The Ministry of Defence has published an update to the Defence Estate Optimisation Programme.

Within this update the Defence Secretary has confirmed that a number of bases will be retained, including RM Chivenor, Norton Manor Camp, Condor Airfield, Rock Barracks and Molesworth.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“The defence estate is the rock around which our Armed Forces revolve and it is vital we bring it into the 21st Century. We have already committed £4 billion to optimise our military sites and today’s update will ensure our estate continues to fulfil our needs and support our people for the next five years.

By providing further clarity on the future of key sites, not only will we protect our national security and support military objectives, but we will provide more stable employment and education opportunities for military families.”

The defence estate currently accounts for approximately 1.8% of the UK’s land mass, with over 40% of the estate being over 50 years old.

DIO Chief Executive Graham Dalton said:

“Delivering the Defence Estate Optimisation Programme to create a smaller, more modern and capability-focused estate is a priority for the MOD and DIO. We are set to invest £1.5Billion into the defence estate over the next five years to meet military requirements.

This is an exciting opportunity for Defence and we continue to engage with all relevant stakeholders, including Devolved Administrations both in areas where sites are closing but also towns that will welcome new enhanced garrisons and camps.”

A full list of the bases included in this update can be found here:

Defence Estate Optimisation Programme Update February 2019

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Geoffrey Roach

Great news for North Devon and Taunton and hopefully for the Royal Marines themselves as it saves an awful lot of upheaval for serving members and their families Well done again G.W.

Daniele Mandelli

Relieved at this Geoffrey.

With a runway, extensive ex RAF Station facilities, hard standings, GPSS links, and one of the few in North Devon the closure made no sense to me.

With closures comes additional costs of finding facilities for units relocated, which would have meant 24 RE and CLR.


I always think the SW approaches which used to be strategic, are poorly served by air bases nowadays. Culdrose is the only fully operational air base with St Mawgan and Chivenor and Brawdy having closed as operational stations. I guess st mawgan could always be used if the needs reappeared. With increased trading (presumably) from western ports, I wonder if there is a case for reactivating one of these bases for MPA and fast jet?

Daniele Mandelli

Culdrose is one of the locations in the South West earmarked for forward deployment of Typhoon on QRA should specific intelligence be received of a threat from that direction. The other is Boscombe.

St Mawgan station still has various ground units with Newquay airport now operating the airfield, so MPA from there should be possible as a forward detachment?

Today the most strategic thing concerning the South West is communications.


RAF can’t refuel Poseidon (AAR) and with Lossie 90 mins flight away it makes sense to base MPA detachments in the SW as they used to with Nimrod. Isn’t the Culdrose runway quite short whereas SM is very long?

Daniele Mandelli

Not sure without checking. I think so.

Geoffrey Roach

Thanks Daniele,
Much appreciated

Daniele Mandelli

Reading that list, almost all dates have been pushed to the right by some margin. Which to me means there is no money to spend actually relocating the many units involved or to build the facilities required. I don’t understand why Strensall is going, centre of RAMC specialisation and with training areas to boot. Curious about closing RAF Halton too. The minor Yorkshire sites will probably end up in an expanded Catterick garrison. RAF Molesworth does not surprise me given what may be beneath it. Azimghur Barracks at the old RAF Colerne will still have a presence even if the… Read more »


I attended ATC camp at Chivenor in the mid 80s and attended my combat infantry course (TA) at Strensall in the early ’90s. Fond memories of both

Daniele Mandelli

No direct memories of either as never been in the military but fond memories of 1 TWU Hawks from Chivenor / Brawdy flying at ridiculously low levels over my grandparents home in North Devon on an almost daily basis!

So Chivenor, yes pleased it is retained.


Strensall was “Depot” for many of the TA infantry battalions as well as a number of regular Infantry battalions. It’s proximity to Catterick garrison making it ideal for the training areas. The immediate Strensall area had training areas too and I remember watching AAC Lynx hovering low whilst heavily armed troops fast roped out of them

Nick C

The interesting part for me is that all the disposal dates have gone right, and some for several years. What looks to have happened is that someone with a bit of nouse has had a look and reckoned that, with the future rather murky, we had better hang on to places until we have a clearer picture of needs. The big winners appear to be the RM, not just Norton but also Stonehouse and other places as well. I suspect that the RN will also be pleased that Sultan is not being phased out for some years, I assume that… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

“with all the training in one place.”

They have been moving towards that anyway. The mega defence training college at St Athan falling through has paused it somewhat.

Many establishments are going purple with regards to training.

Only Raleigh, Collingwood, Sultan, and bits of Excellent left anyway regarding training establishments for the RN.

No chance of any of them closing.

Nick C

Following up on Julian 1’s comment about runway lengths, St Mawgan, now Newquay, has a single runway, 12/30 which is 2,744 mts, 9,003 ft, which would certainly allow a fully fuelled and bombed up P8 to take off. Culdrose on the other hand has three runways, but the longest is also 12/30, 1,831mts, 6,007 ft. I would reckon that would probably be too short for a P8 at total gross weight. I doubt that there is money in the budget for an extra couple of thousand ft of concrete at Culdrose, but you never know


Gavin Williamson, what can I say. Doing a tremendous job considering the hand he has been dealt. Has my wholehearted support. Well done lad??

captain P Wash.

^ X2.

Daniele Mandelli

Hold your horses.

This is the good news.

They make of habit of releasing not so good later after the furore has died down.

JHC basing study Project Belvedere is not included for example in this study.

One of Middle Wallop, Wattisham, Benson will go in my opinion.

Added to the 90 odd others listed a few years ago.

captain P Wash.

This Is great news, Once again a huge Positive from G.W. It’s about time we started to Cement our Position and build upon It.

RM Chivenor has a runway length of @6000ft and RNAS Yeovilton has a length of @7500ft. just to add to the previous posts.

Oh and Daniele, the reason the Hawks flew low over Chivenor was due to the Nude Sunbathers at Crow Point, Or so I was told !!!!

Daniele Mandelli


A place I must check out…

captain P Wash.

Ha, On Sundays, In the Summer, There was a huge Que to Fly in the Very Stealthy and Quiet Gliders !!!! Can’t think why.

Geoffrey Roach

Crow Point Captain?

captain P Wash.

“Wikipedia” has a great article on the “List of former RAF Airbases”. In fact It’s pretty Staggering !

You could actually Station all our current Front Line Aircraft ( 1 each ) on every WW2 Bomber Command Airfield in Norfolk alone. And that’s just the Bomber Sites.

captain P Wash.

Thousands. Go Check Wiki.