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Airfield closures and air defence reorientation in Britain during the Cold War and its immediate aftermath

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Since the ending of the Cold War, over one-third of Britain's home military airfields have closed, leaving fewer than 50 in active flying use. An historical review of air force contraction since 1945 provides the context for this significant land-use change. Contrasting scales of abandonment at regional level suggest where the impacts of closures on the environment and society have been strongest. Spatial shifts in the key military airfield functions (combat, air support, training and aircraft supply) indicate a strategic reorientation of the nation's defences. Location and role data for 75 airfields either closed during the past 20 years or still active in 2008 are tabulated to assist future geographical research on British aviation and defence.

Keywords: Cold War; RAF; UK; airfields; defence cuts; land use; spatial analysis

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Airfield Research Group, 15011 Acqui Terme (AL), Piemonte, Italy, Email:

Publication date: 2009-09-01

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