How we are organised

Learn how the different elements of the RAF fit together to deliver air and space power for the UK. 

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Our People

33,840

Regular & Reserve Personnel

63

Roles

It all starts with our people. The RAF is a team of regular and reserve personnel, civilians, and our partners.

Most RAF personnel belong to a Squadron or Unit, and all have a rank such as Squadron Leader.

The RAF is a collaboration of many dedicated professions, including pilots, aviation engineers, RAF Police, air traffic controllers, and nurses.

There are three different rank structures in the RAF.

The RAF is a Whole Force team of:

Commissioned Officers fill the RAF’s equivalent to management and supervisory roles all the way up to Senior Leadership. 

Non-Commissioned Aircrew fly in the aircraft with Commissioned Aircrew.

Airmen and Airwomen have the specialist skills for both technical and non-technical roles and make up the majority of RAF personnel. Non-Commissioned Officers also fill management and supervisory roles.

Find your role in the RAF

Photo of LCpl Shanwayne Stephens

LCpl Shanwayne Stephens

Shanwayne is a Regiment Gunner and also competes in the Jamaican Bobsleigh Team

Read Shanwayne's story
Photo of Flt Lt Lucy Nell

Flt Lt Lucy Nell

Lucy is an RAF Medical Officer, who has also gained Elite Athlete Status to pursue her other passion in life - competing in triathlons.

Read Lucy's story
Photo of Joshua Durdant-Hollamby

Joshua Durdant-Hollamby

Joshua is currently a pilot in training. Since joining the RAF he has learnt to Nordic ski and taken part in the Great Escape 75th Anniversary.

Read Joshua's story

RAF Stations

33

UK RAF Stations

4

Overseas RAF Stations

RAF stations (often called 'bases') are home to our Wings. We have stations around the UK and in Gibraltar, Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, and Ascension Islands to protect UK interests.

Not all stations are flying stations. For example, RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire is a ballistic missile early warning radar station.

We also share some stations with the Army and civilian authorities, such as RAF(U) Swanwick in Hampshire, which we share with the civilian National Air Traffic Services (NATS) organisation.

Stations also parent smaller RAF sites such as radar heads, relief airfields, and test ranges. Most RAF stations have a Commanding Officer who is responsible for the day-to-day running of their station.

Stations are usually part of a Group.

View all RAF Stations

Squadrons & Units

86

Active Squadrons

32

Units

RAF squadrons can fly aircraft or be ground based, carrying out many roles including combat, training, reconnaissance, and equipment testing.

The RAF Force Protection Force has RAF Police and RAF Regiment squadrons dedicated to protecting the RAF at home and abroad.

Squadrons are typically sub-divided into smaller Flights, each performing a specific role in that squadron, such as physical education.

Flying squadrons are usually commanded by a Wing Commander, while other squadrons are usually commanded by a Squadron Leader.

View all RAF Squadrons

The RAF has many specialised units, for example the Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit.

Some units comprise only a few people while others, like 90 Signals Unit, have many more personnel.

Squadrons and Units can be stood up or stood down as required. For example, the famous 617 Squadron 'Dambusters' stood back up in 2018 to fly the RAF's new Lightning aircraft.

Wings

A Wing is typically made up of about three squadrons and units and is based on RAF stations in the UK and overseas.

There are different types of RAF Wings, including Administrative, Training, Support, Operational, and Tactical.

Expeditionary Air Wings (EAWs) are an amalgamation of aircraft, crew, engineers, technicians and support staff deployed on operations around the globe to support a specific operation.

There are also Force Protection (FP) Wings made up of RAF Regiment and RAF Police squadrons. They protect personnel, aircraft and stations.

Wings are usually commanded by a Wing Commander and several wings form a Group.

Groups

No 1 Group's crest

We are organised into large groups which cover frontline operations, logistics, and training. There are currently five RAF groups.

We also form Expeditionary Air Groups (EAGs) to deliver operations overseas.

Each group is commanded by an Air Vice-Marshal or Air Commodore.

View all RAF Groups

Senior Commanders

The RAF is run by a team of senior commanders, responsible for our people, equipment, and infrastructure.

The RAF's senior commanders are led by the Chief of the Air Staff.

View the RAF Senior Commanders

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston KCB CBE ADC 

Chief of the Air Staff

The Chief of the Air Staff is accountable to the Secretary of State for Defence for the RAF's fighting effectiveness, efficiency and morale.

He reports to the Chief of the Defence Staff, who sits on the Defence Board. The Defence Board is the highest committee in the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

View Chief of the Air Staff

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