The Royal Air Force in 2010
Seventy years ago, Winston Churchill said “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few” after the Royal Air Force had faced down the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain and stopped the planned invasion of Britain. In 2010, the RAF celebrates and commemorates this vital victory as well as marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Cadet Force movement.
Since its formation 92 years ago, the RAF has continually defended the skies over Great Britain. Notwithstanding current operations in Afghanistan, the control of the United Kingdom’s skies remains a core role today. A Quick Reaction Alert force of Tornado F3 and Typhoon aircraft is ready at all times to intercept any airborne threat, aided by radar and command and control sites and VC10 air to air refuelling tankers. Also on standby 24/7 are Search and Rescue helicopters and Mountain Rescue Teams, ready to rescue those in distress, or to provide aid during emergencies whilst RAF Fylingdales maintains a constant vigil monitoring space objects as part of the Allied Space Surveillance Network.
Abroad, the RAF remains a global force and is on operations around the world. The RAF’s highest priority is operations in Afghanistan with many personnel and aircraft helping the NATO Coalition support the Afghan Government. Since 2009, Tornado GR4s have been providing vital reconnaissance and protection for ground troops and have, on many occasions, stopped insurgents attacking coalition forces. Chinook and Merlin helicopters provide essential mobility, moving personnel and equipment and undertaking medical evacuations crewed by RAF medical teams. The Hercules transport aircraft provides further vital mobility by conducting precision air drops, parachuting in supplies, when movement by road would be too dangerous. The C17 Globemaster and Tri-Star aircraft maintain a lifeline to the UK flying personnel and equipment in and out of Afghanistan. One of the RAF’s newest capabilities – the Airborne Stand Off Radar (ASTOR) - has also operated over Afghanistan providing commanders with crucial intelligence and awareness of enemy forces. Flying from Afghanistan, but operated by personnel based in America, is Reaper, the RAF’s remotely piloted unmanned aircraft system whose primary role is surveillance and reconnaissance but can attack targets on the ground if required. Meanwhile, the RAF Regiment provides essential protection to bases and personnel, defending the airfields to ensure they remain safe for operations. And, most recently, personnel from the RAF Bomb Disposal Teams have started to work in Afghanistan making safe Taliban bombs.
The RAF also still retains a small force in the Middle East to support UK personnel in Iraq who deliver training to the Country’s forces. In the South Atlantic, RAF personnel operate and maintain Typhoon, VC10, Hercules, and Sea King aircraft in the Falkland Islands to help protect their sovereignty.
But behind all of this equipment lie the RAF’s people. From the most junior to the most senior, every one is a highly trained and motivated individual who has a crucial role. In addition to aircrew, the RAF requires a vast team of specialist and support staff to keep its aircraft flying. The opportunities are endless. There are more than 50 different careers available, from engineers to intelligence analysts to aerospace battle managers. There are also many opportunities to serve with the Reserves and work alongside their regular counterparts on operations.
In this significant year, we also salute the Air Cadet Organisation. With more than 45,000 cadets and 10,000 adult volunteers, the Air Cadet Organisation makes a significant contribution to the RAF and society as a whole.
Although smaller than 70 years ago, the spirit of “The Few” who fought in the Nation’s darkest hour lives on in today’s RAF. Quite simply, it is the men and women that make the Royal Air Force what it is today – second to none.
Image 1: Search & Rescue carry out Sea Drills.
Image 2: Last minute checks on a Tornado prior to flight.