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are, though, some certainties, and high among these is that the UK will seek to fully exploit air and space capabilities. Consequently, the RAF needs to situate itself – physically, morally and conceptually – to meet this challenge as a ‘Whole Force’: an RAF with an appropriate mix of regulars, reserves, MOD civilians and contractors. At first glance, this appears a daunting challenge, demanding significant change. It is, however, exactly the sort of challenge that the Service has met successfully many times before.


A VISIONARY JOURNEY The RAF was formed to “get the best possible use from British air power” and such attributes were evident from the outset. Had this not been the case, the fledgling RAF would either not have made it into adulthood or conceptually ossified once there. Trenchard’s inspirational vision and unique ideas set the conditions for a small, highly trained, permanent RAF, capable of expansion when required without drastic alteration to its ethos or organisational structures. He recognised the ‘extreme importance of training’, drawing personnel from a broad pool, and motivating junior personnel, on whom the future of the RAF depended. Trenchard’s idea of an educated body of NCOs and airmen was, at the time, socially revolutionary. By establishing the RAF Apprentice Scheme at RAF Halton, he provided the Service with its core of skilled tradesmen, leaving a legacy of excellence in aircraft engineering that was acknowledged worldwide and continues to this day. Meanwhile, the RAF College at Cranwell was established to train the regular officers to be the future senior and air-ranking officers, noting that by placing it “well away from the temptations of London” it was certainly innovative if, probably, unpopular. The RAF was designed to be, predominantly, a short-service force for most of its officers, who would then form the basis of a trained reserve, building a

The Royal Air Force is embedding an ethos of ‘Think to Win’ in all of its members, from new recruits to the senior staff


The RAF will need an organisational culture embracing innovation, which adopts new ideas and which is prepared to make swift adaptations to extant practice. This requires an environment where leaders recognise the value of affording time and space for personnel to think, thus promoting far-ranging ideas. This is not a new prospect for the RAF. The service has a long history of innovation, albeit ebbing and flowing with the prevailing strategic environment. The RAF in 1918 displayed considerable innovation in its approach at all levels of war, adapting in light of lessons learned and new thinking about air power. Conversely, the relative stability of the Cold War era reduced the need for dynamic thinking to address multiple complex problems, and saw a degree of stasis in doctrinal thought. The current environment demands a dynamic approach more akin to that of the Trenchard era, rather than that which was

necessary in preventing a Third World War, when rigidity of thought (heavily influenced by NATO doctrine) narrowed the Service’s outlook.


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23/06/2016 14:04

RAF Air Power 2016 – Inspiration and Innovation  

An official publication of the Royal Air Force

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