RAF Brize Norton is to almost double in service personnel, the Ministry of Defence revealed last night.

More than 6,600 serving airmen – 15 per cent of the RAF’s total personnel – will be based at the camp as part of major expansion plans that will turn it into Britain’s only departure point for troops serving overseas.

The Carterton base – already the country’s biggest – will next year welcome all units and personnel from RAF Lyneham when the Wiltshire base closes.

Repatriation ceremonies for troops killed in action are also likely to move to the Oxfordshire base.

RAF Brize Norton currently has 3,900 personnel and more than 600 civilians working on the site.

The development, called Programme Future Brize (PFB), is overseeing the movement of aircraft, units, aircrews, engineers, administrators, suppliers and families.

Trade leaders in Carterton hope the influx of new people would help the town’s economy prosper.

Station Commander, Group Captain Dom Stamp, said: “The transition of RAF Lyneham’s capabilities to RAF Brize Norton means that personnel and civilian staff at both stations will have to work hard over the coming months.

“But I believe that with the work PFB are doing we can all fit together like a hand in a glove.”

Force headquarters staff from both stations already operate from a single headquarters at RAF Brize Norton.

101 Squadron, which operates the VC10 fleet, have moved to a new location on the base to create space for 33 (Engineering) Squadron from RAF Lyneham, who will be arriving between March to July.

More than 600 family homes near the base will be demolished to make way for 800 three-bedroom houses.

Before they are completed in 2016, some families will live in homes off the base.

Grp Cpt Stamp added: “Military personnel and civilian staff have worked well around the disruptions at RAF Brize Norton throughout 2009 and 2010.

“I believe that 2011 and 2012 will bring more challenges, but RAF Brize Norton will be a stronger and more capable unit because of it.”

Town councillor Phil Scott, chairman of Carterton Chamber of Trade, said the town would welcome the new arrivals.

He said: “This will be great for the local community and for the business community. The town is very vibrant and there is a lot happening. We are still in a recession but, on a looking forward basis, Carterton is the place to be.”

Mr Scott added: “From a business perspective it’s going to be good for Carterton and the area.

“It will bring more business to the area because there will be more people and they have to by their loaves of bread and pints of beer.

“The economy will prosper because of the knock-on effect of more people and houses. It’s something we’re looking forward to.”