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PostSubject: The Royal Air Force   22nd April 2008, 9:37 am

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the flying branch of the British Armed Forces. The RAF was formed on 1 April 1918 and has since taken a significant role in British military history since then, playing a large part in World War II and in conflicts such as the war in Iraq. At present the RAF has 998 aircraft and, as of 2007, 45,710 regular personnel.
The RAF's mission is to "Produce a battle-winning agile air force: fit for the challenges of today; ready for the tasks of tomorrow; capable of building for the future; working within Defence to achieve shared purpose." This is to support the objectives of the UK's Ministry of Defence (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."

Military aviation in Britain began in 1878 when the Royal Engineers formed a Balloon unit. However, it was not until 1907 that a powered army airship became operational. The first Air Battalion was established in 1911. At first progress was slow and by 1912 the Air Battalion only had eleven qualified pilots compared to 263 in the French Army Air Service.
Great Britain founded the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in May 1912. It was decided that initially the BE-2 would be the main fighter plane. By the end of 1912 the RFC had one squadron of airships and three of aircraft. Each squadron had twelve machines.
At the beginning of the war the RFC mainly used the BE-2, Farman MF-7, Avro 504, Vickers FB5, Bristol Scout, and the F.E.2. By May 1915, the Royal Flying Corps had 166 aircraft. Therefore the vast majority of the operations on the Western Front was carried out by the Aéronautique Militaire, which had 1,150 aircraft available.
In August 1915 Hugh Trenchard became the new RFC field commander. Trenchard took a much more aggressive approach and insisted on non-stop offensive patrols over enemy lines. British casualties were high, and by 1916, an average of two aircrew crew were lost every day. It became even worse the following year, and in the spring of 1917 the RFC were losing nearly fifty aircraft a week.
By the time the Battle of the Somme started in July 1916 the RFC had a total strength of twenty-seven squadrons (421 aircraft), with four kite-balloon squadrons and fourteen balloons. The squadrons were organised into four brigades, each of which worked with one of the British armies.
It was only with the arrival of improved fighter planes such as the Bristol Fighter, Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Camel, S.E.5 and Airco DH-2 that losses began to decline. Britain also developed new bombers such as the Handley Page and Airco DH-4. By the end of 1917 the British has established their superiority over the German airforce.
General Hugh Trenchard, the RFC field commander in France, was a strong supporter of strategic bombing. Eventually, in January 1918, Trenchard was appointed chief of staff to the Royal Air Force with the promise of being able to create a mass bombing fleet of aircraft. By the end of the war the RAF operated 4,000 combat aircraft and employed 114,000 people.

April 1, 1918 British Royal Air Force is founded
On April 1, 1918, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed as an amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The RAF took its place beside the British navy and army as a separate military service with its own ministry.
In April 1911, eight years after the American brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first-ever flight of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft, an air battalion of the British army's Royal Engineers was formed at Larkhill in Wiltshire. The battalion consisted of aircraft, airship, balloon and man-carrying kite companies. In December 1911, the British navy formed the Royal Naval Flying School at Eastchurch, Kent. The following May, both were absorbed into the newly created Royal Flying Corps, which established a new flying school at Upavon, Wiltshire, and formed new airplane squadrons. In July 1914 the specialized requirements of the navy led to the creation of RNAS.
Barely more than a month later, on August 4, Britain declared war on Germany and entered World War I. At the time, the RFC had 84 aircraft, while the RNAS had 71 aircraft and seven airships. Later that month, four RFC squadrons were deployed to France to support the British Expeditionary Force. During the next two years, Germany took the lead in air strategy with technologies like the zeppelin airship and the manual machine gun. England’s towns and cities subsequently underwent damaging bombing raids and its pilots were defeated in the skies by German flying aces such as Manfred von Richthofen, dubbed “The Red Baron.”
Repeated German air raids led British military planners to push for the creation of a separate air ministry, which would carry out strategic bombing against Germany. On April 1, 1918, as a result of these efforts, the RAF was formed, along with a female branch of the service, the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF).
By the war's end in November 1918, the RAF had dropped 5,500 tons of bombs and claimed 2,953 enemy aircraft destroyed, gaining clear air superiority along the Western Front and contributing to the Allied victory over Germany and the other Central Powers. It had also become the largest air force in the world at the time, with some 300,000 officers and airmen—plus 25,000 members of the WRAF—and more than 22,000 aircraft

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PostSubject: Battle of Britain   22nd April 2008, 10:05 am

Background to the Battle of Britain

The Second World War began on 1 September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland, and Britain and France delcared war as a result. A new type of combined operations tactics which the Germans called Blitzkrieg were used where tanks, troops and aeroplanes attacked together and smashed through any traditional defences. Using this method, Poland was captured in just 28 days, despite heroic, often sucicidal defence of their homeland by the Polish armed forces. After this, the British and French Governments, among others, tried a number of political solutions to prevent the spread of war, all the while reinforcing positions in Northern France with land and air forces from Britain. Known as the Allied Expeditionary Force and Advanced Air Striking Force respectively, these forces moved into position, and waited. This period was know as the 'Sitzkrieg' or 'Phoney War' as the armies stared at one another across the German / French border, and the air forces flew standing patrols and reconnaissance missions, probing for weaknesses. On 9 April 1940, the peace was shattered as the same 'Blitzkrieg' tactics were used against Denmark and Norway. A British Force was sent to help the Norwegians, but the Allied Forces were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed. Worse was to come.
On 10 May 1940, Germany attacked Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and France. Twelve fighter squadrons of Royal Air Force were based in France, the only truly modern fighter forces available to the Allies. These Hurricane Squadrons were to support the army, and the Fairey Battle and Bristol Blenheim bomber units which were based in France and operating from Britain. The bomber Squadrons, particularly the Battles, were slaughtered by the German anti-aircraft and fighter units in their attempts to slow the German advance by attacking transport focii, such as bridges. The Hurricanes did their best to protect the bombers and fly their quota of patrols and reconnaissances. However, it was not enough, and when it became clear that the Allies could not stop the Germans, all but three of the Squadrons were called back across the Channel.
The German advance pushed the Allied armies to the sea to a French port called Dunkirk. During what some people called a miracle, 800 small boats managed to lift most of the men off the beaches and back to England. The RAF were successful in keeping the majority of German bombers and fighters away, shooting down 150 aircraft. However, they lost 100 precious fighters and 80 irreplaceable pilots.
By 18 June, all British forces had withdrawn from France. Both the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and the RAF had lost many aircraft and trained crews during this campaign. Several weeks passed while the Luftwaffe replaced their losses and took over airfields in the countries they had captured. In Britain the time was spent putting as many new fighters and trained pilots into service as possible, to guard against the attack everyone knew was coming. The lull as the German forces consolidated their position was vital to the British armed forces, as it allowed them to prepare. By the beginning of July 1940, the RAF had built up its strength to 640 fighters, but the Luftwaffe had 2600 bombers and fighters. The stage was set. In the skies above South East England, the future of Britain was about to be decided. As the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill put it; "What General Weygrand called the Battle of France is over, the Battle of Britain was about to begin".

The Battle

In order to invade Britain, the Germans had to have control in the air over the English Channel, otherwise the RAF and the Royal Navy would have been able to destroy their invasion force before it reached the shore. It has been postulated by many naval experts that due to the type of flat-bottomed barge built by the Germans, simply running a Destroyer Squadron at full speed through their ranks would have caused many to capsize in the wake from the ships. The troops and their equipment would have suffered heavy casualties, and the invasion effectively stopped with little or no gunfire. The Luftwaffe's command of the air was therefore vital to any plan for an invasion fleet to successfully cross the Channel, to prevent British sea or air forces from interfering with the operation.
Interestingly, the German Navy, Army and Air Force each had their own plans and ideas as to how and where the invasion should be launched. There seems to have been little co-operation between the German armed forces, and despite the impressive build up of barges and other equipment in the Channel ports, the actual detailed planning for the operation, code-named "Sea Lion", was never really thrashed out. All depended on the success of the Luftwaffe it would appear, before the invasion was to be taken seriously.
Starting on 10 July 1940, the Luftwaffe attacked shipping convoys in the Channel and Channel Ports. They also suspected the importance of the British radar masts and attacked the stations on the South coast, damaging some of them very badly.
One of the aircraft types used in these raids was the Junkers Ju87 'Stuka' dive-bomber. These were very accurate, and had been particularly successful earlier in the war when there was no effective fighter opposition. But when dive-bombing, they were very vulnerable to attacks against them and the Hurricanes and Spitfires of Fighter Command found them easy prey. Because of their heavy losses, they were withdrawn from the battle in mid-August.
In this stage of the battle, the Luftwaffe was in effect probing the British defences - looking for weaknesses before a major assault could be launched to exploit them.
At the beginning of August, with German invasion forces and troop barges being assembled on the French coast, the raids against the South coast of England were increased in size and number.
Believing that the British early warning system had been destroyed and the coastal towns sufficiently 'softened up' for an invasion, the Luftwaffe began the next stage of their plan.
On 13 August (called Adlertag or Eagle Day by the German High Command), massive raids began on the airfields of 11 Group. The aim was to destroy the RAF, either in the air or on the ground, in South East England. To put pressure on the British defences, the Germans sent high and low level raids to different targets at the same time.
Sometimes low level raids sneaked past the battered but still working radar stations, and the first warning the British fighter pilots had was bombs landing on their airfield. Particularly good in the low-level role was the Dornier Do 17 and its derivatives, several of their raids succeeded in achieving complete surprise and escaping any form of interception.
This pattern continued into September and the situation in 11 Group became desperate. Small civilian airfields were used in the emergency, as many RAF stations became badly damaged. The Spitfire and Hurricane could easily take off from grass fields, but the maintenance and spares supply situation became dangerously stretched. Ground crews working in the open suffered heavy casualties from the raids, and many manitenance facilities were destroyed in the bombing. Despite this, the crews kept the fighters as combat ready as possible, winning the Battle on the ground as the pilots were in the air.
Suggestions were made that the fighters should be pulled back north of the Thames, but Dowding and Park knew that this was exactly what the Germans wanted, effectively giving them air superiority over the intended invasion area. So the 11 Group squadrons stayed and fought for their lives.
To keep up the pressure, the Germans began night raids, to stop the defenders repairing damage overnight. On one night raid, some aircraft bombed civilian areas of London by mistake; a mistake which was to become a crucial turning point in the Battle. Attacks on civilian centers were something which had been specifically banned by Hitler, who was still hoping at this time that the hoplessness of the situation would cause the British to sue for a negotiated peace. The German High Command knew that widespread civilian casualties would only harden the resolve of the nation to fight on. In reply to this accidental attack, the British bombed Berlin. Fears grew that cities would be raided more often, so children were evacuated again in a second mass exodus to places of safety in the country, as they had been during the Phoney War of 1939.
However, just when it seemed that the country and 11 Group in particular couldn't continue for another day, the Germans changed their tactics.
Hitler was enraged by the attack on Berlin and because it seemed that the attacks on airfields were not destroying enough RAF fighters, he ordered a change of targets. By attacking cities and industry, the Germans hoped to break British morale and to destroy the factories that built fighter aircraft. They also hoped that RAF fighters would gather in force round the cities to protect them, which would make it easier for the Luftwaffe to shoot them down in the numbers required to establish air superiority.
The change of plan was a mistake for a number of reasons. It gave 11 Group a chance to repair their airfields and radar sites, so the defences became fully operational again. The German Me 109 fighter could only carry enough fuel for 20 minutes flight over Britain, so London was on the edge of its limited range. Finally, the German raids now came within the range of 12 Group, and their large formation tactics known as "Big Wings".
Much has been written about the different tactics employed by Nos 11 and 12 Groups and their commanders, and the supposed disagreements these differences caused. Suffice to say that 11 Group's fast response tactics with whatever was available, meeting the enemy formations as far from their targets as possible, was best suited to their geographical proximity to the German bases. 11 Group Squadrons simply did not have the time to assemble, they had to get airborne and climb to height as quickly as possible or miss intercepting the raid altogether. 12 Group, being further north had somewhat more time for a large formation of fighters to assemble and climb to meet the oncoming attacks, tactics that suited their circumstances. Dowding, as befits a true leader, allowed his Group commanders to run their organisations as they saw fit, the detail work being done a Group level while he dealt with the overall picture. The life of an 11 Group pilot was made more difficult by these operating methods, but Park understood the true situation of his command, and employed his Squadrons with brilliant effectiveness. In the light of the outcome of the Battle, and the fact that for many days he had the fate of a nation resting on his shoulders alone, Park must be considered as the architect of the RAF's victory.
Knowing the target to be London and the industrial centers, the British controllers now had time to assemble a large number of fighters to attack the German formations and break them up before they could bomb. The appearance of large numbers of Hurricanes and Spitfires came as something as a shock to the Luftwaffe pilots, who had been told by their intelligence officers that Fighter Command had practically been wiped out by the earlier raids against the airfields. By changing tactics and targets, the Germans had actually helped Fighter Command to deal with raids.
For the people living in the cities, the Blitz had begun, as night raids followed daytime raids and gave the civilians little rest. Everybody was in the front line, and there was little the RAF could do to stop the night raids. Airborne radar was in its infancy, but there were some successes for the Blenheim, Defiant and early Beaufighter night-fighter Squadrons. Some of the Hurricane and Spitfire day-fighter Squadrons also took part in the night defences, but relied largely on luck to make an interception.
As the long, hot summer ran into October, the German daylight bomber losses became too heavy. Their bomber force started to operate only at night, and the damage they caused to Britain's cities was enormous. Many civilian organisations were set up to help deal with the wounded people and damaged buildings.
The German raids continued, but the RAF had started to develop night fighters equipped with radar which could tackle the problem. The first AI (Airborne Intercept) radar sets were being fitted to Blenheim, Defiant and Beaufighter aircraft, and proved increasingly effective as the equipment developed and operational experience increased.
During the day, German fighters, mostly Me 109s but occasionally Me 110s, were sent over carrying bombs in small and large scale Jagd-bomber or "Jabo" raids. Largely these nuisance raiders were aimed at engaging the RAF fighters and disrupting defensive operations over the South-East. Defenders, tired from the night attacks, were stretched still further by these raids. They flew fast and high and were difficult to intercept. The radar warning was not long enough to allow a Spitfire to climb to this height from the ground, so the RAF had regular patrols between 15,000 and 20,000 feet. This was a costly and inefficient use of the aircraft and pilots, exactly the situation the control system had helped to avoid during the earlier phases of the Battle, but German losses began to increase. The weather also began to worsen and the raids stopped in late October.
The Germans then realised that the RAF could not be defeated in 1940. Germany was also preparing to attack Russia, so Operation Sea-Lion was cancelled indeffinitely and eventually abandoned altogether. The Battle of Britain was over. Strangely, for such a ground breaking Battle, the first to be decided purely in the air and the first real test of air power as a defensive and offensive weapon, it did not really end, so much as petered out

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PostSubject: Nuclear Winter   22nd April 2008, 10:35 am

Post War to Present;

During the Cold War years the main role of the RAF was the defence of the continent of Europe against potential attack by the Soviet Union, including holding the UK's nuclear deterrent for a number of years.

The Cold War
A potential Nuclear Winter saw the development of Nuclear weapons and delivery systems from Artillery to Missiles and Submarines to Bombers.
The Royal Air Force’s choice of aircraft was the V Bombers so called because all there names started with a “V” the Vickers Valiant (first flew 1951), Handley Page Victor (first flew 1952) and Avro Vulcan (first flew 1952). The V-Bomber force reached its peak in June 1964, with 50 Valiants, 39 Victors and 70 Vulcans in service.
V bomber’s were used by the RAF from the1950s to 1960s andcomprised the backbone of the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force.

Early development
RAF Bomber Command ended World War II with a policy of using heavy four-piston-engined bombers for massed raids, and remained committed to this policy in the immediate postwar period, adopting the Avro Lincoln, an updated version of the WW2 Lancaster, as their standard bomber.
The development of jet aircraft and nuclear weapons soon made this policy obsolete. The future appeared to belong to jet bombers that could fly at high altitude and speed, without defensive armament, to perform a nuclear strike on a target. Even at the time there were those who could see that guided missiles would eventually make such aircraft vulnerable, but development of such missiles was proving difficult, and fast and high-flying bombers were likely to serve for years before there was a need for something better.
Massed bombers were unnecessary if a single bomber could destroy an entire city or military installation with a nuclear weapon. It would have to be a large bomber, since the first generation of nuclear weapons were big and heavy. Such a large and advanced bomber would be expensive on a unit basis, but would also be produced in much smaller quantities.
The arrival of the Cold War also emphasised to British military planners the need to modernise UK forces. Furthermore, the United Kingdom's up-and-down relationship with the U.S., particularly in the immediate postwar years when American isolationism made a short-lived comeback, led the UK to decide on the need for its own strategic nuclear strike force.
After considering various specifications for such an advanced jet bomber in late 1946, the Air Ministry issued a request in January 1947 for an advanced jet bomber that would be at least the equal of anything the US or the USSR had. The request followed the guidelines of the earlier Specification B.35/46, which proposed a "medium-range bomber landplane, capable of carrying one 10,000 pound (4,535 kg) bomb to a target 1,500 nautical miles (2,775 km) from a base which may be anywhere in the world."
The RAF's then-current jet bomber the English Electric Canberra could only have reached the Soviet border and had a capacity of 6,000 lb (2720 kg).

The request also indicated that the fully loaded weight should not exceed 100,000 pounds (45,400 kg), though this would be adjusted upward in practice; that the bomber have a cruise speed of 500 knots (925 km/h); and that it have a service ceiling of 50,000 feet (15,200 m).
The request went to most of the United Kingdom's major aircraft manufacturers. Handley Page and Avro came up with very advanced designs for the bomber competition, which would become the Victor and the Vulcan respectively, and the Air Staff decided to award contracts to both companies, as a form of insurance. While the Vickers-Armstrong submission had been rejected as too conservative, Vickers lobbied the Air Ministry and made changes to meet their concerns, and managed to sell the Vickers Valiant design on the basis that it would be available much sooner than the competition, and would be useful as a "stopgap" until the more advanced bombers were available.

At the same time the Air Ministry accepted a proposal from Short Brothers for a lesser specification that would be produced as the SA4 "Sperrin" if none of the other designs came to fruition.

In service
The Valiant entered service in 1955, the Vulcan in 1956 and the Victor in 1957. Despite the technical obstacles of the British nuclear arm, the V-Bombers still constituted an effective military force. A white paper produced by the Royal Air Force for the British government in 1961 claimed that the RAF's nuclear force was capable of destroying key Soviet cities such as Moscow and Kiev before bomber aircraft from the United States' Strategic Air Command reached their targets. Throughout the early stages of the Cold War, NATO relied on the Royal Air Force to threaten key cities in European Russia. The RAF concluded that the V-Bomber force was capable of killing eight million Soviet citizens and wounding another eight million before American bombers reached their targets.
All of the V-bombers would see active service at least once albeit with conventional bombs; the Valiant in the Suez Crisis in 1956, the Victors in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation of 1963-63, and the Vulcan in the Falklands War long after the strategic nuclear role had been passed over to the Royal Navy. The Valiant was the only one to drop a nuclear device; as part of British tests.

The development of effective anti-aircraft missiles made the deterrent threat increasingly threadbare. After the failed Blue Streak missile program and the cancellation of the American Skybolt and the Mk. 2 version of the British Blue Steel missile already in service, the long-serving Vulcans were displaced in the 1960s, in the strategic role, by the Polaris missile designed to be launched from nuclear submarines.
The Valiant was removed from service as a nuclear bomber first; taking on roles as a tanker, low level attack and photo-reconnaissance. Fatigue problems meant they were removed from service completely by 1965.
In addition to the roles they were designed for, all three V-Bombers served as air-to-air refuelling tankers at one time or another; the Valiant was the RAF's first large scale tanker. As a means of replacing the loss of the Valiant, Victor B.1s were converted into the AAR role. When the Victor was withdrawn from service as a bomber, a number of B.2s were then converted into tankers. Finally, due to delays in the entry into service of the Lockheed Tristar, six Vulcan B.2s were converted into tankers, and served from 1982 to 1984 including refueling to and from the Falkland Islands during the conflict between Argentina and the UK.
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PostSubject: Make up of the RAF   22nd April 2008, 10:50 am

The professional head of the RAF is the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), currently Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy. The CAS heads the Air Force Board, which is a committee of the Defence Council. The Air Force Board (AFB) is the management board of the RAF and consists of the Commander-in-Chief of RAF Air Command, together with several other high ranking officers. The CAS also has a deputy known as the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (ACAS); currently this post is held by Air Vice-Marshal Chris Moran.

Authority is delegated from the AFB to the RAF's commands. While there were once individual commands responsible for bombers, fighters, training, etc, only one command now exists:
Air Command — HQ at RAF High Wycombe — responsible for the operation of all of the RAF.

Groups 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 — the Air Combat Group, controls the RAF's combat fast jet aircraft, including Joint Force Harrier, and has seven airfields in the UK plus RAF Unit Goose Bay in Canada, which is used extensively as an operational training base.
2 Group — the Air Combat Support Group, controls the Strategic and Tactical air transport aircraft, the RAF Regiment, the RAF's Air to Air Refuelling aircraft as well as ISTAR and Search & Rescue assets.
22 Group - responsible for personnel management, training and selection

An RAF Station 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.

A Wing is either a sub-division of a Group acting independently or a 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 more recently they have only been created when required, for example during Operation Telic, Tornado Wings were formed to operate from Ali Al Salem and Al Udeid Air Bases; each of these were made up of aircraft and crews from several squadrons.
On 31 March 2006, the RAF formed nine Expeditionary Air Wings (EAW). The Expeditionary Air Wings have been established to support operations. They have been formed at the nine main operating bases; RAF Coningsby, RAF Cottesmore, RAF Kinloss, RAF Leeming, RAF Leuchars, RAF Lossiemouth, RAF Lyneham, RAF Marham, and RAF Waddington. These units will be commanded by a Group Captain who is also the Station Commander. The EAW is comprised of 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 dependent upon what task it has been assigned to do. [5]
On RAF Stations, a Wing is an administrative sub-division. For a flying station these will normally be Engineering Wing, Operations Wing and Administration Wing. Aside from these, the only Wings currently in permanent existence are the Air Combat Service Support wings of 2 Group which provide support services such as communications, supply and policing to operationally deployed units.

The term squadron (sqn) can be used to refer to an administrative sub-unit of a station, e.g. Air Traffic Control sqn, Personnel Management sqn; there are also ground support squadrons, e.g. 2 (MT) Sqn.
The primary use for the term is as the name of the flying squadrons which carry 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 currently based, which aircraft they are operating, etc. They can be awarded standards and battle honours for meritorious service.
Whilst every squadron is different, most flying squadrons are commanded by a Wing Commander and, for a fast-jet squadron, have an establishment of around 100 personnel and 12 aircraft, but 16 aircraft for Tornado F3 Squadrons.

A flight is a sub-division of a squadron. Flying squadrons are often divided into two flights, under the command of a Squadron Leader; administrative squadrons on a station are also divided into flights.
There are several flying units formed as Flights rather than Squadrons, due to their small size.

RAF Personnel
In 2007 the RAF employed 45,710 active duty personnel and more than 34,000 regular reservists, including the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, RAF Volunteer Reserve and Sponsored Reserve. At its height during the Second World War, in excess of 1,000,000 personnel were serving at any one time. The only founding member of the RAF still living is Henry Allingham at age 111.

Officers hold a commission from the Sovereign, which provides the legal authority for them to issue orders to subordinates. The commission is granted after successfully completing the 32-week-long Initial Officer Training course at the RAF College, Cranwell.
The titles and insignia of RAF Officers were derived from those used by the Royal Navy, specifically the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) during World War I. For example, the rank of Squadron Leader derived its name from the RNAS rank of Squadron Commander. RAF officers fall into three categories: air officers, senior officers and junior officers.

Other Ranks
Main article: RAF enlisted ranks
Other Ranks attend the Recruit Training Squadron at RAF Halton for basic training, with the exception of the RAF Regiment, which trains its recruits at RAF Honington.
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 rank of Chief Technician continues 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.

Branches and Trades
All Pilots and Weapon Systems Officers (formerly known as Navigators) in the RAF are commissioned officers on the General Duties list.
Non-commissioned aircrew 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.
The majority of the members of the RAF serve in vital support roles on the ground.
Officers and Gunners in the RAF Regiment, which was created during World War II, defend RAF airfields from attack. They have infantry and light armoured units to protect against ground attack and until recently they operated Rapier surface-to-air missiles to defend against air attack - this role was given to the Royal Artillery in 2005 and was taken against the wishes of the RAF, which wanted to retain and maintain its organic ground-to-air defence capability.
The RAF Police are the military police of the RAF and are located wherever the RAF is located. Unlike the UK Civil Police, the RAF Police are armed as needed. Since 2003 the RAF Police have stop and search, arrest, and search and seizure powers outside RAF Stations.
Intelligence Officers and Analysts of the RAF Intelligence Branch support all operational activities by providing timely and accurate Indicators and Warnings. They conduct military intelligence fusion and analysis by conducting imagery and communications analysis, targeting, and assessment of the enemies' capabilities and intent.
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, as well as deeper level repair work on aircraft systems, IT systems, ground based radar, MT vehicles,ground support equipment(GSE), etc.
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.
Administrative Officers and associated trades are involved with training management, physical education, catering, infrastructure management, accounts, dress and discipline, personnel and recruitment.
Royal Air Force Chaplains are trained by the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre at Amport House.
The Royal Air Force Medical Branch 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.
The RAF Legal Branch provides legal advice on discipline / criminal law and operations law.

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PostSubject: RAF Aircraft   22nd April 2008, 10:53 am


The code which follows each aircraft's name describes the role of the variant. 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. This supersonic aircraft can carry a wide range of weaponry, including Storm Shadow cruise missiles, laser-guided bombs and the ALARM anti-radar missile.
The Tornado is supplemented by the Harrier GR7/GR7A which is used in the strike and close air support roles, and to counter enemy air defences. The Harrier is being upgraded to GR9/GR9A standard with newer systems and more powerful engines. The Harrier GR9 was formally accepted into RAF service in late September 2006.

Air defence and Airborne Early Warning Aircraft
The Tornado F3 and Eurofighter Typhoon F2 are the RAF's air defence fighter aircraft, based at RAF Leuchars and RAF Leeming and RAF Coningsby respectively to defend the UK’s airspace.
The Tornado, in service in the air defence role since the late 1980s, is being replaced by the Eurofighter Typhoon F2, currently based at RAF Coningsby. The RAF's second operational Typhoon unit, 11 Sqn, reformed on 29 March 2007, joining 3 Sqn, also based at RAF Coningsby.
The Sentry AEW1 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 and the Balkans.

Reconnaissance Aircraft
The Tornado GR4A is fitted with a range of cameras and sensors in the visual, infra-red and radar ranges of the spectrum.
Providing electronic and signals intelligence is the Nimrod R1.
The new Sentinel R1 provides an ASTOR, ground radar-surveillance platform based on the Bombardier Global Express long range business jet.
A pair of MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned aerial vehicles have been purchased to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are operated by No. 39 Squadron RAF

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 Sqn and 202 Sqn with the Sea King HAR.3/HAR3A in the UK and 84 Sqn with the Griffin HAR2 in Cyprus.
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 at sea, on mountains and other locations.
Both rescue roles are shared with the Sea King helicopters of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, while the civil search and rescue role is also shared with the helicopters of HM Coastguard.
The Operational Conversion Unit is 203(Reserve) Sqn RAF based at RAF St. Mawgan, equipped with the Sea King HAR3.
The related Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service comprises four teams of trained mountaineers stationed in the mainland United Kingdom, first established in 1943.

Maritime Patrol
The Nimrod MR2's primary role is that of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Unit Warfare (ASUW). The Nimrod MR2 is additionally used in a Search and Rescue (SAR) role, where its long-range and extensive communications facilities allow it to co-ordinate rescues by acting as a link between rescue helicopters, ships and shore bases. It can also drop pods containing life rafts and survival supplies to people in the sea.
The Nimrod MR2 will be replaced from 2009 by 12 Nimrod MRA4 aircraft.

Support helicopters
An important part of the work of the RAF is to support the British Army 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. The support helicopters are organised into the tri-service Joint Helicopter Command (JHC), along with helicopters of the British Army and Royal Navy.
The large twin-rotor Chinook HC2/HC2A, based at RAF Odiham provides heavy-lift support and is supported by the Merlin HC3 and the smaller Puma HC1 medium-lift helicopters, based at RAF Benson and RAF Aldergrove.
It was announced in March 2007 that the RAF will take delivery of six additional Merlins. The aircraft were originally ordered by Denmark, and six new aircraft will be built for Denmark. Also announced, eight Chinook HC3s, that are in storage, will be modifed for the battlefield support role.

Transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft
Having replaced the former Queen's Flight in 1995, 32 (The Royal) Squadron uses the BAe 125 CC3, Agusta A109 and BAe 146 CC2 in the VIP transport role, based at RAF Northolt in west London.
More routine, strategic airlift transport tasks are carried out by the Tristars and VC10s based at RAF Brize Norton; both used to transport passengers and cargo, and for air-to-air refueling of other aircraft.
Shorter-range, tactical-airlift transport is provided by the C-130 Hercules, the fleet including both older K-model and new J-model aircraft.
The RAF has leased 4 C-17 Globemaster IIIs from Boeing to provide a heavy, strategic airlift capability; it was announced in 2004 that these will be purchased, together with a further example. The fifth C-17 is due to be delivered in March 2008, with an in service date of June 2008. The MOD has expressed a wish to buy a further 3 C-17s, which could be delivered before mid-2009, when the C-17 production line may be closed. This would leave the RAF with a total of 8 C-17 aircraft, providing a significantly enhanced strategic airlift capability. On 26th July 2007, the MOD announced that the RAF would be receiving a sixth C-17 to help bolster operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Training aircraft
A wide range of aircraft types are used for training aircrew in their duties. 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. Advanced flying training for fast-jet, helicopter and multi-engine pilots is provided using the Hawk T1, Griffin HT1 and B200 King Air respectively.
Basic pilot training for fixed-wing and helicopter pilots is provided on the Tucano T1 and Squirrel HT1, while Weapon Systems Officer and Weapon Systems Operator training is conducted in the Dominie T1.
Elementary flying training is conducted on the Tutor T1, depending on the new pilot's route of entry to the service. The Tutor is also used, along with the Viking T1 and Vigilant T1 gliders, to provide air experience training and basic pilot training for the Air Train Corps

Future aircraft
Aircraft in development, or soon to be deployed, include the Airbus A400M, of which 25 are to be used to replace the remaining Hercules C-130Ks.

A new version of the Chinook, the HC3, with improved avionics and increased range, was developed mainly for special forces missions. Service entry has been delayed due to software problems and legal issues. On 1 April 2007, the MoD confirmed the intention of making the eight Chinook HC.3 aircraft operational, after conversion to battlefied support configuration. The Eurofighter Typhoon is entering service and the RAF will be the largest operator of the type.

The Typhoon is intended to replace, by 2010, the Tornado F3 interceptor and the Jaguar GR3A ground attack aircraft (retired in 2007). The Hawk 128 will replace the existing Hawks in service; the newer model being more similar in equipment and performance to modern front line aircraft. The ageing aerial refuelling fleet of VC10s and Tristars should be replaced with the Airbus A330 MRTT under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft programme. Problems with contract negotiations have led to unsolicited proposals for the conversion of civil Tristars or DC-10s.

The Joint Combat Aircraft (the British designation for the F-35 Lightning II) will replace the Harrier GR7 and GR9. Studies have begun regarding the long term replacement for the Tornado GR4 (Although the Future Offensive Air System project was cancelled in 2005). The RAF transport helicopter force, the Puma and Sea Kings, are to be replaced by the Support Amphibious and Battlefield Rotorcraft (SABR) project, likely a mix of Merlins and Chinooks.
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