The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the air arm of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918 the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history ever since, playing a large part in World War II and in more recent conflicts. The RAF operates almost 1,100 aircraft and has a projected trained strength of over 40,000 regular personnel. The majority of the RAF's aircraft and personnel are based in the United Kingdom with many others serving on operations (principally Iraq, Afghanistan, Middle East, Balkans, and South Atlantic) or at long-established overseas bases (notably the Falkland Islands, Qatar, Germany, Cyprus, and Gibraltar).
The RAF's mission is to support the objectives of the British Ministry of Defence (MoD)
and to provide "An agile
Air Force that, person for person, is second to none, and that makes a decisive air power contribution in support of the UK Defence Mission."
The Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service (RAFMRS) provides land rescue over the mountain areas of the United Kingdom. Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue teams (MRTs) were first organised during World War II to rescue aircrew from the large number of aircraft crashes then occurring on high ground. The practice at the time was to organise ad-hoc rescue parties from station medical sections and other ground personnel. Experience demonstrated that this could be dangerous. While the mountains of the United Kingdom are not very tall, they contain much formerly glaciated terrain with steep cliffs, talus slopes, high peaks and cirque basins, and generally experience a sub-Arctic climate at relatively low altitudes. Snow and high winds, sometimes in excess of 100 mph (161 km/h), are posssible any month of the year. Rescue operations in these conditions require personnel with specialized mountaineering training and equipment.
The RAFMRS comprises four teams, based at RAF Valley in North Wales, RAF Leuchars and RAF Kinloss in Scotland, and RAF Leeming in England with Central Headquarters located and associated with the MRT at RAF Valley. Helicopter operations, frequently used in mountain rescue, are conducted in cooperation with No. 202 Squadron RAF and No. 22 Squadron RAF. These two squadrons, with the four remaining MRTs and headquarters, and the Rescue Coordination Centre at RAF Kinloss, comprise RAF Search and Rescue.
Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC
, DSO & Bar
, DFC & Bar
(12 August 1918 – 19 September 1944), was the first CO of the RAF
's 617 Squadron
, which he led in the "Dam Busters
" raid (Operation Chastise
), in 1943, resulting in the destruction of two large dams in the Ruhr area
. He was killed later in the war.
In 1943 he was selected to command the new 617 Squadron asked to destroy dams in the Ruhr area. To accomplish this they were provided with the bouncing bomb designed and developed by Barnes Wallis. On the night of 16 May 1943, Gibson led 19 Lancasters carrying one bomb each into the Ruhr Valley. It took five attempts to breach the Moehne Dam before Gibson led the three remaining Lancasters to attack and breach the Eder Dam. Two other dams were attacked but not breached. After the Dams raid, Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross in recognition not just of the raid, but his leadership and valour demonstrated as master bomber on many previous sorties.
Gibson was sent on a publicity tour of America after completing 174 missions over Germany but returned to operational duties in 1944, after pestering Bomber Command, and was killed along with his navigator Sqn Ldr Jim Warwick, on a bombing raid on Rheydt (a borough of Mönchengladbach) operating as a Pathfinder Master Bomber based at RAF Hemswell, when his de Havilland Mosquito crashed near Steenbergen, the Netherlands, on 19 September 1944. He was 26 years old.
The AgustaWestland AW101
until June 2007) is a medium-lift helicopter
for military applications but also marketed for civil use. The helicopter was developed as a joint venture between Westland Aircraft
in the UK
(now merged as AgustaWestland
). The aircraft is manufactured at the AgustaWestland factories in Yeovil
. The name Merlin
is used for AW101s in British, Danish and Portuguese military service.
The Royal Air Force ordered 22 transport helicopters, the first of which entered service with No. 28 Squadron RAF, based at RAF Benson, in January 2001. The type is equipped with extended-range fuel tanks and is capable of air-to-air refuelling; however, due to the lack of a suitable UK tanker aircraft, this capability has not been cleared for use. The first operational deployment was to the Balkans in early 2003. They are currently deployed to southern Iraq as part of Operation Telic.