can be seen in the summer months with their pups basking on the sand bars and creeks to the NE of the range. Flora includes many rare marsh plants as well as more common varieties such as Sea Lavender and Samphire.
Visitors are welcome to the ranges but whether you are here to watch the aircraft or to enjoy the countryside, please ensure you obey the range warning signs. When red flags are flying and/or the red warning lights are lit, live firing is taking place. Though At Holbeach AWR the sea bank is accessible to members of the public, access beyond is restricted. Remember, it has been an active range for over 100 years so if you find anything suspicious, don't take it home and put it on your mantelpiece…..
Info taken from RAF Official DIO Holbeach AWR website