2018 In a military sense is notable for two things: it’s a century since the end of WWI and also 100 years since the formation of the world’s oldest airforce. April 1, 1918 saw the official formation of the Royal Air Force (RAF) with the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. Although signs were strong that WW1 was coming to an end, there was no certainty as to when a ceasefire would occur. The merger gave real meaning to the phrase “strength in numbers”.
November, 1911 and a committee to investigate the use of aircraft for military procedures was established. February, 1912 and a recommendation was released for four air arms to be established, consisting of an aircraft factory, training corps, naval wing and military wing. King George V signed the warrant in April of 1912 that established the Royal Flying Corps, with the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers becoming the Military Wing of the RFC a month later. Fighting strength at the time was 133 officers, and by the end of 1912 there were a dozen manned balloons and 36 aeroplanes. WW1 saw the rapid development of the aircraft and weaponry involved. Names such as Avro, from the designer A. V. Roe, Bristol, Royal Aircraft Factory, and famously, Sopwith — became household names.
Just 21 years later and WWII had the Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, Short Sunderland, and Avro Lancaster on the various front lines. The fighters — the Hurricane and Spitfire — became instrumental in The Battle Of Britain. The Lancaster is forever etched in history thanks to the Dambusters raid and 617 Squadron, while the Sunderland, a flying boat, later became the basis for intercontinental travel. The RAF was responsible for the first jet aircraft. Engineering genius and eccentric pilot Frank Whittle developed the first working jet engine, ahead of Germany’s development of the first operational jet aircraft. The 1960s produced the big three Vs: the Vickers-Armstrong Valiant, Avro’s delta-winged beauty, the Vulcan, and the Handley-Page Victor, which changed the face of the military aviation industry. The Vulcan also starred in another iconic 1960s franchise — a James Bond film.
Kestrel. It’s a name for a British engineered airplane that few would recognise. Say Hawker Harrier however and a smile of recognition appears. The world’s first Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft is an RAF development that traces its roots to the late 1950s and popularised by the US Marine Corp in the 1970s. Aircraft such as the swing wing fighter-bomber Tornado, the all weather fighter Jaguar, and the delta-winged attack aircraft Typhoon, came from or were developed jointly with other nations by the RAF and its engineering teams. Happy 100th birthday to the Royal Air Force.