Post World War II
On 15 November 1945 No. 183 Squadron RAF, a Hawker Tempest ground-attack unit based at RAF Chilbolton near Oxford, was renumbered to No. 54 Squadron and spent a year training pilots destined for overseas service before receiving Vampires and moving to RAF Odiham a year later.
In 1948, six Vampires from the Squadron made history when they completed the first crossing of the Atlantic by jet aircraft. Flying in 3 legs with over 8 hours in the air and accompanied by ground crew in Avro Yorks Following a three year stint with Meteors, which arrived in April 1952, Hunters arrived in March 1955, and the Squadron took up ground-attack duties as part of No 38 Group, frequently deploying to trouble spots around the world as part of the Group's Offensive Strike Wing. The Squadron was the first jet RAF formation team to trail smoke with a team of six Vampires.
Hawker Hunter FGA.9
ground attack aircraft of 54 Squadron in 1968 wearing the unit's blue rampant lion marking on its nose
In 1955, No 54 Squadron flew a formation of four Hawker Hunter F1 aircraft. The following year the Squadron team adopted the name The Black Knights – the pilots wore black flying suits. The squadron relocated to RAF Stradishall in July 1959 and to RAF West Raynham, Norfolk, in 1963.
The squadron was briefly disbanded on 1 September 1969, however was reformed the same day after being re-equipped with McDonnell-Douglas Phantoms at RAF Coningsby in 1969.
SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1A
of No. 54 Squadron in 1990 wearing the unit's 'Rampant Lion' symbol on its below fuselage equipment
By 1974 when twelve SEPECAT Jaguar aircraft were delivered the squadron had re-located to RAF Coltishall. From 1975 until at least 1994(the last year for which data is available) the squadron's wartime role was as an operational squadron in the front line assigned to SACEUR with twelve Jaguar aircraft, eight WE.177 tactical nuclear bombs, and a variety of conventional weapons. In a high-intensity European war the unit's role was to support land forces on the Continent resisting an assault by the Red Army on Western Europe, first with conventional weapons and secondly with tactical nuclear weapons, should a conflict escalate to that stage, by striking beyond the forward edge of the battlefield into enemy-held areas. The apparent mismatch between aircraft numbers and nuclear bombs was a consequence of RAF staff planners concluding that with some aircraft held back from the conventional phase as a reserve, there would be one-third attrition of aircraft, leaving the remaining survivors numerically strong enough to deliver the squadron's entire stockpile of eight nuclear bombs.
Post Cold War
The squadron, its role and aircraft have remained almost the same till 2005, albeit at a different base RAF Coltishall, updated Jaguar aircraft (GR.3), and retirement of the WE.177 nuclear weapon 1994–98.
With the move to a more expeditionary footing, the squadron has seen a number of operational deployments in recent years including Northern Iraq flying from Incirlik air force base in Turkey and the Balkans flying from Goioa del Colle in Italy
Three 54 Sqn Jaguar GR1A
s over northern Iraq in 2002.
With the decision taken to run the Jaguar fleet down in anticipation of the arrival of its replacement, the Typhoon, No 54 Squadron was disbanded at RAF Coltishall on 11 March 2005. The Squadron Standard is now housed in Norwich Cathedral.
Reformed as No. 54 (Reserve) Squadron at RAF Waddington on 1 September 2005 it re-roled as the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operational Conversion Unit, responsible for training all mission crews for the E-3D Sentry AEW1, the Nimrod R1 and the Sentinel R.1. The unit is also responsible for the delivery of the Qualified Weapons InstructorCourse for ISR (QWI ISR). It will also train crews for the newly acquired RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft.