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Royal Air Force

The RAF collaborates with government, military, and civilian partners in the UK and overseas to promote UK security, prosperity and national interests around the world. Air power is most effective in a joint action with other military services such as the British Army and Royal Navy, and with government departments, all working towards a common national goal.

The Royal Air Force was formed on 01 April 1918 from the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service. When British aircrafts flew in battle for the first time in the First World War, they had no national markings, they were fired upon with equal impartiality by friend and foe from the ground. To enable British forces to identify British aircrafts, the Union Jack was painted on the upper and lower planes. Unfortunately, unless the aircraft was flying very low the cross on the Union Jack looked very much alike the German marking, and this did not solve the problem.

In October 1914, it was decided to adopt the more easily distinguishable three circles of red, white and blue then in use by the French Air Force , but the colours were reversed to blue white and red by the British. This roundel became the unofficial badge and battle colours of the British Air Force during the 1914-1918 war and have been carried into battle in all parts of the world.

RAF Bomber Command with HQ at High Wycombe was responsible for all light, medium and heavy bomber units. Working on the maxim that "The bomber will always get through", early RAF tactics dictated that a formation of bombers could defend themselves in daylight against enemy fighter attack. During the Second World War, the Bomber Command was the only way for British power to be brought directly to bear on Germany. After the defeat of the Luftwaffe by Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, the Allied air force turned its attention towards Germany.

Bomber Command pursued a strategic bombing campaign directed by Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur ["Bomber"] Harris from his headquarters at High Wycombe. Unacceptable losses early in the war had resulted in RAF opting for a policy of night-bombing to increase the bombers chances against German fighters. Due to the difficulties associated with identifying precise targets at night, Bomber Command concentrated on area, as opposed to precision bombing, when striking at German targets.

Bomber Command and Fighter Command were merged into today's RAF Strike Command, headquartered at RAF High Wycombe with under its command based all over the world. Strike Command's No.1 Group at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, controls the RAF strike/attack force, including the Panavia Tornado.

Air power remains a fundamental component of warfighting capability, complementing maritime and ground forces, and providing an offensive capability in its own right which will be enhanced by the increasing precision of air-delivered weapons. It has also proved its utility in non-warfighting operations, including the enforcement of no-fly zones and humanitarian deployments.

Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) Force based at RAF Lossiemouth (north east Scotland), RAF Coningsby (eastern England), and the Falkland Islands (south Atlantic), are ready to scramble state of the art Eurofighter Typhoons in minutes to intercept threats. Air Surveillance and Control Systems Force continuously compile a Recognised Air Picture of the airspace in and around the UK, providing vital early warning of potential threats such as unauthorised aircraft or missiles.

Potential adversaries are growing their capability and confidence to launch cyber attacks that could disrupt the UKs critical civilian and military air and space systems such as air traffic control. RAF cyberspace communications specialists are continuously working in the UK and deployed around the world to combat these threats.

The RAF is continuously engaged in a wide-range of operations and training exercises around the world and in space with partners and allies.

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Page last modified: 08-03-2022 19:38:09 ZULU