With the recent centenary of the RAF, how has the development of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service into an independent Air Force been beneficial to the United Kingdom’s operational effectiveness and national security?

Following this, how could the addition of a dedicated ‘Space Force’ be beneficial to the United Kingdom and its security?

Looking at the Scope I am going to talk about;

  • How the Air Force came around as an independent service.
  • How the RAF has evolved independently.
  • Previous examples in history where the RAF has been successful.

How the Air Force came around as an independent service 

Due to the increase of types of aircraft during WWI, it was more logical to create an independent air force which could focus on that uniquely. So on April 1, 1918, the RAF was formed with the amalgamation of the RFC and the RNAS. The RAF took its place beside the British Navy and Army as separate military service. 

The RAF was set out to provide the capabilities needed to ensure the security and defence of the United Kingdom and overseas territories, including against terrorism; to support the Government’s foreign policy objectives particularly in promoting international peace and security.

How the RAF has evolved 

Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.  

This meant that the RAF had to evolve and be able to train personnel in specific tasks and skills dedicated to aircraft in specific roles. The RAF expanded by having different squadrons, wings and groups (e.g. fighter command, bomber command, coastal command, etc…) This meant they were able to defend the UK and effectively attack the Nazi forces.  

Following the victory in the Second World War, the RAF underwent significant re-organisation, as technological advances in air warfare saw the arrival of jet fighters and bombers. During the early stages of the Cold War, their priorities shifted to defend Western Europe against potential attack by the Soviet Union, with many squadrons based in West Germany.

Previous examples in history where the RAF has been successful.

Now to talk a little bit about the success of the RAF, the most obvious one that I have mentioned already is the Battle of Britain.

One of the most pivotal moments in this country’s history. Marked a turning point when Britain stood alone against Hitler’s seemingly unstoppable military power. The first major campaign to be fought nearly by entirely by air forces and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date. It was deemed to be the finest hour in British military history….Tick 

Looking in more recent years within the Cold War years, with the Berlin Blockade at the start of the cold war the RAF had a play to stop the USSR from occupying West Berlin. The RAF then began a joint operation in support of the entire city, Providing necessities such as fuel and food, with the original plan being to lift 3,475 tons of supplies daily. By the spring of 1949, that number was often met twofold, with the peak daily delivery totalling 12,941 tons….Tick 

Then you have later on, in the defence of Western Europe, against potential attack by the Soviet Union, with many squadrons based in West Germany.  With the Valiant, Victor and Vulcan being used as Nuclear deterrents These were initially armed with nuclear gravity bombs, later being equipped with the Blue Steel missile. 

The major restructuring process began in 1968 when Bomber and Fighter Commands merged to form RAF Strike Command.

Today Joint Forces Command provides the foundation and supporting framework for successful operations by ensuring joint capabilities today. This shows that although a separate unit, they are fully integrated with the Army and Navy so although specialised in the likes of Air to Sea attack or resonance they are unique as well as being versatile.

Conclusion for the RAF

The Navy, Army and Air Force are all independent but fully integrated, helping them to be the best of their game, creating a separate air force unit helped operational effectiveness by having specialised and trained personnel and improved national security by being able to split into their specific roles rather overlapping roles and clashing with their agendas

Against this backdrop, there is an additional layer, of funding. Depending on the inclination, of the government of the day, there has been a gradual shift, as budgets come under increasing pressure, to downsize numbers of personnel, restrict commitments, and counter that with improved technological upgrades.

A further layer, over which we have no control, is the politics of the day. Responses to Aden in the 1950’s, Malaya in the 1960’s, Falklands in 1982, and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan along with Syria, helps our military to remain adaptable and abreast with modern technologies. As we become involved in these differing theatres, a positive spin-off is that we can use the experience to refine and hone our approaches and systems, learning along the way

Our allies, also have a great influence on our responses, and as we seperate, economically, from our European partners, it will be up to our political masters, to adopt a strategy, which will geographically protect Europe, as very real threats remain.

With the US establishing its own space force last December (2019), it is now a legitimate decision that we need to make. Is it Just a justifiable? We are a smaller nation who don’t try to police the world, we have an asset such as satellites that need to be protected. Do we have money for it?