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 Police (RAFP) is the military police branch of the British Royal Air Force. It was formed on 1 April 1918 and is responsible for policing the RAF and its installations. Members of the RAFP are distinguished by their white-topped caps (giving rise to their nickname of "Snowdrops"), which they have worn since 1945, and black/red/black flashes worn below their rank slides, known as "Mars Bars". Unlike their Army colleagues in the Royal Military Police, they do not wear a distinctive red beret when wearing camouflaged uniform, although they do wear MP flashes on the sleeve of their uniforms not unlike their army counterparts.
There is a detachment of RAFP on most RAF stations with larger bases having a security squadron, with a Squadron Leader in command as Officer Commanding (OC) Security, who is also responsible for the general security of the station. The RAF Police also fulfills the RAF's counter-intelligence (CI) role, similar to that carried out by the British Army Intelligence Corps. They provide specialist counter-intelligence and computer security support.
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 BAE Systems/Boeing Harrier II
is a second generation vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL
aircraft used by the Royal Air Force
. It was developed from the earlier Hawker Siddeley Harrier
and is very closely related to the US built AV-8B Harrier II
. Both are primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, and are often operated from small aircraft carriers.
Development of a successor to the first Harrier began as a cooperative effort between McDonnell Douglas (US) and Hawker Siddeley (UK). Cost overruns eventually led Hawker to withdraw from the project, but work continued due to US interest in the aircraft. Britain re-entered development in the late 1970s, producing their own version of the Harrier II based on the US design.