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Royal Air Force

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The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. The RAF has taken a significant role in British military history, playing a large part in the Second World War as well as in more recent conflicts.

The Royal Air Force As of January 2012 has a reported strength of 827 aircraft, making it the largest air force in the European Union, and the second largest in terms of aircraft in NATO (after the USAF). Most of the RAF's aircraft and personnel are based in the UK, with many others serving on operations (principally Afghanistan) or at long-established overseas bases (Ascension Island, Cyprus, Diego Garcia, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands). Although the RAF is the principal British air power arm, the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm and the British Army's Army Air Corps also deliver air power which is integrated into the maritime, littoral and land environments.

The RAF's mission is to support the objectives of the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), which are 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."

The RAF's mission statement is "... [to provide] An agile, adaptable and capable 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 mission statement is supported by the RAF's definition of air power, which guides its strategy. Air power is defined as: "The ability to project power from the air and space to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events

Force Structure[edit]


  • Active Duty Personnel: 105,250
  • Reserve Personnel: 53,408
  • Active Bases: 70
  • Combat Aircraft: 431
  • Special Purpose Aircraft: 74
  • Transport Aircraft: 89
  • Trainer Aircraft: 407
  • Helicopters: 165
  • Chief of the Air Staff: Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton

List of Active Aircraft[edit]

  • Combat Aircraft
    • Panavia Tornado x 119 (Strike Aircraft)
    • Eurofighter Typhoon x 250 (Multirole Fighter)
    • Bombardier CF-190 Crossbow x 48 (Stealth Multirole Strike Fighter)
    • Avro Vulcan B.3A x 16 (Strategic Bomber)
  • AWACS Aircraft
    • Boeing Sentry AEW.2 x 12 (Airborne Warning and Control System Aircraft)
    • Raytheon-Bombardier Sentinel R.1 x 8 (Battlefield Management Aircraft)
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
    • Beechcraft Shadow x 5 (Reconnaissance Aircraft)
    • Britten-Norman Islander x 3 (Reconnaissance Aircraft)
    • Diamond DA42 Twin Star x 2 (Reconnaissance Aircraft)
  • Transport Aircraft
    • Airbus Voyager x 20 (Aerial Tanker)
    • BAe 125 x 12 (Transport Aircraft)
    • BAe 146 x 8 (VIP Transport)
    • Boeing C-17 Globemaster III x 14 (Strategic Airlifter)
    • Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker x 9 (Aerial Tanker)
    • Bombardier CC-194V Galaxy Ambassador x 3 (VIP Transport)
    • Lockheed C-130K Hercules x 8 (Tactical Airlifter)
    • Lockheed C-130J-30 Super Hercules x 24 (Tactical Airlifter)
  • Trainer Aircraft
    • Beechcraft King Air B200 x 10 (Twin Turboprop Advanced Trainer)
    • Grob Tutor x 119 (Elementary Flying Trainer)
    • Grob Vigilant x 65 (Trainer Aircraft)
    • Grob Viking x 81 (Trainer Aircraft)
    • Hawker Siddeley Hawk x 86 (Advanced Jet Trainer)
    • Short Tucano x 46 (Trainer Aircraft)
  • Helicopters
    • Agusta A109E x 8 (Transport Helicopter)
    • AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin x 27 (Transport Helicopter)
    • Bell Griffin x 12 (Utility Helicopter)
    • Boeing Chinook x 46 (Heavy Lift Transport Helicopter)
    • Westland Puma x 48 (Utility Helicopter)
    • Westland Sea King x 24 (SAR Helicopter)
  • UAV
    • General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle)
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