Royal Air Force

Royal Air Force

Overview
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare
Aerial warfare
Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare, including military airlift of cargo to further the national interests as was demonstrated in the Berlin Airlift...

 service branch of the British Armed Forces
British Armed Forces
The British Armed Forces are the armed forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, the British Armed Forces encompasses three professional uniformed services, the Royal Navy, the...

. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. The RAF has taken a significant role in British military history
Military history of the United Kingdom
The military history of the United Kingdom covers the period from the creation of the united Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, with the political union of England and Scotland, to the present day....

, playing a large part in the Second World War and in more recent conflicts.

The RAF is one of the most capable and technologically sophisticated air forces in the world, and as of mid 2011, operates around 998 aircraft, making it the largest air force in Europe and the second largest in NATO (after the USAF).
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Timeline

1912   The Royal Flying Corps (now the Royal Air Force) is established in the United Kingdom.

1918   The Royal Air Force is created by the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.

1925   Pink's War: The first Royal Air Force operation conducted independently of the British Army or Royal Navy begins.

1940   World War II: The climax of the Battle of Britain, when the Royal Air Force shoots down large numbers of Luftwaffe aircraft.

1940   World War II: In response to Germany's leveling of Coventry, England two days before, the Royal Air Force bombs Hamburg.

1943   World War II: in the Second firestorm raid on Germany, the Royal Air Force conducts an air raid on the town of Kassel, killing 10,000 and rendering 150,000 homeless.

1943   World War II: Battle of Berlin: 440 Royal Air Force planes bomb Berlin causing only light damage and killing 131. The RAF loses nine aircraft and 53 air crew.

1944   World War II: The Royal Air Force launches 29 Avro Lancaster bombers in one of the most successful precision bombing attacks of war and sinks the German battleship ''Tirpitz'', with 12,000 lb Tallboy bombs off Tromsø, Norway.

1944   World War II: An explosion at a Royal Air Force ammunition dump at Fauld, Staffordshire kills seventy people.

1945   World War II: Royal Air Force bombers are dispatched to Dresden, Germany to attack the city with a massive aerial bombardment.

 
Encyclopedia
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare
Aerial warfare
Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare, including military airlift of cargo to further the national interests as was demonstrated in the Berlin Airlift...

 service branch of the British Armed Forces
British Armed Forces
The British Armed Forces are the armed forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, the British Armed Forces encompasses three professional uniformed services, the Royal Navy, the...

. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. The RAF has taken a significant role in British military history
Military history of the United Kingdom
The military history of the United Kingdom covers the period from the creation of the united Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, with the political union of England and Scotland, to the present day....

, playing a large part in the Second World War and in more recent conflicts.

The RAF is one of the most capable and technologically sophisticated air forces in the world, and as of mid 2011, operates around 998 aircraft, making it the largest air force in Europe and the second largest in NATO (after the USAF). The RAF has a total manpower strength of 42,200 regular personnel and 1,500 Royal Auxiliary Air Force
Royal Auxiliary Air Force
The Royal Auxiliary Air Force , originally the Auxiliary Air Force , is the voluntary active duty reserve element of the Royal Air Force, providing a primary reinforcement capability for the regular service...

 personnel. In addition the RAF can call-upon 33,400 fully trained Royal Air Force Reserves. The majority of the RAF's aircraft and personnel are based in the UK with many others serving on operations (principally Afghanistan
Operation Herrick
Operation Herrick is the codename under which all British operations in the war in Afghanistan have been conducted since 2002. It consists of the British contribution to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and support to the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom...

 and the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

) or at long-established overseas bases (Ascension Island, Canada
CFB Goose Bay
Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay , is a Canadian Forces Base located in the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador....

, Cyprus
British Forces Cyprus
British Forces Cyprus is the name given to the British Armed Forces stationed in the UK sovereign base areas of Dhekelia and Akrotiri on the island of Cyprus...

, Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia is a tropical, footprint-shaped coral atoll located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean at 7 degrees, 26 minutes south latitude. It is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory [BIOT] and is positioned at 72°23' east longitude....

, Gibraltar
British Forces Gibraltar
British Forces Gibraltar is the name given to the British Armed Forces stationed in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is used primarily as a training area, thanks to its good climate and rocky terrain, and as a stopover for aircraft and ships en route to and from deployments...

, the Falkland Islands
Military of the Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom and, as such, rely on the UK for guarantee of their security. The other UK territories in the South Atlantic, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, fall under the protection of the British forces on the Falklands ,...

 and Germany
British Forces Germany
British Forces Germany , is the name for British Armed Forces service personnel and civilians based in Germany. It was first established following the Second World War as the British Army of the Rhine ....

).

The RAF's mission is to support the objectives of the British Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

 (MoD), which are to "provide the capabilities needed: to ensure the security and defence of the United Kingdom and overseas territories, including against terrorism; to support the Government’s foreign policy objectives particularly in promoting international peace and security."

The RAF's own mission statement reads as thus:
The above statement goes hand in hand with the RAF's definition of air power, the concept that guides the RAF strategy. Air Power is defined as: "The ability to project military force in air or space by or from a platform or missile operating above the surface of the earth. Air platforms are defined as any aircraft, helicopter or unmanned air vehicle."

Although the RAF is the principal British air power arm, the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

 and the British Army's Army Air Corps also deliver air power which is integrated into the maritime, littoral and land environments.

Origins


While the British were not the first to make use of heavier-than-air military aircraft, the RAF is the world's oldest independent air force: that is, the first air force to become independent of army or navy control. It was founded on 1 April 1918, with headquarters located in the former Hotel Cecil
Hotel Cecil (London)
The Hotel Cecil was a grand hotel built 1890–96 between the Thames Embankment and the Strand in London, England. It was named after Cecil House , a mansion belonging to the Cecil family, which occupied the site in the 17th century.Designed by architects Perry & Reed in a "Wrenaissance" style, the...

, during the First World War, by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

 (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service
The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form a new service , the Royal Air Force...

 (RNAS). After the war, the service was drastically cut and its inter-war years were relatively quiet, with the RAF taking responsibility for the control of Iraq
RAF Iraq Command
Iraq Command was the RAF commanded inter-service command in charge of British forces in Iraq in the 1920s and early 1930s, during the period of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. It continued as British Forces in Iraq until 1941 when it was replaced by AHQ Iraq...

 and executing a number of minor actions in other parts of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

. Naval aviation in the form of the RAF's Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

 was returned to Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 control on 24 May 1939.

The RAF developed its doctrine of Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 which led to the construction of long-range bombers and became the basic philosophy in the Second World War.

Second World War




The RAF underwent rapid expansion prior to and during the Second World War. Under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan , known in some countries as the Empire Air Training Scheme , was a massive, joint military aircrew training program created by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, during the Second World War...

 of December 1939, the air forces of British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 countries trained and formed "Article XV squadrons
Article XV squadrons
Article XV squadrons were Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand air force squadrons formed from graduates of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan , during World War II....

" for service with RAF formations. Many individual personnel from these countries, and exiles from occupied Europe, also served with RAF squadrons.

In the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

, in the late summer of 1940, the RAF (supplemented by 2 Fleet Air Arm Squadrons, Polish, Czechoslovakian and other multinational pilots and ground personnel) defended the skies over Britain against the German Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

, helping foil Hitler's plans for an invasion
Operation Sealion
Operation Sea Lion was Germany's plan to invade the United Kingdom during the Second World War, beginning in 1940. To have had any chance of success, however, the operation would have required air and naval supremacy over the English Channel...

 of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, and prompting Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 to say in the House of Commons on 20 August, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few"
Never was so much owed by so many to so few
Never was so much owed by so many to so few was a wartime speech made by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 20 August 1940. The name stems from the specific line in the speech, Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few, referring to the ongoing efforts...

.

The largest RAF effort during the war was the strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 campaign against Germany by Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

. While RAF bombing of Germany began almost immediately upon the outbreak of war, under the leadership of Air Chief Marshal Harris, these attacks became increasingly devastating from 1942 onward as new technology and greater numbers of superior aircraft became available. The RAF adopted night-time area bombing on German cities such as Hamburg
Bombing of Hamburg in World War II
The Allied bombing of Hamburg during World War II included numerous strategic bombing missions and diversion/nuisance raids. As a large port and industrial center, Hamburg's shipyards, U-boat pens, and the Hamburg-Harburg area oil refineries were attacked throughout the war...

 and Dresden, and developed precision bombing techniques for specific operations, such as the "Dambusters" raid
Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently known as the "Dambusters", using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis...

 by No. 617 Squadron
No. 617 Squadron RAF
No. 617 Squadron is a Royal Air Force aircraft squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. It currently operates the Tornado GR4 in the ground attack and reconnaissance role...

, or the Amiens prison raid known as Operation Jericho
Operation Jericho
Operation Jericho was a low-level World War II bombing raid by Allied aircraft on Amiens Prison in German-occupied France on 18 February 1944. The stated object of the raid was to free French Resistance and political prisoners. The raid is remarkable for the precision and daring of the attack,...

.

Post-war


The Royal Air Force was involved in the 1948 Berlin Airlift, codenamed Operation Plainfire. Between 26 June and the lifting of the Russian blockade of the city on 2 May, the RAF provided 17% of the total supplies delivered during the event, using Avro Yorks, Douglas Dakotas flying to Gatow Airport and Short Sunderlands flying to Lake Havel.

1960 - 1970


The British Government elected on 16 February 1960 to share the country's nuclear deterrent
Nuclear weapons and the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom was the third country to test an independently developed nuclear weapon, in October 1952. It is one of the five "Nuclear Weapons States" under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the UK ratified in 1968...

 between the RAF and submarines of the Royal Navy, deciding on 13 April to concentrate solely on the air force's V bomber
V bomber
The term V bomber was used for the Royal Air Force aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s that comprised the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force known officially as the V-force or Bomber Command Main Force...

 fleet. These were initially armed with nuclear gravity bomb
Gravity bomb
An unguided bomb, also known as a free-fall bomb, gravity bomb, dumb bomb, or iron bomb, is a conventional aircraft-delivered bomb that does not contain a guidance system and hence, simply follows a ballistic trajectory....

s, later being equipped with the Blue Steel missile
Blue Steel missile
The Avro Blue Steel was a British air-launched, rocket-propelled nuclear stand-off missile, built to arm the V bomber force. It was the primary British nuclear deterrent weapon until the Royal Navy started operating Polaris missile armed nuclear submarines....

. Following the development of the UGM-27 Polaris
UGM-27 Polaris
The Polaris missile was a two-stage solid-fuel nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile built during the Cold War by Lockheed Corporation of California for the United States Navy....

, the nuclear deterrent passed to the navy's submarines on 30 June 1969.

Later years


After the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, the RAF was involved in several large scale operations, including the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, the Kosovo War
Kosovo War
The term Kosovo War or Kosovo conflict was two sequential, and at times parallel, armed conflicts in Kosovo province, then part of FR Yugoslav Republic of Serbia; from early 1998 to 1999, there was an armed conflict initiated by the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" , who sought independence...

, operations in Afghanistan
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front launched Operation Enduring Freedom...

, the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

 and the subsequent war.

The RAF celebrated the 90th anniversary of its formation on 1 April 2008 with a flypast
Flypast
Flypast is a term used in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and other countries to denote ceremonial or honorific flights by groups of aircraft and, rarely, by a single aircraft...

 of the Red Arrows
Red Arrows
The Red Arrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, is the aerobatics display team of the Royal Air Force based at RAF Scampton, but due to move to RAF Waddington in 2011...

 and four Typhoons
Eurofighter Typhoon
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine, canard-delta wing, multirole combat aircraft, designed and built by a consortium of three companies: EADS, Alenia Aeronautica and BAE Systems; working through a holding company, Eurofighter GmbH, which was formed in 1986...

 over many RAF Stations and Central London.

As part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review
Strategic Defence and Security Review
The Strategic Defence and Security Review was announced by the newly formed Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of the United Kingdom in May 2010, and published on 19 October 2010...

, the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4
BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4
The BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 was a maritime patrol and attack aircraft intended to replace the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR2. The rebuilt aircraft would have extended the operating life of the Nimrod fleet by several decades and have significantly improved the aircraft by almost doubling the flight...

 aircraft was cancelled due to over spending and missing deadlines. It was due to have replaced the Nimrod MR2 from late 2011, which fulfilled the Anti-Submarine Warfare
Anti-submarine warfare
Anti-submarine warfare is a branch of naval warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, or other submarines to find, track and deter, damage or destroy enemy submarines....

 and Anti-Surface Unit Warfare
Anti-Surface Warfare
Anti-surface warfare is a type of naval warfare directed against surface combatants. More generally, it is any weapons, sensors, or operations intended to attack or limit the effectiveness of an adversary's surface ships....

 roles. It also saw use in a Search and Rescue
Search and rescue
Search and rescue is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger.The general field of search and rescue includes many specialty sub-fields, mostly based upon terrain considerations...

 role, where its long range and communications facilities allowed it to co-ordinate rescues by acting as a link between rescue helicopters, ships and shore bases. It could also drop pods containing life rafts and survival supplies to people in the sea. After the MR2's withdrawal, the search and rescue role was adopted by the C-130 Hercules force, and the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 took full responsibility for anti-submarine warfare.

Structure



The professional head of the RAF is the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal
Air Chief Marshal
Air chief marshal is a senior 4-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 Sir Stephen Dalton
Stephen Dalton
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Gary George Dalton, KCB, BSc, FRAeS, RAF is the current Chief of the Air Staff and professional head of the Royal Air Force.-RAF career:...

. The CAS heads the Air Force Board
Air Force Board
The Air Force Board of the Defence Council is responsible for the management of the Royal Air Force.Prior to the creation of the current UK Ministry of Defence in 1964, the administration of the RAF and its personnel was undertaken by the Air Force Council, part of the Air Ministry...

, which is a committee of the Defence Council
Defence Council of the United Kingdom
The Defence Council of the United Kingdom is the body legally entrusted with the defence of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories and with control over the British armed forces, and is part of the Ministry of Defence.-Functions:...

. The Air Force Board is the management board of the RAF and consists of the Commander-in-Chief of Air Command
RAF Air Command
Air Command is the only Command currently active in the Royal Air Force. It was formed by the merger of Royal Air Force Strike and Personnel and Training Commands on 1 April 2007, and has its headquarters at RAF High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire....

 (Air Chief Marshal Simon Bryant
Simon Bryant
Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant KCB CBE is a Royal Air Force officer, currently serving as Commander-in-Chief of Air Command, and the second-most senior officer in the service...

), together with several other high ranking officers. The CAS also has a deputy known as the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff
Assistant Chief of the Air Staff
The Assistant Chief of the Air Staff is a senior appointment in the Royal Air Force. The incumbent is in practical terms the deputy to the head of the RAF, the Chief of the Air Staff....

 (ACAS); this post is held by Air Vice-Marshal
Air Vice-Marshal
Air vice-marshal is a two-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force. The rank is also used by the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence and it is sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in...

 B M North
Barry North
Air Vice-Marshal Barry 'Baz' Mark North OBE is a senior serving Royal Air Force officer and is currently Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, assuming this appointment on 1 March 2010.-RAF career:...

.

Command



Authority is delegated from the Air Force Board to the RAF's command
Command (military formation)
A command in military terminology is an organisational unit that the individual in Military command has responsibility for. A Commander will normally be specifically appointed into the role in order to provide a legal framework for the authority bestowed...

. While there were once individual commands responsible for bombers, fighters, training, etc., now only the Air Command
RAF Air Command
Air Command is the only Command currently active in the Royal Air Force. It was formed by the merger of Royal Air Force Strike and Personnel and Training Commands on 1 April 2007, and has its headquarters at RAF High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire....

 exists, headquartered at RAF High Wycombe
RAF High Wycombe
RAF High Wycombe is a Royal Air Force station, situated in the village of Walters Ash, near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England. Its purpose is to serve the needs of the RAF Air Command, situated on the site. It is also the headquarters of the European Air Group...

.

Groups



Groups
Group (air force)
A group is a military aviation unit, a component of military organization and a military formation. Usage of the terms group and wing differ from one country to another, as well as different branches of a defence force, in some cases...

 are the subdivisions of operational commands; these are responsible for certain types of operation or for operations in limited geographical areas. As from 1 April 2007, three groups exist:
  • 1 Group
    No. 1 Group RAF
    Number 1 Group of the Royal Air Force is one of the two operations groups in Air Command.The group is today referred to as the Air Combat Group, as it controls the RAF's combat fast-jet aircraft and has airfields in the UK plus RAF Unit Goose Bay in Canada, which is used extensively as an...

     (the Air Combat Group): controls the RAF's combat fast jet aircraft and parents airfields at RAF Odiham
    RAF Odiham
    RAF Odiham is a Royal Air Force station situated a little to the south of the historic small village of Odiham in Hampshire, England. It is the home of the Royal Air Force's heavy lift helicopter, the Chinook HC2, HC2A and HC3...

    , RAF Benson
    RAF Benson
    RAF Benson is a Royal Air Force station near Benson in South Oxfordshire, England. It is home to the Royal Air Force's support helicopters, the Aérospatiale Puma and the EH-101 Merlin, known as the Puma HC.Mk 1 and the Merlin HC.Mk 3 and Mk 3a....

    , RAF Leeming
    RAF Leeming
    RAF Leeming is a Royal Air Force station in North Yorkshire, UK.HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is the Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Leeming. The Station Commander is Group Captain Anthony Innes....

    , RAF Coningsby
    RAF Coningsby
    RAF Coningsby , is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England. It has been commanded by Group Captain Martin Sampson since 10 December 2010.-Operational units:...

    , RAF Leuchars
    RAF Leuchars
    RAF Leuchars is the most northerly air defence station in the United Kingdom. It is located in Leuchars, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland, near to the university town of St Andrews.-Operations:...

    , RAF Wittering
    RAF Wittering
    RAF Wittering is a Royal Air Force station within the unitary authority area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Although Stamford in Lincolnshire is the nearest town, the runways of RAF Wittering cross the boundary between Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire....

    , RAF Cottesmore
    RAF Cottesmore
    RAF Cottesmore was a Royal Air Force station in Rutland, England, situated between Cottesmore and Market Overton. The station housed all the operational Harrier GR9 squadrons in the Royal Air Force, and No 122 Expeditionary Air Wing...

    , RAF Marham
    RAF Marham
    Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

     and RAF Lossiemouth
    RAF Lossiemouth
    RAF Lossiemouth is a Royal Air Force station to the west of the town of Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland. It is one of the RAF's biggest bases and is currently Britain's main base for Tornado GR4s. From 2013 the Northern QRA force of Typhoon F2 will relocate to Lossiemouth following the closure of...

     in the UK in addition to RAF Unit Goose Bay in Canada, which is used extensively as an operational training base. RAF Spadeadam
    RAF Spadeadam
    RAF Spadeadam is a Royal Air Force station in Cumbria, England close to the border with Northumberland. It is the home of the 9000 acre Electronic Warfare Tactics Range, making it the largest RAF base in the United Kingdom.-History:...

    , in Cumbria
    Cumbria
    Cumbria , is a non-metropolitan county in North West England. The county and Cumbria County Council, its local authority, came into existence in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972. Cumbria's largest settlement and county town is Carlisle. It consists of six districts, and in...

    , is also within its sphere of responsibility.
  • 2 Group
    No. 2 Group RAF
    Number 2 Group is a Group of the Royal Air Force which was first activated in 1918, served from 1918–20, from 1936 through the Second World War to 1947, from 1948 to 1958, from 1993 to 1996, was reactivated in 2000, and is today part of Air Command....

     (the Air Combat Support Group): controls the strategic and tactical air transport aircraft, the RAF Regiment
    RAF Regiment
    The Royal Air Force Regiment is a specialist airfield defence corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. After a 32 week trainee gunner course, its members are trained and equipped to prevent a successful enemy attack in the first instance; minimise the damage caused by a successful attack; and...

    , the RAF's air-to-air refuelling
    Aerial refueling
    Aerial refueling, also called air refueling, in-flight refueling , air-to-air refueling or tanking, is the process of transferring fuel from one aircraft to another during flight....

     aircraft as well as Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) and search and rescue
    RAF Search and Rescue Force
    The RAF Search and Rescue Force is the Royal Air Force organisation which provides around-the-clock aeronautical search and rescue cover in the United Kingdom, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands.-History:...

     assets.
  • 22 Group
    No. 22 Group RAF
    Number 22 Group is one of only three groups currently active in the Royal Air Force, falling under the responsibility of Deputy Commander-in-Chief in Air Command. Its current full title is Number 22 Group and it is responsible for RAF training policy and controlling the Royal Air Force College...

    : responsible for recruiting, personnel management and training.


In addition, No. 83 Group RAF
No. 83 Group RAF
No. 83 Group was a group within the Royal Air Force's 2nd Tactical Air Force during the Second World War and the post-war era. In 2006, the group was re-established as No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group.-History:...

, under the command of the Permanent Joint Headquarters
Permanent Joint Headquarters
The Permanent Joint Headquarters is the British tri-service headquarters from where all overseas military operations are planned and controlled. It is situated at Northwood Headquarters in Northwood, London....

, is active in the Middle East, supporting operations over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stations




An RAF station
RAF station
A Royal Air Force station is a permanent Royal Air Force operations location. Many RAF stations are aerodromes, or airbases, being the home to one or more flying squadrons. Other RAF stations are training units, administrative units, headquarters , or carry out ground-based operational tasks...

 is ordinarily subordinate to a group and it is administratively sub-divided into wings. Since the mid to late 1930s RAF stations have controlled a number of flying squadrons or other units at one location by means of a station headquarters.

Wings



A wing
Wing (air force unit)
Wing is a term used by different military aviation forces for a unit of command. The terms wing, group or Staffel are used for different-sized units from one country or service to another....

 is either an operational sub-division of a group or an administrative sub-division of an RAF station.

Independent Wings are a grouping of two or more squadrons, either flying squadrons or ground support squadrons. In former times, numbered flying wings have existed, but recently they have been created only when required. For example during Operation Telic
Operation Telic
Operation TELIC was the codename under which all British military operations in Iraq were conducted between the start of the Invasion of Iraq on 19 March 2003 and the withdrawal of the last remaining British forces on 22 May 2011...

, Tornado GR4
Panavia Tornado
The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy...

 wings were formed to operate from Ali Al Salem
Ali Al Salem Air Base
Ali Al Salem Air Base is a military airbase situated in Kuwait, approximately 23 miles from the Iraqi border. The airfield is owned by the Government of Kuwait, and during Operation Southern Watch and Operation Telic / Operation Iraqi Freedom hosted Royal Air Force , United States Air Force and...

 and Al Udeid
Al Udeid Air Base
Al Udeid Air Base is a military base west of Doha, Qatar. It houses foreign coalition personnel and assets. It is host to a forward headquarters of United States Central Command, headquarters of United States Air Forces Central Command, and home to both No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group RAF and the...

 air bases and the Tornado F3
Panavia Tornado ADV
The Panavia Tornado Air Defence Variant is a long-range, twin-engine interceptor version of the swing-wing Panavia Tornado. The aircraft's first flight was on 27 October 1979, and it entered service in 1986. It was retired on 22 March 2011 by the Royal Air Forceand is now only in service with the...

 equipped Leuchars
RAF Leuchars
RAF Leuchars is the most northerly air defence station in the United Kingdom. It is located in Leuchars, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland, near to the university town of St Andrews.-Operations:...

 Fighter Wing at Prince Sultan Air Base; each of these were made up of aircraft and crews from several squadrons.

On 31 March 2006, the RAF formed nine Expeditionary Air Wing
Expeditionary Air Wing
On 1 April 2006 Expeditionary Air Wings were formed at nine of the RAF's Main Operating Bases. Each EAW has its own identity and is led by the Station Commander, supported by his Station management team...

s (EAWs) in order to support operations. They were established at the nine main operating bases; RAF Coningsby
RAF Coningsby
RAF Coningsby , is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England. It has been commanded by Group Captain Martin Sampson since 10 December 2010.-Operational units:...

, RAF Cottesmore
RAF Cottesmore
RAF Cottesmore was a Royal Air Force station in Rutland, England, situated between Cottesmore and Market Overton. The station housed all the operational Harrier GR9 squadrons in the Royal Air Force, and No 122 Expeditionary Air Wing...

, RAF Kinloss
RAF Kinloss
RAF Kinloss is a Royal Air Force station near Kinloss, on the Moray Firth in the north of Scotland. It opened on 1 April 1939 and served as an RAF training establishment during the Second World War. After the war it was handed over to Coastal Command to watch over Russian ships and submarines in...

, RAF Leeming
RAF Leeming
RAF Leeming is a Royal Air Force station in North Yorkshire, UK.HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is the Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Leeming. The Station Commander is Group Captain Anthony Innes....

, RAF Leuchars
RAF Leuchars
RAF Leuchars is the most northerly air defence station in the United Kingdom. It is located in Leuchars, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland, near to the university town of St Andrews.-Operations:...

, RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Lossiemouth
RAF Lossiemouth is a Royal Air Force station to the west of the town of Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland. It is one of the RAF's biggest bases and is currently Britain's main base for Tornado GR4s. From 2013 the Northern QRA force of Typhoon F2 will relocate to Lossiemouth following the closure of...

, RAF Lyneham
RAF Lyneham
RAF Lyneham is a Royal Air Force station in Wiltshire, England. It was the home of all the Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft of the Royal Air Force before they were relocated to RAF Brize Norton.The station was also home to No...

, RAF Marham
RAF Marham
Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

 and RAF Waddington
RAF Waddington
RAF Waddington is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England.-Formation:Waddington opened as a Royal Flying Corps flying training station in 1916 until 1920, when the station went into care and maintenance....

 numbered Nos 121, 122, 325, 135, 125, 140, 38, 138 and 34 EAWs respectively. These units are commanded by a Group Captain
Group Captain
Group captain is a senior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries. It ranks above wing commander and immediately below air commodore...

 who is also the parent unit's Station Commander. The EAW comprises the non-formed unit elements of the station that are required to support a deployed operating base, i.e. the command and control, logistics and administration functions amongst others. They are designed to be flexible and quickly adaptable for differing operations. They are independent of flying squadrons, Air Combat Support Units (ACSU) and Air Combat Service Support Units (ACSSU) who are attached to the EAW depending on the task it has been assigned.

A wing is also an administrative sub-division of an RAF station. Historically, for a flying station these were normally Operations Wing, Engineering Wing and Administration Wing and each wing was commanded by an officer of wing commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

 rank. Early in the 21st century, the model changed, with Engineering Wing typically being split into Forward Support Wing and Depth Support Wing, while Administration Wing was redesignated Base Support Wing.

Squadrons



A flying squadron is an aircraft unit which carries out the primary tasks of the RAF. RAF squadrons are somewhat analogous to the regiments of the British Army in that they have histories and traditions going back to their formation, regardless of where they are based, which aircraft they are operating, etc. They can be awarded standards
Flag
A flag is a piece of fabric with a distinctive design that is usually rectangular and used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.The first flags were used to assist...

 and battle honours
RAF battle honours
Battle Honours are awarded by the Sovereign to Royal Air Force squadrons to commemorate the squadron's role in a particular operation.This practice was inherited by the RAF from its Army and Navy predecessors upon its creation in 1918. Several squadrons therefore carry honours awarded when they...

 for meritorious service. Whilst every squadron is different, most flying squadrons are commanded by a wing commander
Wing Commander (rank)
Wing commander is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries...

 and, for a fast-jet squadron, have an establishment of around 100 personnel and 12 aircraft.

The term squadron
Squadron (aviation)
A squadron in air force, army aviation or naval aviation is mainly a unit comprising a number of military aircraft, usually of the same type, typically with 12 to 24 aircraft, sometimes divided into three or four flights, depending on aircraft type and air force...

 can be used to refer to a sub-unit of an administrative wing or small RAF station, e.g. Air Traffic Control Squadron, Personnel Management Squadron etc. There are also Ground Support Squadrons, e.g. No 2 (Mechanical Transport) Squadron which is located at RAF Wittering. Administrative squadrons are normally commanded by a squadron leader
Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. In these...

.

Flights



A flight
Flight (military unit)
A flight is a military unit in an air force, naval air service, or army air corps. It usually comprises three to six aircraft, with their aircrews and ground staff; or, in the case of a non-flying ground flight, no aircraft and a roughly equivalent number of support personnel. In most usages,...

 is a sub-division of a squadron. Flying squadrons are often divided into two flights, e.g. "A" and "B", each under the command of a squadron leader
Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. In these...

. Administrative squadrons on a station are also divided into flights and these flights are commanded by a junior officer
Junior officer
The term junior officer is sometimes used to make clear that an officer in a military or paramilitary unit is not in overall command. The term senior officer is reserved for the officer in overall command....

, often a flight lieutenant
Flight Lieutenant
Flight lieutenant is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many Commonwealth countries. It ranks above flying officer and immediately below squadron leader. The name of the rank is the complete phrase; it is never shortened to "lieutenant"...

.

Because of their small size, there are several flying units formed as flights rather than squadrons. For example No. 1435 Flight
No. 1435 Flight RAF
No. 1435 Flight is a Eurofighter Typhoon unit of the Royal Air Force, based at RAF Mount Pleasant, providing air defence for the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.During the Second World War, No...

 is based at RAF Mount Pleasant
RAF Mount Pleasant
RAF Mount Pleasant is a military base for the Royal Air Force in the British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands. The facility is part of the British Forces South Atlantic Islands...

 in the Falkland Islands, maintaining air defence cover with four Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

Personnel


At its height (1944) during the Second World War, more than 1,100,000 personnel were serving. The longest-lived founding member of the RAF was Henry Allingham
Henry Allingham
Henry William Allingham was a British supercentenarian, First World War veteran and, for one month, the verified oldest living man in the world...

, who died on 18 July 2009 aged 113.

Officers



Officers hold a commission
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 from the Sovereign
British monarchy
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

, which provides the legal authority for them to issue orders to subordinates. The commission of a regular officer is granted after successfully completing the 30-week-long Initial Officer Training course at the RAF College, Cranwell, Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

. Other officers also train at RAF Cranwell, but on different courses, such as those for professionally qualified officers.

The titles and insignia of RAF officers were chiefly derived from those used by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, specifically the Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service
The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form a new service , the Royal Air Force...

 (RNAS) during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. For example, the rank of Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader
Squadron Leader is a commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. In these...

 derived its name from the RNAS rank of Squadron Commander. RAF officers fall into three categories: air officers
Air Officer
An air officer is a Royal Air Force officer of the rank of air commodore or higher. Such officers may be termed "officers of air rank". The term is also used by many Commonwealth nations who have a similar rank structure to the RAF....

, senior officers and junior officer
Junior officer
The term junior officer is sometimes used to make clear that an officer in a military or paramilitary unit is not in overall command. The term senior officer is reserved for the officer in overall command....

s.

Other ranks



Other ranks attend the Recruit Training Squadron at RAF Halton
RAF Halton
RAF Halton is one of the largest Royal Air Force stations in the United Kingdom, located near the village of Halton near Wendover, Buckinghamshire.HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is the Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Halton.-History:...

 for basic training, with the exception of the RAF Regiment
RAF Regiment
The Royal Air Force Regiment is a specialist airfield defence corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. After a 32 week trainee gunner course, its members are trained and equipped to prevent a successful enemy attack in the first instance; minimise the damage caused by a successful attack; and...

, which trains its recruits at RAF Honington
RAF Honington
RAF Honington is a Royal Air Force station located south of Thetford near Ixworth in Suffolk, England. Although used as a bomber station during the Second World War, RAF Honington is now the RAF Regiment depot and home to the Joint CBRN Regiment.-RAF use:...

.

The titles and insignia of other ranks in the RAF was based on that of the Army, with some alterations in terminology. Over the years, this structure has seen significant changes, for example there was once a separate system for those in technical trades and the ranks of Chief Technician
Chief Technician
Chief technician is a non-commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force which is only held by airmen in technical trades and by musicians. It is between sergeant and flight sergeant and, like the latter has a NATO code of OR-7. Airmen in non-technical trades progress directly from sergeant to flight...

 and Junior Technician
Junior Technician
Junior Technician is a junior non-commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the Pakistan Air Force. In the RAF it ranks equal to Senior Aircraftman Technician , above Senior Aircraftman and below Corporal and has a NATO rank code of OR-2...

 continue to be held only by personnel in technical trades. RAF other ranks fall into four categories: Warrant Officers, Senior Non-Commissioned Officers, Junior Non-Commissioned Officers and Airmen.

The most senior other ranks of the RAF is known as the Chief of the Air Staff's Warrant Officer
Chief of the Air Staff's Warrant Officer
The Chief of the Air Staff's Warrant Officer is the senior warrant officer of the Royal Air Force. The person holding this appointment advises the Chief of the Air Staff on matters concerning airmen and airwoman of the RAF. The post was created in 1998.-List Chief of the Air Staff's Warrant...

, a position held by Warrant Officer Gary Wilcox
Gary Wilcox
Warrant Officer Gary Wilcox is the Chief of the Air Staff's Warrant Officer and is therefore the senior Other Ranks in the Royal Air Force.-Military career:...

.

Branches and trades



  • RAF Pilots
    Aviator
    An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

     and Weapon Systems Officers (WSO) (formerly known as Navigators
    Flight officer
    The title flight officer was a military rank used by the United States Armed Forces where it was an air force warrant officer rank. It was also an air force rank in several Commonwealth nations where it was used for female officers and was equivalent to the rank of flight lieutenant...

    ) are commissioned officers of the Flying Branch. i.e. Fg(P) or Fg(WSO). Formerly in the General Duties branch, which is now reserved for Wing Commanders and above from any previous branch.
  • Non-commissioned (NCO) Aircrew known as Weapons System Operators (WSOp), fulfil the specialist roles of air engineer (E), air electronics operator (AEOp), air loadmaster (ALM) and air signaller (S). Though they are now known collectively as weapon systems operators, individual trade specialisations remain. Commissioned officer specialists are promoted from within branch to become Fg(WSO).


The majority of the members of the RAF serve in support roles on the ground.
  • Engineering Officers and technicians are employed to maintain and repair the equipment used by the RAF. This includes routine preparation for flight and maintenance on aircraft, arming aircraft with weapons, as well as deeper level repair work on aircraft systems, IT systems, ground based radar, vehicles, ground support equipment, etc.
  • RAF Flight Operations Officers are involved with the planning and co-ordination of all Flying Operations. Flight Operations Officers can be found in every RAF Flying Station and Squadron.
  • RAF Regiment
    RAF Regiment
    The Royal Air Force Regiment is a specialist airfield defence corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. After a 32 week trainee gunner course, its members are trained and equipped to prevent a successful enemy attack in the first instance; minimise the damage caused by a successful attack; and...

     officers and gunners in the regiment defend RAF airfields from attack. They have infantry
    Infantry
    Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

     and light armoured units to protect against ground attack.
  • Aerospace Battle Managers (formally Fighter Controllers/FC) and Air Traffic Controllers (ATC), control RAF and NATO aircraft from the ground. The FC control the interception of enemy aircraft while the ATC provide air traffic services at RAF stations and to the majority of en-route military aircraft in UK airspace.
  • RAF Intelligence
    RAF Intelligence
    Intelligence services in the Royal Air Force is delivered by Officers of the Royal Air Force Operations Support Intelligence Branch and Airmen from the Intelligence Analyst Trade and Intelligence Analyst Trade...

     Officers and Intelligence Analysts support all operational activities by providing timely and accurate indicators and warnings. They conduct detailed all source military intelligence
    Military intelligence
    Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

     fusion and analysis by utilising classified and open source information including imagery, human and communications (signals) intelligence. Intelligence is used to inform commanders of the assessed capabilities and intentions of the enemy for strategic / operational planning and targeting. They also tailor the information to brief aircrews for mission planning and other tactical units (such as RAF Regiment) for Force Protection.
  • RAF Medical Branch
    RAF Medical Branch
    The Royal Air Force Medical Services is the branch of the Royal Air Force that provides health care at home and on deployed operations to RAF service personnel. Medical officers are the doctors of the RAF and have specialist expertise in aviation medicine to support aircrew and their protective...

     provides healthcare at home and on deployed operations, including aeromedical evacuation services. Medical officers are the doctors of the RAF and have specialist expertise in aviation medicine to support aircrew and their protective equipment. Medical officers can go on aeromedical evacuations, providing vital assistance on search-and-rescue missions or emergency relief flights worldwide. RAF Medical Officers are either based in primary care on operations or on RAF stations in the UK or in one of six Ministry of Defence Hospital Units (MDHU's) around the UK as specialist practitioners.
  • Administrative Officers and associated Pers Admin trades are involved with human resources management, training management, physical education, catering, infrastructure management, accounts, dress and discipline, personnel and recruitment.
  • RAF Chaplains Branch
    Royal Air Force Chaplains Branch
    The Royal Air Force Chaplains Branch provides military chaplains for the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom.-Training:RAF chaplains and candidates receive training at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre, which is located at Amport House....

     provides spiritual and moral support for RAF personnel and their families.
  • RAF Legal Branch
    RAF Legal Branch
    The Royal Air Force Legal Branch or Directorate Legal Services - as it is better known - is the uniformed legal service provider for the Royal Air Force. It consists of solicitors and barristers qualified in a Commonwealth jurisdiction. DLS is headquartered at Air Command RAF High Wycombe...

     provides legal advice on discipline / criminal law and operations law.
  • RAF Police
    Royal Air Force Police
    The Royal Air Force Police is the Service Police branch of the Royal Air Force. It was formed on 1 April 1918, when the RAF was formed by the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service . It is responsible for the policing of all service personnel much like there RN or Army...

     are the military police
    Military police
    Military police are police organisations connected with, or part of, the military of a state. The word can have different meanings in different countries, and may refer to:...

     of the RAF.

Reserves

  • Royal Auxiliary Air Force
    Royal Auxiliary Air Force
    The Royal Auxiliary Air Force , originally the Auxiliary Air Force , is the voluntary active duty reserve element of the Royal Air Force, providing a primary reinforcement capability for the regular service...

     (RAuxAF) and RAF Volunteer Reserve personnel fulfil a number of specialist roles in ground roles, including Operations, Intelligence and RAF Regiment in support of the regular RAF.
  • RAF Volunteer Reserve (Training) are responsible for the management and operation of the Air Training Corps
    Air Training Corps
    The Air Training Corps , commonly known as the Air Cadets, is a cadet organisation based in the United Kingdom. It is a voluntary youth group which is part of the Air Cadet Organisation and the Royal Air Force . It is supported by the Ministry of Defence, with a regular RAF Officer, currently Air...

    , Volunteer Gliding Squadron
    Volunteer Gliding Squadron
    Volunteer Gliding Squadrons are Royal Air Force Flying Training Units , operating military Viking TX.1 and Vigilant T.1 gliders to train Air Cadets from the Combined Cadet Force and the Air Training Corps....

    s, Air Experience Flights, University Air Squadron
    University Air Squadron
    University Air Squadrons are training units of the Royal Air Force which primarily provide basic flying training, force development and adventurous training to undergraduate students at British universities...

     and the Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme
    Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme
    The Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme is a university sponsorship programme for students who want to join the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force or Engineering and Science branch of the MOD Civil Service as technical officers after they graduate; Army sponsored students are destined...

    .

Specialist training and education


The Royal Air Force operates several units and centres for the provision of non-generic training and education. These include the Royal Air Force Leadership Centre and the Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies
Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies
The Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies is a Royal Air Force sponsored think tank which engages in the study of air power.The centre was launched on 23 August 2007 by Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, Chief of the Air Staff...

, both based at RAF Cranwell, and the Air Warfare Centre
Air Warfare Centre
The Air Warfare Centre, known as the AWC, is a Royal Air Force research and testing organization based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire in the United Kingdom...

, based at RAF Waddington and RAF Cranwell
RAF Cranwell
RAF Cranwell is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire close to the village of Cranwell, near Sleaford. It is currently commanded by Group Captain Dave Waddington...

. NCO training and developmental courses occur at RAF Halton
RAF Halton
RAF Halton is one of the largest Royal Air Force stations in the United Kingdom, located near the village of Halton near Wendover, Buckinghamshire.HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is the Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Halton.-History:...

 and officer courses occur at the Joint Services Command and Staff College
Joint Services Command and Staff College
Joint Services Command and Staff College is a British military academic establishment providing training and education to experienced officers of the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force, Ministry of Defence Civil Service, and serving officers of other states.-History:JSCSC combined the single...

 at Shrivenham.

Aircraft


British military aircraft designations
British military aircraft designation systems
British military aircraft designations are used to refer to aircraft types and variants operated by the armed forces of the United Kingdom.Since the end of the First World War, aircraft types in British military service have generally been known by a name British military aircraft designations are...

 generally comprise a type name followed by a mark number
Mark (designation)
The word Mark, followed by number, is a method of specifically designating a standardized, integrated, assumed to be functional and unique version of a mechanical and/or electrical hardware product that has completed the design process and has been approved to be put into final production, as well...

which includes an alphabetical rôle prefix. For example, the Tornado F3 is designated as a fighter by the 'F', and is the third variant of the type to be produced.

Strike, attack and offensive support aircraft


The mainstay of the offensive support fleet is the Tornado GR4
Panavia Tornado
The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy...

. This supersonic aircraft can carry a wide range of weaponry, including Storm Shadow
Storm Shadow
Storm Shadow is a British, French and Italian air-launched cruise missile, manufactured by MBDA. Storm Shadow is the British name for the weapon; in French service it is called SCALP EG...

 cruise missiles, laser-guided bombs and the ALARM anti-radar missile. Since June 2008, the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 has also been capable of being deployed operationally in the air-to-ground role.

The Tornado was previously supplemented by the Harrier GR7/GR9 in the strike and close air support
Close air support
In military tactics, close air support is defined as air action by fixed or rotary winged aircraft against hostile targets that are close to friendly forces, and which requires detailed integration of each air mission with fire and movement of these forces.The determining factor for CAS is...

 roles, and to counter enemy air defences. The Harrier fleet was withdrawn in December 2010 following the Strategic Defence and Security Review
Strategic Defence and Security Review
The Strategic Defence and Security Review was announced by the newly formed Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of the United Kingdom in May 2010, and published on 19 October 2010...

.

Air defence and airborne early warning aircraft


The Eurofighter Typhoon F2/FGR4 is the RAF's only air defence fighter aircraft, based at RAF Leuchars
RAF Leuchars
RAF Leuchars is the most northerly air defence station in the United Kingdom. It is located in Leuchars, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland, near to the university town of St Andrews.-Operations:...

 and RAF Coningsby
RAF Coningsby
RAF Coningsby , is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England. It has been commanded by Group Captain Martin Sampson since 10 December 2010.-Operational units:...

, following the retirement of the Panavia Tornado F3
Panavia Tornado ADV
The Panavia Tornado Air Defence Variant is a long-range, twin-engine interceptor version of the swing-wing Panavia Tornado. The aircraft's first flight was on 27 October 1979, and it entered service in 1986. It was retired on 22 March 2011 by the Royal Air Forceand is now only in service with the...

 in late March 2011. Their task is to defend the UK’s airspace. In October 2007 it was announced that MoD Boscombe Down
MoD Boscombe Down
MoD Boscombe Down is an aircraft testing site located at Idmiston, south of Amesbury, in Wiltshire, England. It is run and managed by QinetiQ, the company created as part of the breakup of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in 2001 by the UK Ministry of Defence...

, RNAS Culdrose
RNAS Culdrose
Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose , based in Cornwall, near Helston, on the Lizard Peninsula, has three major roles: serving the Fleet Air Arm's front line Sea King and Merlin helicopter squadrons; providing search and rescue for the South West region; and training specialists for the Royal Navy...

 and RAF Marham
RAF Marham
Royal Air Force Station Marham, more commonly known as RAF Marham, is a Royal Air Force station; a military airbase, near the village of Marham in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia....

 would also be used as Quick Reaction Alert bases from early 2008, offering around-the-clock fighter coverage for the South and South West of UK airspace when a direct threat has been identified.

The RAF has three operational Typhoon units, 3 Squadron
No. 3 Squadron RAF
No 3 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Typhoon F2, FGR4 and T3 from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.No 3 Squadron, which celebrated its 95th anniversary over the weekend of 11-13 May 2007, is unique in the RAF for having two official crests....

 and 11 Squadron based at Coningsby, and 6 Squadron
No. 6 Squadron RAF
No. 6 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 at RAF Leuchars.It was previously equipped with the Jaguar GR.3 in the close air support and tactical reconnaissance roles, and was based at RAF Coltishall, Norfolk until April 2006, moving to RAF Coningsby until...

 at Leuchars, plus an Operational Conversion Unit
Operational Conversion Unit
An Operational Conversion Unit is a unit within an air force whose role is to support preparation for the operational missions of a specific aircraft type by providing trained personnel. OCUs teach pilots how to fly an aircraft and which tactics best exploit the performance of their aircraft and...

 also at Coningsby. The last Tornado F3 squadron, 111 Squadron
No. 111 Squadron RAF
No. 111 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operated the Panavia Tornado F3 from RAF Leuchars, Scotland until March 2011, when the squadron was disbanded, ending the Tornado F3's RAF service.-In World War I:...

 at RAF Leuchars
RAF Leuchars
RAF Leuchars is the most northerly air defence station in the United Kingdom. It is located in Leuchars, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland, near to the university town of St Andrews.-Operations:...

 disbanded in March 2011.

The Sentry AEW1, based at RAF Waddington
RAF Waddington
RAF Waddington is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire, England.-Formation:Waddington opened as a Royal Flying Corps flying training station in 1916 until 1920, when the station went into care and maintenance....

, provides airborne early warning to detect incoming enemy aircraft and to co-ordinate the aerial battlefield. Both the Sentry and the Tornado F3 have been involved in recent operations including over Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

.

Reconnaissance aircraft


The Tornado GR4A is fitted with cameras and sensors in the visual, infra-red and radar ranges of the spectrum.

The Sentinel R1
Raytheon Sentinel
|-See also:-References:* Winchester, Jim. "Aircraft of the RAF Part 5 - Raytheon Sentinel R1". Air International, Volume 75 No.3, September 2008. pp.54-57.-External links:* * * *...

 (also known as ASTOR – Airborne STand-Off Radar) provides a ground radar-surveillance platform based on the Bombardier Global Express long range business jet. These were supplemented in 2009 by four Beechcraft Shadow R1
Beechcraft Super King Air
The Beechcraft Super King Air family is part of a line of twin-turboprop aircraft produced by the Beech Aircraft Corporation . The King Air line comprises a number of model series that fall into two families: the Model 90 series, Model 100 series , Model 200 series and Model 300 series...

 aircraft equipped for the ISTAR
ISTAR
ISTAR stands for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance. In its macroscopic sense, ISTAR is a practice that links several battlefield functions together to assist a combat force in employing its sensors and managing the information they gather.Information is collected on...

 role over Afghanistan.

The MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned aerial vehicle
Unmanned aerial vehicle
An unmanned aerial vehicle , also known as a unmanned aircraft system , remotely piloted aircraft or unmanned aircraft, is a machine which functions either by the remote control of a navigator or pilot or autonomously, that is, as a self-directing entity...

 has been purchased to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

. They are operated by No. 39 Squadron RAF
No. 39 Squadron RAF
No. 39 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the MQ-9 Reaper since 2007, operating from Creech AFB, Nevada, USA.-World War I:39 Squadron was founded at Hounslow Heath Aerodrome in April 1916 with B.E.2s and Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12s in an attempt to defend against German Zeppelin raids on...

 based at Creech Air Force Base
Creech Air Force Base
Creech Air Force Base , formerly known as Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, is a United States Air Force base located one mile north of the central business district of Indian Springs, in Clark County, Nevada, United States. It is about northwest of Las Vegas and northwest of Nellis Air...

. More MQ-9s are in the process of being purchased.

Three Britten-Norman Islander
Britten-Norman Islander
The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander is a 1960s British light utility aircraft, regional airliner and cargo aircraft designed and originally manufactured by Britten-Norman of the United Kingdom. The Islander is one of the best-selling commercial aircraft types produced in Europe. Although designed in...

s are operated by the Station Flight of RAF Northolt
RAF Northolt
RAF Northolt is a Royal Air Force station situated in South Ruislip, east by northeast of Uxbridge in the London Borough of Hillingdon, West London. Approximately north of London Heathrow Airport, the station also handles a large number of private civil flights...

, involved in "photographic mapping and light communications roles".

Support helicopters


An important part of the work of the RAF is to support the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 by ferrying troops and equipment at the battlefield. However, RAF helicopters are also used in a variety of other roles, including support of RAF ground units and heavy-lift support for the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

. The support helicopters are organised into the tri-service Joint Helicopter Command
Joint Helicopter Command
Joint Helicopter Command is a tri-service organisation uniting military helicopters of the British Armed Forces for command and coordination purposes...

 (JHC), along with helicopters of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 and Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. The only helicopters not coordinated by the JHC are the search and rescue helicopters of the RAF and RN, and those RN helicopters that are normally based onboard a ship such as a destroyer or frigate.

The large twin-rotor Chinook HC2/HC2A, based at RAF Odiham
RAF Odiham
RAF Odiham is a Royal Air Force station situated a little to the south of the historic small village of Odiham in Hampshire, England. It is the home of the Royal Air Force's heavy lift helicopter, the Chinook HC2, HC2A and HC3...

 provides heavy-lift support and is supported by the Merlin HC3 and the smaller Puma HC1 medium-lift helicopters, based at RAF Benson
RAF Benson
RAF Benson is a Royal Air Force station near Benson in South Oxfordshire, England. It is home to the Royal Air Force's support helicopters, the Aérospatiale Puma and the EH-101 Merlin, known as the Puma HC.Mk 1 and the Merlin HC.Mk 3 and Mk 3a....

 and RAF Aldergrove
RAF Aldergrove
RAF Aldergrove was a Royal Air Force station situated northwest of Belfast. It adjoined Belfast International Airport, sometimes referred to simply as Aldergrove which is the name of the surrounding area...

.

Transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft


Having replaced the former Queen's Flight in 1995, 32 (The Royal) Squadron
No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron RAF
No. 32 Squadron of the Royal Air Force at present operates from RAF Northolt, west London, in the VIP and general air transport roles.-Formation:...

 uses the BAe 125 CC3, Agusta A109
Agusta A109
The AgustaWestland AW109 is a light-weight, twin-engine, eight-seat multi-purpose helicopter built by the Anglo-Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland...

 and BAe 146 CC2
BAe 146
The British Aerospace 146 is a medium-sized commercial airliner formerly manufactured in the United Kingdom by British Aerospace, later part of BAE Systems. Production ran from 1983 until 2002. Manufacture of an improved version known as the Avro RJ began in 1992...

 in the VIP transport role, based at RAF Northolt
RAF Northolt
RAF Northolt is a Royal Air Force station situated in South Ruislip, east by northeast of Uxbridge in the London Borough of Hillingdon, West London. Approximately north of London Heathrow Airport, the station also handles a large number of private civil flights...

, just west of London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

.

More routine, strategic airlift transport tasks are carried out by the TriStars
Lockheed L-1011
The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, commonly referred to as the L-1011 or TriStar, is a medium-to-long range, widebody passenger trijet airliner. It was the third widebody airliner to enter commercial operations, following the Boeing 747 and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Between 1968 and 1984, Lockheed...

 and VC10s
Vickers VC10
The Vickers VC10 is a long-range British airliner designed and built by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd, and first flown in 1962. The airliner was designed to operate on long-distance routes with a high subsonic speed and also be capable of hot and high operations from African airports...

 based at RAF Brize Norton
RAF Brize Norton
RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, about west north-west of London, is the largest station of the Royal Air Force. It is close to the settlements of Brize Norton, Carterton and Witney....

, for passengers and cargo, and for air-to-air refuelling of other aircraft. These aircraft are due to be replaced by the Airbus A330 MRTT
Airbus A330 MRTT
The Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport is an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft based on the civilian Airbus A330-200. The A330 MRTT has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force , Royal Air Force , United Arab Emirates Air Force, and Royal Saudi Air Force...

 which will be known as the 'Voyager' in RAF service. The first Voyager arrived in the UK for testing at MoD Boscombe Down
MoD Boscombe Down
MoD Boscombe Down is an aircraft testing site located at Idmiston, south of Amesbury, in Wiltshire, England. It is run and managed by QinetiQ, the company created as part of the breakup of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in 2001 by the UK Ministry of Defence...

 in April 2011, and is due to be delivered to RAF Brize Norton by the end of the year.

Shorter range, tactical-airlift transport is provided by the Hercules
C-130 Hercules
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport...

, the fleet including both older C-130K (Hercules C1/C3) and newer C-130J (Hercules C4/C5) variants, based at RAF Brize Norton
RAF Brize Norton
RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, about west north-west of London, is the largest station of the Royal Air Force. It is close to the settlements of Brize Norton, Carterton and Witney....

 in Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

. All C-130's will be withdrawn by 2022.

The RAF leased four C-17 Globemaster III
C-17 Globemaster III
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a large military transport aircraft. Developed for the United States Air Force from the 1980s to the early 1990s by McDonnell Douglas, the C-17 is used for rapid strategic airlift of troops and cargo to main operating bases or forward operating bases throughout...

s from Boeing
Boeing
The Boeing Company is an American multinational aerospace and defense corporation, founded in 1916 by William E. Boeing in Seattle, Washington. Boeing has expanded over the years, merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Boeing Corporate headquarters has been in Chicago, Illinois since 2001...

 to provide a heavy, strategic airlift capability. These were purchased, as well a fifth C-17, which was delivered on 7 April 2008 followed by a sixth aircraft delivered on 8 June 2008. The new aircraft entered frontline use within days rather than weeks. The MoD said "there is a stated departmental requirement for eight" C-17s and a seventh has been ordered for delivery in December 2010.

Search and rescue aircraft


Three squadrons of helicopters exist with the primary role of military search and rescue; the rescuing of aircrew who have ejected or crash-landed their aircraft. These are 22 Squadron
No. 22 Squadron RAF
No. 22 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the Sea King HAR.3 and HAR.3A at three stations in the southern United Kingdom. The squadron was originally formed in 1915 as an aerial reconnaissance unit of the Royal Flying Corps serving on the Western Front during First World War...

 and 202 Squadron
No. 202 Squadron RAF
No. 202 Squadron of the Royal Air Force presently operates the Sea King HAR.3 in the Search and rescue role at three stations in the northern half of the United Kingdom. It was originally formed as one of the first aeroplane squadrons of the RNAS before it became part of the RAF.-Formation and...

 with the Sea King HAR.3/HAR3A
Westland Sea King
The Westland WS-61 Sea King is a British licence-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter of the same name, built by Westland Helicopters. The aircraft differs considerably from the American version, with Rolls-Royce Gnome engines , British made anti-submarine warfare systems and a...

 in the UK and 84 Squadron
No. 84 Squadron RAF
No. 84 Squadron of the Royal Air Force is at present a Search and Rescue Squadron based at RAF Akrotiri, it uses the Bell Griffin HAR.2 helicopter. It is currently part of the RAF's Search and Rescue Force-History:...

 with the Griffin HAR2
Bell 412
The Bell 412 is a utility helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter. It is a development of the Bell 212 model, the major difference being the composite four-blade main rotor.-Design and development:...

 in Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

.

Although established with a primary role of military search and rescue, most of their operational missions are spent in their secondary role of conducting civil search and rescue; that is, the rescue of civilians from the sea, on mountainsides and other locations.

Both rescue roles are shared with the Sea King helicopters of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

, while the civil search and rescue role is also shared with the helicopters of HM Coastguard
Her Majesty's Coastguard
Her Majesty's Coastguard is the service of the government of the United Kingdom concerned with co-ordinating air-sea rescue.HM Coastguard is a section of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency responsible for the initiation and co-ordination of all civilian maritime Search and Rescue within the UK...

.

The Operational Conversion Unit
Operational Conversion Unit
An Operational Conversion Unit is a unit within an air force whose role is to support preparation for the operational missions of a specific aircraft type by providing trained personnel. OCUs teach pilots how to fly an aircraft and which tactics best exploit the performance of their aircraft and...

 is 203 Squadron
No. 203 Squadron RAF
No. 203 Squadron RAF was originally formed as No. 3 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service. It was renumbered No. 203 when the Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April 1918.-First World War:...

 RAF based at RAF Valley
RAF Valley
RAF Valley is a Royal Air Force station on the island of Anglesey, Wales, and which is also used as Anglesey Airport. It provides fast-jet training using the BAE Hawk and provides training for aircrew working with Search and Rescue. Unofficially the motto for RAF Valley is 'One Valley, Training...

 equipped with the Sea King HAR3.

The related Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service
Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service (United Kingdom)
The Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service provides land rescue over the mountain areas of the United Kingdom. Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Teams were first organised during World War II to rescue aircrew from the large number of aircraft crashes then occurring on high ground...

 comprises four teams of trained mountaineers stationed in the mainland United Kingdom, first established in 1943.

Training aircraft


Elementary flying training is conducted on the Tutor T1. The Tutor is also used, along with the Viking T1 and Vigilant T1 gliders, to provide air experience training for air cadets
Air Cadet Organisation
The Air Cadet Organisation is the collective name for the UK cadet forces sponsored by the Royal Air Force. The organisation is subordinate to No. 22 Group RAF, with a serving RAF officer as Commandant Air Cadets. The current Commandant is Air Commodore Barbara Cooper CBE...

 and elementary flying training for trainee RAF pilots.

Basic pilot training for fixed-wing and helicopter pilots is provided on the Tucano T1
Short Tucano
|-See also:-External links:*...

 and Squirrel HT1. Weapon systems officer and weapon systems operator training was conducted in the Dominie T1
British Aerospace BAe 125
The British Aerospace 125 is a twin-engined mid-size corporate jet, with newer variants now marketed as the Hawker 800. It was known as the Hawker Siddeley HS.125 until 1977...

 until the decommissioning of the last six Dominie T1 in January 2011.

Advanced flying training for fast-jet, helicopter and multi-engine pilots is provided using the Hawk T1
BAE Hawk
The BAE Systems Hawk is a British single-engine, advanced jet trainer aircraft. It first flew in 1974 as the Hawker Siddeley Hawk. The Hawk is used by the Royal Air Force, and other air forces, as either a trainer or a low-cost combat aircraft...

, Griffin HT1
Bell 412
The Bell 412 is a utility helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter. It is a development of the Bell 212 model, the major difference being the composite four-blade main rotor.-Design and development:...

 and B200 King Air
Beechcraft Super King Air
The Beechcraft Super King Air family is part of a line of twin-turboprop aircraft produced by the Beech Aircraft Corporation . The King Air line comprises a number of model series that fall into two families: the Model 90 series, Model 100 series , Model 200 series and Model 300 series...

 respectively. At the more advanced stage in training, variants of front-line aircraft have been adapted for operational conversion of trained pilots; these include the Harrier T10 and Typhoon T1.

Future aircraft


, the RAF is planning for the introduction of the following new aircraft:

The Airbus A400M
Airbus A400M
The Airbus A400M, also known as the Atlas, is a multi-national four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. It was designed by Airbus Military as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities. The aircraft's maiden flight, originally planned for 2008, took place on 11 December 2009 in...

, of which 22 are to be used to replace the remaining Hercules C1/C3 (C-130K) transport aircraft. Originally, 25 aircraft were ordered, and the A400M will be known as the Atlas in RAF service.

The ageing aerial refuelling fleet of VC10s and TriStars will be replaced with the Airbus A330 MRTT under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft
Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft
Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft is a British project to procure aerial refuelling and air transport for the Royal Air Force to replace VC10 and Lockheed TriStars then in service. After evaluation of bids the RAF selected the AirTanker consortium who had offered the Airbus A330 MRTT. AirTanker...

 programme.

The F-35C Lightning II
F-35 Lightning II
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, fifth generation multirole fighters under development to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability...

 will enter service around 2020 under the Joint Combat Aircraft
Joint Combat Aircraft
The Joint Combat Aircraft is the official designation of the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence used for the F-35 Lightning II, formerly the Joint Strike Fighter, and the result of the Joint Strike Fighter Program.-Programme history:...

 programme. Prior to the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review
Strategic Defence and Security Review
The Strategic Defence and Security Review was announced by the newly formed Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of the United Kingdom in May 2010, and published on 19 October 2010...

, the STOVL
STOVL
STOVL is an acronym for short take off and vertical landing.This is the ability of some aircraft to take off from a short runway or take off vertically if it does not have a very heavy payload and land vertically...

 F-35B variant had been intended to directly replace the Harrier GR9. The F-35C CATOBAR
CATOBAR
CATOBAR is a system used for the launch and recovery of aircraft from the deck of an aircraft carrier...

 variant can be used on both land and aircraft carriers. However, it lacks the STOVL capability of the F-35B. It has more range and will be less expensive to maintain.

Project Taranis
BAE Taranis
The BAE Systems Taranis is a British demonstrator program for Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle technology. A semi-autonomous unmanned warplane, it is designed to fly intercontinental missions, and will carry a variety of weapons, enabling it to attack both aerial and ground targets...

 is a technology demonstrator programme, possibly leading to a future Strategic Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) for both ground attack and reconnaissance roles.
The BAE Mantis
BAE Mantis
-External links:...

 is another UCAV under development, with an autonomous capability, allowing it to fly itself through an entire mission. This is a potential candidate to fulfil a requirement for an ISTAR
ISTAR
ISTAR stands for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance. In its macroscopic sense, ISTAR is a practice that links several battlefield functions together to assist a combat force in employing its sensors and managing the information they gather.Information is collected on...

 UAV to enter service after 2015 as part of the RAF's Scavenger programme.

The Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint, of which three have been ordered to replace the Nimrod R1 fleet (retired in 2011) in the signals intelligence role by 2014. Until the aircraft are delivered, the RAF will share signals aircraft of the US Air Force. The aircraft will be Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker tankers converted to RC-135W standard in the most complex combined Foreign Military Sales case and co-operative support arrangement that the UK has undertaken with the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 since the Second World War. In RAF service, they will be known as the Airseeker.

Symbols, flags, emblems and uniform




Following the tradition of the other British fighting services, the RAF has adopted symbols to represent it, act as a rallying point for its members and encourage esprit de corps.

The RAF Ensign
Royal Air Force Ensign
The Royal Air Force Ensign is the official flag which is used to represent the Royal Air Force. The Ensign has a field of air force blue with the Union Flag in the canton and the Royal Air Force roundel in the middle of the fly....

 is flown from the flagstaff on every RAF station during daylight hours. The design was approved by King George V in 1921, after much opposition from the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

, who have the right to approve or veto any flag flown ashore or on board ship.

British aircraft in the early stages of the First World War carried the Union Flag
Union Flag
The Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack, is the flag of the United Kingdom. It retains an official or semi-official status in some Commonwealth Realms; for example, it is known as the Royal Union Flag in Canada. It is also used as an official flag in some of the smaller British overseas...

 as an identifying feature, however this was easy to confuse with Germany's Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

 motif. Therefore in October 1914 the French system of three concentric rings was adopted, with the colours reversed to a red disc surrounded by a white ring and an outer blue ring. The relative sizes of the rings have changed over the years and during World War II an outer yellow ring was added. Aircraft serving in the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

 during World War II had the red disc removed to prevent confusion with Japanese aircraft. Since the 1970s, camouflaged aircraft carry low-visibility roundels, either red and blue on dark camouflage, or washed-out pink and light blue on light colours. Most uncamouflaged training and transport aircraft retain the traditional red-white-blue roundel.

The Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 motto of the RAF, "Per Ardua ad Astra
Per ardua ad astra
Per ardua ad astra is the motto of the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces such as the RAAF, RCAF, and RNZAF. It dates from 1912 and was used by the newly formed Royal Flying Corps.-Origin:The first Commanding Officer of the Royal Flying Corps was Colonel Frederick Sykes...

", is usually translated as "Through Adversity to the Stars", but the RAF's official translation is "Through Struggle to the Stars". The choice of motto is attributed to a junior officer named J S Yule, in response to a request from a commander of the RFC
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

, Colonel Sykes
Frederick Sykes
Air Vice-Marshal The Right Honourable Sir Frederick Hugh Sykes GCSI, GCIE, GBE, KCB, CMG was a military officer, British statesman and politician....

, for suggestions. The RAF inherited the motto from the RFC.

The Badge of the Royal Air Force
Badge of the Royal Air Force
The badge of the Royal Air Force is the heraldic emblem used to represent the RAF which features an eagle superimposed on a circlet which is surmounted by a crown....

 was first used in August 1918. In heraldic
Heraldry
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...

 terms it is: "In front of a circle inscribed with the motto Per Ardua Ad Astra and ensigned by the Imperial Crown an eagle volant and affronte Head lowered and to the sinister." Although there have been debates among airmen over the years whether the bird was originally meant to be an albatross or an eagle, the consensus is that it was always an eagle.

In 2006 the RAF adopted a logotype featuring a roundel and the Service's unabbreviated name (shown at the top of this article). The logotype is used on all correspondence and publicity material and aims to provide the Service with a single, universally recognizable brand identity.

Overseas deployments

" style="text-align:center"
|- "
!Country!!Dates!!Deployment!!Details
|- style="background:#efefef; color:black"
| Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 || 1940s– || RAF Gibraltar
RAF Gibraltar
Royal Air Force Station Gibraltar, better known as RAF Gibraltar and formally as North Front, is a Royal Air Force station on Gibraltar. No military aircraft are currently stationed there, but there are regular visits...

 || No permanently stationed aircraft. RAF aircraft, e.g. Hercules transports, make regular visits.
|- style="background:#efefef; color:black"
| Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 || 1940s– || RAF Unit Goose Bay, Canada || RAF aircraft train in low-level tactical flying at CFB Goose Bay
CFB Goose Bay
Canadian Forces Base Goose Bay , is a Canadian Forces Base located in the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador....

, a NATO air force base of the Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
The history of the Royal Canadian Air Force begins in 1920, when the air force was created as the Canadian Air Force . In 1924 the CAF was renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force and granted royal sanction by King George V. The RCAF existed as an independent service until 1968...

.
|-
| Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

/Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 || 1940– || RAF Akrotiri
RAF Akrotiri
Royal Air Force Station Akrotiri, more commonly known as RAF Akrotiri , is a large Royal Air Force station, on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. It is located in the Western Sovereign Base Area, one of two areas which comprise Akrotiri and Dhekelia, a British Overseas Territory, administered as a...


RAF Nicosia
RAF Nicosia
The former Royal Air Force Station Nicosia, commonly known as RAF Nicosia, was a Royal Air Force airbase in Cyprus. RAF Nicosia was Headquarters Royal Air Force Cyprus from 8 June to 29 July 1941...


RAF Luqa
RAF Luqa
Royal Air Force Luqa was a flying station and location of RAF Mediterranean Command headquarters of the Royal Air Force on the island of Malta during World War II...

 || Operation Musketeer
Operation Musketeer (1956)
Operation Musketeer was the Anglo-French-Israeli plan for the invasion of Egypt to capture the Suez Canal during the Suez Crisis. Israel had the additional objective to open the Straits of Tiran.-The operation:...

 also known as the Suez crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 involved RAF aircraft based on Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 and Cyprus. Although no RAF bases remain on Malta, RAF aircraft continue to be stationed at RAF Akrotiri
RAF Akrotiri
Royal Air Force Station Akrotiri, more commonly known as RAF Akrotiri , is a large Royal Air Force station, on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. It is located in the Western Sovereign Base Area, one of two areas which comprise Akrotiri and Dhekelia, a British Overseas Territory, administered as a...

 on Cyprus.
|- style="background:#efefef; color:black"
| Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 || 1960s– || Bardufoss Air Station
Bardufoss Air Station
Bardufoss Air Station is located in the municipality of Målselv in Troms county in Northern Norway. It is the location for the 139th Air Wing and two helicopter squadrons; the 337 Squadron operating Lynx MK 86 for the Norwegian Coast Guard and the 339 Squadron equipped with Bell 412SPs...

 || RAF fighter and/or helicopter squadrons undergo winter-training here most years.
|-
| Ascension Island
Ascension Island
Ascension Island is an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, around from the coast of Africa and from the coast of South America, which is roughly midway between the horn of South America and Africa...

 || 1982– || RAF Ascension Island
||Used as an air bridge between the UK and the Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

. United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 personnel also stationed at this base.
|- style="background:#efefef; color:black"
| Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago consists of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland...

 || 1982– || RAF Stanley
RAF Mount Pleasant
RAF Mount Pleasant
RAF Mount Pleasant is a military base for the Royal Air Force in the British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands. The facility is part of the British Forces South Atlantic Islands...

 || After initial use of the Airport at Stanley, the airbase/airport at Mount Pleasant was built to allow a fighter and transport facility on the islands, and to strengthen the defence capacity of BFFI (British Forces Falkland Islands). BFFI now replaced by BFSAI (British Forces South Atlantic Islands).
|-
| Bosnia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina , sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina or simply Bosnia, is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for the...

 || 1995– || Various helicopters || RAF enforced no-fly zones over the Balkans in the late 1990s and participated in the NATO interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo. RAF helicopters until recently remained to provide support to the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

.
|- style="background:#efefef; color:black"
| Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 || 2001– || Operation Veritas
Operation Veritas
Operation Veritas was the codename used for British military operations against the Taliban government of Afghanistan in 2001. British forces played a supporting role to the American Operation Enduring Freedom. In addition, the British contribution was an important part of the overall forces deployed...


Operation Herrick
Operation Herrick
Operation Herrick is the codename under which all British operations in the war in Afghanistan have been conducted since 2002. It consists of the British contribution to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and support to the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom...

 || Chinooks provided airlift support to coalition forces. Additionally Merlin helicopters began tasking in late 2009 following the end of Operation Telic
Operation Telic
Operation TELIC was the codename under which all British military operations in Iraq were conducted between the start of the Invasion of Iraq on 19 March 2003 and the withdrawal of the last remaining British forces on 22 May 2011...

 (Iraq). Since late 2004 six BAe Harriers provided reconnaissance and close air support to the ISAF
International Security Assistance Force
The International Security Assistance Force is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council on 20 December 2001 by Resolution 1386 as envisaged by the Bonn Agreement...

. The Harriers were replaced by an equivalent force of Tornado GR4
Panavia Tornado
The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy...

 in mid 2009. In August 2010, the Tornado force was uplifted to 10 aircraft. Other support units are deployed to Muscat International Airport in Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

, and air bases in the UAE and the Kingdom of Bahrain
Bahrain
' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

.
|-
| Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

 || 2008– || Kenya Air Force
Kenya Air Force
The Kenya Air Force is the national Air Force of Kenya.The main airbase operating fighters is Laikipia Air Base in Nanyuki, while Moi Air Base in Eastleigh, Nairobi is the HQ & operations Kenya Air Force. Other bases include FOB Mombasa The Kenya Air Force (KAF) is the national Air Force of...

 Laikipia Air Base || Semi permanent detachment involving helicopters giving support to the British Army
|-
| United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 || 2009– || Creech AFB, Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

 ||Operation of MQ-9 Reaper
MQ-9 Reaper
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle , capable of remote controlled or autonomous flight operations, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for use by the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, the CIA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Royal...

 UAVs by No. 39 Squadron RAF
No. 39 Squadron RAF
No. 39 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operates the MQ-9 Reaper since 2007, operating from Creech AFB, Nevada, USA.-World War I:39 Squadron was founded at Hounslow Heath Aerodrome in April 1916 with B.E.2s and Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.12s in an attempt to defend against German Zeppelin raids on...

.
|- style="background:#efefef; color:black"
| Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 || 2011– || Operation Ellamy
Operation Ellamy
Operation Ellamy was the codename for the United Kingdom participation in the 2011 military intervention in Libya. The operation was part of an international coalition aimed at enforcing a Libyan no-fly zone in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 which stipulated...

 ||Enforcement of no fly zone in Libya according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, on the situation in Libya, is a measure that was adopted on 17 March 2011. The Security Council resolution was proposed by France, Lebanon, and the United Kingdom....

.
|}

See also


  • Air Training Corps
    Air Training Corps
    The Air Training Corps , commonly known as the Air Cadets, is a cadet organisation based in the United Kingdom. It is a voluntary youth group which is part of the Air Cadet Organisation and the Royal Air Force . It is supported by the Ministry of Defence, with a regular RAF Officer, currently Air...

     (Air Cadets)
  • List of active United Kingdom military aircraft
  • List of RAF stations
  • History of the Royal Air Force
    History of the Royal Air Force
    The history of the Royal Air Force, the air force of the United Kingdom, spans nearly a century of British military aviation.The RAF was founded in 1918, toward the end of World War I by merging the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. After the war, the RAF was greatly reduced in...

  • RAF News
    RAF News
    The RAF News is the tabloid newspaper of the Royal Air Force.Published every fortnight, the paper brings the latest news, features on topical issues and life in the service, developments in military aviation and air power, reviews of significant events and changing times during the history of the RAF...

  • List of military aircraft operational during World War II

External links





Video clips