Air Observation Post
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Air Observation Post (AOP) is the term used by the Royal Air Force and other services of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth air forces, for an aeroplane or helicopter used in the role of artillery spotter. In this role, either the pilot of the aircraft or a passenger acts as an observer watching for targets on the ground, and/or as a Forward Observation Officer directing the fire, by radio, of artillery on the ground (or calling in tactical ground-attack aircraft).
In the interwar period, the role of artillery spotting was mixed with reconnaissance and ground attack to be served by Army Co-operation (AC) squadrons. At the beginning of World War II their standard aircraft was the Westland Lysander. The enormous losses of the British Expeditionary Force operating on the continent in 1940 without air superiority showed both the aircraft and the concept to be a failure, and around 1941 AC squadrons were converted to fighter-bomber aircraft, dropping the liaison and artillery spotting roles. These roles were taken over by numbers 651 to 663 Squadrons of the RAF, the all-new Air Observation Post units working closely with the Army. A further three of these squadrons - Nos. 664, 665 and 666 - were RCAF AOP squadrons manned by Canadian and British personnel.
For the remainder of World War II, AOP units used light, fixed-wing aircraft, notably several marks of Auster aircraft, flown by RAF or British Army pilots. In 1957, the newly formed Army Air Corps took over the role, aeroplanes eventually being replaced by helicopters.
- No. 651 Squadron RAF
- Acting Capt. Edward Walter Maslen-Jones MC; DFC - operational pilot in Burma
- Forward air control
- Liaison aircraft
- History of AOP at forcesreunited.org.uk
- Michael Ashcroft in Heroes of the Skies
- Parham, Major General H.J. & Belfield, E.M.G. 1956, 1986. Unarmed Into Battle: The Story of the Air Observation Post. Warren & Son, for the Air O.P. Officers' Association, 2nd edition ISBN 978-0-948251-14-6