RAF Little Rissington

Also known as Fairford North

66th Contingency Hospital  (15 Oct 1984 – 1 Oct 1987)

870th Contingency Hospital  (1 Oct 1987 – 30 June 1994)

Colors: Gold represents the excellence of personnel and the medical care they provide; blue represents the Air Force’s theater of operations, the sky, and also valor; red symbolizes the blood of life and the patriotism of those who serve; black connotes strength and safety; brown signifies non-prejudicial treatment of patients; and green represents life that prevails during peace and which the medical service seeks to preserve during war.

Elements; The olive branch represents our objective in the deterence of war, and our capability to operate during war; the star signifies our status as the first, and largest, contingency hospital; the thunderbolts represent the speed and accuracy with which we can transform from a peacetime standby unit to a fully operational medical facility; similarly, the key represents the turn-key nature of our operations; the staff of life and serpent intertwined on a red cross clearly denote our medical mission

870th Deactivation Ceremony


RAF Little Rissington was built in the late 1930s as part of the RAF’s readiness initiatives before World War II, and is one of several bases built during that period from a common set of plans. It is a small airfield of 780 acres with three inactive runways, the longest being 4,900 feet.

The installation was activated in August 1938 when the RAF’s 6th Service Flying Training Squadron (SFTS) moved to the base from RAF Netheravon. On 11 October 1938 the No. 8 Maintenance Unit was also assigned with Spitfires and Wellingtons. By mid-1940, 400 aircraft were assigned to the base. When training ceased on 26 November 1945, records showed that 5,444 pilots received training at RAF Little Rissington, and that 705 graduates had received various awards for gallantry, including four awards of the Victoria Cross.

On 25 April 1946, the 6th SFTS moved to Ternhill and was replaced two weeks later by the RAF’s Central Flying School. During the post-war period, RAF Little Rissington also served as the home of the Red Arrows, the RAF’s aerobatic team. Using a variety of training aircraft, the school remained at RAF Little Rissington until it moved to RAF Cranwell on 12 April 1976.

The Royal Irish Rangers took control and renamed the station Imjim Barracks on 1 September 1976. In 1979 the Rangers were redeployed to the British Army of the Rhine. The base remained inactive until 15 January 1981 when the RAF resumed control as ‘landlord’ for the assigned US Air Force missions of development of the first contingency hospital and housing for RAF Fairford.

The 66th USAF Contingency Hospital was activated at RAF Little Rissington on 15 October 1984 and was assigned to the 7020th Air Base Group, RAF Fairford. On 1 October 1987, it was redesignated as the 870th USAF Contingency Hospital. As a result of the phase-down of RAF Fairford, the 870th USAF Contingency Hospital was reassigned to the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing, RAF Upper Heyford in July 1990, and subsequently reassigned to the 100th Regional Support Group, RAF Mildenhall on 1 October 1992.

RAF Little Rissington was used by the US Air Force as a “stand-by” medical facility and as a housing for military personnel assigned to RAF Upper Heyford. The 870th USAF Contingency Hospital is the organization on base, occupying approximately 50 buildings for daily operations and war reserve material (WRM) storage. Also at RAF Little Rissington are a Ministry of Defence Police contingent and detachments from the 20th Fighter Wing’s fire department, civil engineering staff, and services squadron.

During Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the 870th USAF Contingency Hospital was activated to support the armed forces sent to the Persian Gulf area. More than 2,000 medical personnel deployed from the United States to RAF Little Rissington to fully staff the hospital and stand by in readiness to receive and treat casualties from the war.  Fortunately, fewer than 180 patients were evacuated to the 870th for treatment.

With the departure of deployed medical personnel in March 1991, the 870th began deactivation of it’s 1,500 bed mission and return of the WRM into a stand-by mode. From June 1991 until December 1992, deployed assets were returned, inventoried and re-warehoused, and new assemblages, including aeromedical staging facilities, second echelon medical facilities and a blood transshipment center, were received for storage due to closure of other USAFE bases.

On 3 December 1992, the unit’s primary mission changed. The Department of Defense announced that the hospital was being permanently closed. The staff has since disassembled equipment and packed supplies in preparation for unit deactivation by 30 June 1994. Mission completion is a testament to the unit’s preparedness and reflects ultimate success in global affairs.


Operation Desert Storm


870th Base Sign During Operation Desert Storm



Exercise Cold Fire 1984

870th Outstanding Medical Logistics Account Award 1988