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© 2018 Northrop Grumman Corporation

Congratulations to the Royal Air Force — celebrating one hundred years since its formation. While technology has certainly advanced since 1918, the driving force that propels this service upward remains the same: the dedicated men and women of the RAF. Today, as we celebrate the world’s oldest independent air force, we extend our very best wishes to the RAF. May the next generation be inspired to make its second century every bit as decisive as the first.

w w w. n o r t h r o p g r u m m a n . c o m

Contents 05

SOME WORDS OF WELCOME Sir Kim Darroch, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States of America







THE FORMATION OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE How the world’s first independent air force was established in 1918, amid debate over Britain’s air defences A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE A look back at the RAF’s illustrious century of service, remembering its vital role during peace and war


THE RAF100 APPEAL A look at the fundraising efforts of RAF personnel to mark the Service’s centenary, continuing the tradition of supporting the whole RAF Family


100 YEARS OF ICONIC AIRCRAFT Some of the many classic aircraft that have served the RAF over the past 100 years


LIEUTENANT J.R. PAYDEN The story of a young American who served in Europe at the inception of the Royal Air Force


EAGLES IN THE BURNING BLUE The part played by American pilots in the RAF during and after the Battle of Britain


THE NEXT 100 YEARS: ALONGSIDE THE USAF How the British and American Air Forces will continue to face challenges together

THE START OF A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP The origins of the USAF/RAF Military Personnel Exchange Programme PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE Highlighting the work of the RAF Museum American Foundation (RAFMAF) to keep alive the shared aviation heritage of the United States and United Kingdom


617 SQN: “THE DAMBUSTERS” The distinguished record of the Royal Air Force’s most famous squadron


A ROYAL MESSAGE OF THANKS King George V’s letter of gratitude to the men and women of the Royal Air Force at the conclusion of the First World War

Produced by Harfield Media (www.harfieldmedia.com) Edited by Barry Davies Designed by J-P Stanway Images: Crown copyright; Ministry of Defence; RAF Museum; RAF Benevolent Fund; Alamy; Joan Payden; Mike Freer


Some words of welcome Sir Kim Darroch, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States of America


t is my great pleasure to welcome you to the Royal Air Force Centenary event in Washington D.C. We hope this special programme will allow visitors to reflect on the achievements of the world’s oldest independent Air Force and to take a glimpse into its exciting future. From our Great British Fly-In at the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum, to a display of iconic aircraft, musical concerts and drill displays and the official stand-up of the UK’s first F-35 Operational Squadron, there is much to commemorate and celebrate. We will remember the sacrifices of the past and the vital role that the RAF has played across the world in both peace and war. And, as we celebrate the achievements of this Service, we hope to inspire the next generation.

Just over 70 years ago, in Fulton, Missouri, Churchill made a speech that has lived on in history. In the wake of the Second World War, he described the friendship between the US and the UK “special,” giving name to a relationship that had served as a bedrock of freedom and prosperity throughout the world. Today, our Air Forces operate in the spirit of this special relationship – allies that support each other in both peace and conflict across the globe. For a century, the RAF has inspired pride and admiration, not only in the UK, but around the world. I hope these events provide a moment to reflect on the enduring relationship between our two nations, at a time when our bilateral friendship is more important than ever.


Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier KCB CBE DFC ADC MA RAF, Chief of the Air Staff


t gives me great pleasure to provide the foreword to this Royal Air Force Centenary brochure, marking the 100th birthday of the Service and highlighting our strong and enduring connections with the United States of America and the United States Air Force. This year, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force – the world’s first independent air force – which was formed on 1 April 1918. Since its formation, the RAF has

continuously been delivering Air Power at home and around the world. And, from those earliest days, it has done so side by side with American airmen and women, in the pursuit of peace, stability, democratic freedoms and the rule of law. The Centenary celebrations allow the Royal Air Force the opportunity to engage nationally and internationally, and across the whole of society, to commemorate our rich history, celebrate our achievements and, in particular,


A Royal Air Force Sentry AEW.1 receives fuel from a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker during operations over Syria and Iraq

inspire the next generation towards reaching for the skies. Here in the United States of America, it gives us the opportunity to reflect on the deep and enduring spirit of trust, cooperation and friendship between our airmen and women – a friendship that helps define the relationship between our two great nations. One hundred years on from its formation, today’s Royal Air Force continues to exploit the most advanced air, space and cyber technology available. The operational demand for our capabilities is consistently high and our ability to deliver air power on operations is widely acknowledged to be world-leading. The importance of air and space power in meeting 21st-century defence and security challenges is obvious from what we do every hour of every day. We continue to modernise in the face of growing threats, building a Next Generation Air Force with capabilities such as the F-35 Lightning, P-8 Poseidon and Protector RPAS. We are also working to deliver the integrated information capabilities needed to exploit fully the power of our platforms, innovating and adapting quickly, and

exploiting multi-domain command and control to pull it all together, work jointly, and stay ahead of our potential enemies. Of equal importance to the Next Generation Air Force and the maintenance of our decisive edge is our people. It is their superb individual and collective skill, professionalism, commitment, self-discipline and judgement that sets them apart. In the air and on the ground, our Servicemen and women continue to prove that they have the same endeavour, courage and determination that their forebears have demonstrated consistently over the past 100 years. Our other decisive advantage is our ability to work with allies. There is no more important ally to the Royal Air Force than the United States Air Force. The strength of our bonds are honed in training, and consistently proved in conflicts – as indeed they are being at this very moment in operations around the world. The Royal Air Force is entering its second century. I know that, 100 years from now, the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force will still be the very closest of allies, and the very closest of friends.


The formation of the Royal Air Force There was no ceremony on 1 April 1918 to mark the formation of the RAF. The country had been at war for over three years when a government investigation into the state of Great Britain’s air defences led to the establishment of a single air force


erman airship and airplane raids on Great Britain during the First World War had caused public outrage and deep concern among politicians. By 1917, the responsibility for the aerial defence of the United Kingdom remained divided between the War Office and Admiralty. Additionally, no national organization existed to conduct a

strategic air offensive against Germany. This led the Cabinet to establish a committee to assess the country’s air defences and air organization in general. The committee was formed in July, nominally under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. In practice, however, it was two Lieutenant Generals who undertook the task: South African Jan Christiaan

The new Royal Air Force inherited many obsolete aircraft, such as this Sopwith Triplane, now preserved at the RAF Museum


Lt-Gen Jan Smuts recommended the creation of a single British air force

Two airmen aboard a Bristol Fighter of the W/T Establishment at Biggin Hill in 1918

Non-Commissioned Officers in Royal Flying Corps uniform relax outside their hut in 1918

Smuts led the work, supported by the first head of the Royal Flying Corps, Sir David Henderson. While the committee’s first report, which recommended unifying the air defence of London under a single organization, was important, it was their second report that had lasting significance. This latter report recommended the creation of an Air Ministry and a national air force – the first example of such in military history.

In January 1918, as the RAF approached its official formation date, Hugh Trenchard was appointed the first Chief of the Air Staff. Formerly an officer in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, becoming second in command at the Central Flying School in 1913. When war broke out, Trenchard became a wing commander, before rising to command the entire Royal Flying Corps in the Field in 1915.


A Sopwith Camel takes off from HMS Pegasus. RAF aircraft operated from a variety of Royal Navy ships

Major General Sir Hugh Trenchard, the first Chief of the Air Staff

Officers of RAF Cattewater on 1 April 1918. Most are pictured still wearing Royal Naval Air Service dress, but two are already in RAF uniform

Trenchard’s primary objective as Chief of the Air Staff was to ensure the smooth transition from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service to the RAF. Operational ability was more important than ceremony. Although a new badge and uniform were designed, wartime production limits meant there would not be enough to equip everyone in the new service. As the RAF was being formed, allied forces in France were trying to stop the major German

Michael Offensive. It was important to continue air operations against German forces on land, in the air and at sea. The new RAF supported the British Army on the Western Front and in the Middle East, fought hard for the control of the air, conducted reconnaissance patrols for the Royal Navy, and began a major bombing campaign against Germany. The Royal Air Force played a vital role in the closing months of the war; the first century of RAF history had begun.


A brief history of the Royal Air Force A century of service has seen the RAF playing a vital role in peace and war, projecting Air Power in Europe and across the world


he Royal Air Force was founded in the crucible of the First World War. Continuing the work of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Services, the RAF provided tactical air support to the British Army and aerial reconnaissance for the Royal Navy. Additionally, British air defences were improved and a strategic bombing force to attack Germany was built up. At the armistice, the RAF was the largest air force in the world, although it was soon to be dramatically reduced in size. Surviving several attempts at disestablishment in the 1920s, the RAF was used to fight a number of colonial “small wars” and, more significantly, took responsibility

for peace enforcement in Iraq, in an early demonstration of the effectiveness and efficiencies that the projection of Air Power could bring. By the mid 1930s, the deteriorating political situation in Europe led to the RAF’s expansion and modernisation. Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Great Britain declared war on Germany, and the RAF unsuccessfully attempted to help prevent the invasion of France. It was decided to retain a minimum number of fighters in Britain, which proved vital when the Luftwaffe attempted to destroy the RAF in the Battle of Britain. After the RAF’s famous triumph, the British focus shifted to the strategic bombing of Germany and the tactical

Cooper bombs are loaded under a Sopwith Camel for ground attack operations


Supermarine Spitfire XVIE, November 1944

Final flight of the Canberra T-4 in 2005, after 55 years’ service

Operations over Iraq: a VC-10 refuels two Tornado F-3s

Sentinel R1: surveillance of enemy ground movements in Afghanistan and the Middle East


A Royal Air Force F-35B with the intakes open for the lift fan, enabling short take-off and vertical landing

support to land forces, especially the defeat of German forces on the continent. The Second World War had seen military aviation come of age and the RAF had been employed across the full range of Air Power roles, including the introduction of the first operational allied jet fighter – the Gloster Meteor. After the Second World War, the RAF continued to play a key role, this time in the Cold War. Although the RAF, the USAF and other allied air forces broke the Soviet blockade of Berlin, the threat of a central European invasion remained. Therefore, RAF squadrons were based in West Germany throughout the Cold War, and the RAF carried Britain’s nuclear deterrent for many years. Beyond Europe, there were several interventions, but the general trend was a scaling back of deployed forces. The RAF was heavily committed during the Malayan Emergency and, in 1956, saw action during the Suez Emergency. British troops were evacuated by air from Yemen in 1967, while the 1970s saw the RAF make substantial withdrawals from the Far East and the Middle East.

During the Falkland Islands campaign of 1982, the RAF executed Operation Black Buck, the long-range bombing mission to the Falklands, and conducted ground attack missions from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers. Additionally, the RAF carried out maritime reconnaissance of the surrounding seas and provided heavy-lift helicopter support to British land forces. AFTER THE COLD WAR The post-Cold War period saw the RAF become smaller, but more flexible. In 1991, after Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Kuwait, the RAF played a significant role in the Gulf War air campaign. With Kuwaiti sovereignty restored, the RAF played its part in enforcing the Iraqi no-fly zones. Operations in the Balkans predominated in the mid and late 1990s, while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan demanded much of the RAF during the early years of the 21st century. The intervention in Libya and the ongoing operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria have been the Service’s last major actions before its 100th anniversary.


The start of a special relationship The USAF/RAF Military Personnel Exchange Programme


Participation in the Programme is on a selective basis. To be considered, an individual must be well versed in the current practices, technical training and doctrine of their organization, and be particularly qualified through experience for the exchange position to be occupied. Moreover, the individual must have demonstrated capabilities for future positions of greater responsibility and must possess the grade, skill, training and academic qualifications required. One of the early exchange officers at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs (April 1960June 1962) was Squadron Leader J A G Slessor, son of Sir John. In his end-of-tour report, he concluded: “I can only add that I hope that the frequent interchange of personnel between our two countries will be the means of our maintaining the friendship of so many officers, their families and civilians whom we have come to know so well. I share the conviction shared by my predecessor that the Exchange Scheme is an invaluable programme and it is clearly vital that the presence of exchange officers should be continued.” Over 70 years on from Churchill’s speech, his vision of “intimate relations between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions, and to the interchange of officers and cadets” remains valid and will do so for many years into the future.

ow, while still pursuing the method of realising our over-all strategic concept, I come to the crux of what I have travelled here to say. Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organization will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States of America. Ladies and gentlemen, this is no time for generality, and I will venture to the precise. Fraternal association requires not only the growing friendship and mutual understanding between our two vast but kindred systems of society, but the continuance of the intimate relations between our military advisers, leading to common study of potential dangers, the similarity of weapons and manuals of instructions, and to the interchange of officers and cadets.” The above words are taken from Winston Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech, delivered in Fulton, Missouri, on 5 March 1946, in which he clearly articulated the need for an exchange of personnel in order to glean mutual understanding. Five years later, under the watchful eyes of General Hoyt Vandenberg and Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor, the USAF/ RAF Military Personnel Exchange Programme was created. Initially, the programme permitted 50 exchange posts in each Air Force. These are regularly reviewed and, with recent changes, that figure has reduced to circa 40 posts in each force.

Air Marshal Sir John Slessor and General Hoyt Vandenberg were the first guardians of the Military Personnel Exchange Programme


The Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation

Past, present and future In war and in peace, the Royal Air Force and the air forces of the United States of America have stood together to defeat the enemies of freedom


he Royal Air Force American Foundation was founded in July 2002, 30 years after the London RAF Museum was opened, in recognition of the support for the Museum from donors with US assets. The Foundation is based on the celebration of the shared values that have joined the fighting airmen and airwomen of our two great nations in the past and present, and which will continue in the spirit of close cooperation and understanding. The Foundation exists and works to ensure the shared aviation heritage of the United States and the United Kingdom is kept alive in the memories of our two great nations, and works to provide funds, and other means, to underpin the RAF Museum’s programmes of acquisition, conservation, interpretation, education and

training. By building Anglo-American bridges of opportunity through youth and education initiatives and within exhibitions, research, publications, professional training, media ventures and museum partnering, it looks to encourage future generations towards lively understandings of aerospace disciplines and an appreciation of science and social history expressed in technology. In this special year of the Centenary of the formation of the RAF, the American Foundation is delighted to be supporting the RAF Museum in its centenary programme with a key exhibit about 601 Squadron, to tell the story of how the American pilots fought in the Battle of Britain. As part of its refurbishment, the Museum will also be displaying a retired MQ-1 Predator Remote Piloted Aircraft; the loan of this aircraft from the United States Air Force (USAF) was facilitated by the Foundation and, in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the formation of the USAF, the

ABOVE: (left to right) General Stephen Wilson, Vice Chief,

USAF; 2017 Sword of Honour recipients Sqn Ldr Wesley Pead, RAF, and Major James Rodgers, USAF; and Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, RAF


Foundation is supporting the public display of the Memphis Belle at the United States Air Force Museum at Wright Paterson Air Force Base. Amongst other projects, the Foundation aided the recovery, restoration and display of the lastknown Dorner Do 17 bomber from Goodwin Sands in the UK, and in 2017 the Foundation funded the digitizing of documents and photographs from the First British Flying Training School in Terrell, Texas, to preserve that history and to ensure it was shared with the RAF Museum in the UK. In concert with that effort, the Foundation also funded a technical apprenticeship programme in the UK to provide the necessary work on the digital and audio development of this media. This makes the unique story of UK-US aircrew training come alive for visitors to the Museum. However, its work is not all about the heritage, but also about the future, and it has supported and funded the RAF Museum’s technical apprentice exchange programme between the US and the UK, with the aim of giving apprentices a global understanding of respective work cultures and procedures. The close ties between our two air forces continue to be reinforced and recognised in the modern era by the annual presentation of a Sword of Honour to an RAF and an USAF officer on exchange with the other’s service. As part of its fundraising initiatives, the Foundation, cohosting with the British Embassy, holds an annual ‘Spirit of the Battle of Britain Banquet’, each October in Washington D.C. At this banquet, the Swords are presented to two officers, nominated by their peers, as being deemed to most reflect the values of the Foundation’s mission: namely to strengthen and educate present and future generations about the importance of the special UK-US relationship within the field of aviation. The Annual Banquet gives the Foundation the opportunity to bring together the modernday examples of the ethos of the veterans, and in the past has hosted, amongst others, Wg Cdr Tom Neil, DFC & Bar, AFC, a Battle of Britain Ace; Leading Aircraft Woman Rose Davies, a radar operator on D-Day; and Captain Jack Bradshaw, from the aforementioned British Flying Training School. Jack epitomised the special relationship as

ABOVE: Sir Stephen Hillier, CAS RAF, with the late Captain

Jack Bradshaw from the BFTS, who learned of his Legion d’honneur award before he passed away

BELOW: UK apprentices working on the Breitling Orbiter 3

project at the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Center

an American who flew both in the RAF and the US Army Air Corps during the Second World War, and the Foundation takes great pride in having been able to work with the British Embassy and the French authorities to secure the Legion d’honneur for all three of these veterans – the highest French Military Award for allied personnel who contributed to the success of D-Day in Normandy. The Foundation encourages support of the Museum’s educational programs and capital projects and seeks long-term and lasting support through endowment and legacy gifts. It is a 501 (C)(3) non-profit organisation and donations can be made via a number of means – details are on the Foundation’s website (www.rafmaf.com). The Foundation places great emphasis on bilateral education programmes and projects, especially those that benefit American and British collaboration, and with the help of such supporters will continue to keep the combined and shared history of air power alive in the hearts and minds of the present and future generations.


The RAF100 Appeal Inspire and support the next 100 years


he charities associated with the Royal Air Force have a proud tradition of supporting the whole RAF Family. Together they provide help to those serving their country and their dependants, as well as veterans and the next generation. RAF100 provides great opportunities to build on the successes of the past 100 years and raise additional funds for the RAF Family. Members of the RAF100 Appeal have joined forces, with a mission to ensure that all members of the RAF Family – past, present and future – are honoured, supported and inspired. From the youngest child to the oldest veteran, those currently serving their country and their brave families at home, the RAF100 Appeal will support tens of thousands of individuals, building on the successes of the past century and leaving a lasting legacy for years to come.

To maximise the opportunities that our centenary year brings, the RAF100 Appeal is being run as a joint venture between the Royal Air Force and the RAF Association, the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF Charitable Trust and the RAF Museum. Fundraising undertaken during RAF100 will be coordinated by the joint venture. Money raised will be shared between the four charities and other directly associated charitable needs. The focus will be on educating and inspiring young people about the RAF and aviation, supporting service personnel and their families and ensuring that veterans receive the assistance they deserve. RAF100 IN THE USA APPEAL With Royal Air Force personnel spread from the tropics of Florida to the mountains of Washington state, from the plains of Nebraska to the deserts

Mike Goody was also supported by the Fund

RAF Benevolent Fund beneficiary Stuart Robinson


Approaching 13,000 feet on the climb to the summit of Mount Whitney, California

of California, we came together to form one united effort to raise more than $10,000 for the RAF100 Appeal. Serving in a variety of challenging roles across such a vast and varied country, myriad different fundraising efforts emerged and continue to do so. Challenged by Great Britain’s Assistant Air Attaché, Group Captain Steve Richards, and his wife Wendy – who together climbed California’s 14,500-foot-high Mount Whitney – RAF personnel serving with 39 Squadron in Nevada went one better by travelling on bike and by foot, within 24 hours, from the lowest point of the country in Death Valley to the highest point of the contiguous United States: the summit of Mount Whitney. These combined efforts raised more than $3,500. Ultra runner Squadron Leader Wayne Dennis chose to take part in the inaugural Marathon des Sables – Peru. Racing through the

Ica Desert in searing heat, with only his backpack and water bottles, Wayne crossed the finishing line after six long days and with over 250km behind him. His worthwhile hardships raised $1,200 for the Appeal. While deployed with the US Navy, F/A-18C exchange pilot Flight Lieutenant Gino Portaluri took on a challenge to be able to bench-press 100kgs (225lbs) within a six-month period. Working from the hangar deck of the USS Carl Vinson in the stifling heat of the South China Sea or the frigid cold of the Sea of Japan, Gino put on 28lbs in weight in the process and raised $380. The 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force is a fantastic opportunity to create a lasting legacy for our service and the greater Royal Air Force Family. If you would like to take part in RAF100 USA’s charity effort or would simply like to give your support, please visit: www.justgiving.com/teams/raf100usa


100 years of iconic aircraft


isplaying just a few of the iconic aircraft that have served with the Royal Air Force during the past 100 years is not an easy task. This small selection covers some that have been the mainstay of operations, as well as others that proved innovative and world-leading. All have shaped

their era, helping to win wars and keep the peace. With apologies to those who would have liked to see aircraft such as the BE-2; the DH-9; the Hurricane; the Canberra; the Jet Provost; the Buccaneer; the Nimrod; the Jaguar; the F-4 Phantom and so many others that have graced the skies across the globe.

SOPWITH CAMEL F1 Tricky to fly and often fatal to the unwary pilot, the Camel was still one of the best British fighters of the First World War. It was developed from the dainty Sopwith Pup and was rapidly nicknamed the Camel because of its hump-backed appearance. Widely produced and delivered from May 1917, some 5,490 Camels were eventually delivered, with many serving as night fighters. Years

1917 - 1920


Single-seat fighter

Top speed


Max altitude



Two forward-firing machine guns; up to 92lb/42kg of bombs


Europe, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq

F.B.27A VIMY A British heavy bomber designed during the latter stages of the First World War by Vickers. After being part of Great Britain’s strategic Independent Air Force, the Vimy became the core of the RAF’s heavy bomber force throughout the 1920s. In 1919, the aircraft achieved two international firsts: crossing the Atlantic non-stop in June and staging from the UK to Australia in November/December. Years

1918 - 1933


Heavy bomber and transport

Top speed


Max altitude



Up to two machine guns; up to 2,476lb/1,123kg of bombs


UK, France, Egypt, Middle East, Northern Ireland


SUPERMARINE SPITFIRE The immortal Spitfire and its navalised Seafire cousin were continually updated. The Mk XVI was the final Rolls-Royce Merlin-engined Spitfire variant before introduction of the more powerful Griffon engine. Later production aircraft featured a cut-down rear fuselage and bubble canopy. Eventually operated by more than 30 Air Forces worldwide, the Spitfire was one of the bestperforming fighters of its time. Years

1938 - 1957


Single-seat fighter/fighter-bomber

Top speed

405mph/652 km/h at 22,000 feet

Max altitude



Two cannon, four machine guns; up to 500lb/227kg of bombs


Europe, Russia, Middle East, Far East

AVRO LANCASTER The most famous and successful heavy bomber flown by the RAF in the Second World War, immortalised in the classic 1950s’ film The Dambusters. Developed from the Manchester and with a crew of seven or eight, the Lancaster was a stalwart of Britain’s bomber offensive against Germany, sharing the task with the Handley Page Halifax and Short Stirling, ranging far and wide across Europe. Years

1941 - 1956


Heavy bomber

Top speed


Max altitude



Nose, mid and tail guns; up to 22,000lb/9980kg of bombs


Europe, Russia, N Africa, Middle East, Far East

DE HAVILLAND MOSQUITO FB MK VI (‘THE WOODEN WONDER’) So called due to its wooden construction, the Mosquito proved fast and manoeuvrable. The Mk VI first flew in 1942 and served in anti-shipping, light bomber and tactical support roles. This variant shot down several hundred V-1 flying bombs and, in February 1944, famously bombed Amiens jail in France, enabling more than 250 members of the French Resistance to escape. Years

1942 - 1947


Two-seat fighter-bomber

Top speed

378mph/608 km/h at 13,000ft

Max altitude



Four cannon, four machine guns; up to 2000lb/908kg of bombs or eight rockets


Europe, Middle East, Far East


GLOSTER METEOR The Gloster Meteor was the first allied jet-powered fighter of the Second World War. Introduced in July 1944, the Meteor saw limited service due to the risk of its falling into enemy hands. The Mk 4 was introduced in 1945 and the following year achieved a world speed record of 616mph over the United Kingdom. In all, over 60 RAF squadrons were to equip with Meteor variants, to include night fighter versions and with early models of the Martin Baker ejection seat. Years

1944 - 1958


Single-seat interceptor/fighter

Top speed

585mph/941km/h at sea level

Max altitude



Four 20mm cannon


UK and Europe; bought by 17 other Air Forces

AVRO VULCAN B MK 2 The Vulcan was a distinctive sight that, for many, defined the Cold War. Affectionately known as the ‘tin triangle’, the Vulcan was initially tasked with the nuclear-armed, low-level penetration role. With the introduction of Great Britain’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent, the aircraft adopted a conventional bombing role, still showing its capabilities with long-range bombing raids during the Falklands campaign. Also used in the air-to-air refuelling role. Years

1960 - 1984


Long range heavy bomber and air-to-air refuelling

Top speed


Max altitude



Up to 21,000lb conventional bombs, anti-radiation missiles, nuclear strike weapons


UK, Cyprus, Ascension Island

ENGLISH ELECTRIC LIGHTNING The English Electric Lightning was a supersonic fighter aircraft of the Cold War era. The Lightning was the only all-British Mach 2 fighter aircraft. Although it was the RAF’s primary interceptor for more than two decades, it was never required to attack another aircraft. Loved by its pilots, the design of two engines vertically placed in the fuselage was a distinctive feature never copied by other aircraft designers. Years

1959 - 1988


Single-seat interceptor fighter

Top speed

Mach 2.0 (1,300mph/2,100km/h at 36,000ft)

Max altitude



Two 30mm cannon, two infra-red air-to-air missiles


UK, Germany, Cyprus, Middle East, Singapore

Photo: Mike Freer


WESTLAND SEA KING HAR3 Originally designed for anti-submarine warfare, the Westland Sea King was adapted for RAF search and rescue duties as the Sea King HAR3. Deliveries began in 1978, replacing the Whirlwind HAR10 and Wessex HAR2 in providing search and rescue cover for both military and civilian personnel across the UK. Sea Kings were fitted with highly advanced search and navigation equipment and operated in all weathers, both day and night. Years

1978 - 2015


Non-combat search and rescue

Top speed


Max altitude





UK, Falkland Islands

PANAVIA TORNADO Designed as a multi-role aircraft, two types of the Tornado have served with the RAF: the F3 Air Defence variant and the GR-1/GR-4 ground attack and reconnaissance variant. The F3 served in Air Defence duties for some 25 years, to include operational deployments in the Middle East, the Balkans and the South Atlantic. The latest GR-4 variant is still serving after almost 40 years, including on operational duty in the Balkans, Middle East and over Libya. Years

1978 - present


Interceptor/fighter; ground attack/reconnaissance

Top speed


Max altitude



One 27mm cannon, air-to-air missiles, precision and stand-off air-to-ground munitions


UK, Europe, South Atlantic and Middle East

EUROFIGHTER TYPHOON FGR4 Designed as an air superiority fighter and introduced into service in 2003, the FGR4 is the multi-role version of this fourth-generation combat aircraft introduced in 2008. Incorporating advanced sensor fusion, avionics and helmet-mounted technology, the aircraft has replaced the Tornado F3 and will similarly replace the Tornado GR-4, complementing the RAF’s future F-35 Lightning II fleet as a potent mix of fourth- and fifth-generation capability. Years

2003 - present


Air superiority and ground attack

Top speed

Mach 2.0

Max altitude



Advanced air-to-air missiles, precision and stand-off air-to-ground munitions


Europe, Middle East, Libya, South Atlantic


Lieutenant J.R. Payden After pursuing a career in engineering, Joseph Raymond Payden enlisted in the forces as the United States entered the First World War, and was serving in Europe at the inception of the Royal Air Force


he spelling of the family name ‘Paden’ can be traced back to the early 19th century in Ireland, from where J.R. Payden’s family originated. The name was changed to ‘Payden’ at the beginning of the 20th century. Joseph Raymond (J.R.) was born on 20 March, 1896, to Thomas Paden and his wife, Jennie. Through his school years, J.R. had a variety of jobs, one of which dissuaded him from medicine and another of which persuaded him into engineering. In June 1917, as the United States entered the First World War, J.R. enlisted in the US Army Signal Corps Aviation Division, which was attached to the Royal Flying Corps, having completed two years at Yale as a mechanical engineering student. After three months at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the three flight training schools, J.R. was

among 10 cadets to graduate with honors, having studied the mechanics of the machine gun, map reading, aircraft rigging, engines, meteorology, astronomy and flight instrumentation, along with military drill and physical fitness programs. J.R. crossed the Atlantic in September 1917 to begin final training at Oxford University with the ‘American Aviation Detachment’, which consisted of men from all over the US whose main purpose was to join a flying force.

J.R. and his fellow students were schooled in aviation at MIT

In 1917, J.R. crossed the Atlantic to the UK on SS Carmania

RECEIVING HIS WINGS In the summer of 1918, J.R. received his wings and was posted to Courbon, France. His role here involved testing aircraft and assembling planes for bombing, along with ferrying planes to frontline squadrons. From there, he was assigned to join the 99th Squadron, which had been formed in England in August 1917 and deployed to France


J.R. Payden received his wings in the summer of 1918 and was posted to France


as part of the Independent Air Force. Initial experience of pilots with combat aircraft brought home to the Americans what the veterans from advanced training had tried to tell them; it took courage just to fly the machines, let alone fight in them. Structural failures were common. At times, American squadrons would be invited to dine at British airfields. These were enjoyable affairs because the allies not only had the best planes, but also the best food and best pianos. From these meetings came the traditions the American pilots borrowed for their own. They noted that their allied counterparts had a certain style and chivalry – they saw the flag-raising and lowering ceremonies as a show of pride, and they instituted strict observance of

such rituals in their own squadrons. Some even copied toasts ‘to the King’ at the evening meals because ‘raising one’s glass to the president’ did not seem ‘nearly so grand’. COURAGE TO FLY The Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed on 1 April, 1918, out of the Royal Naval Air Services and the Royal Flying Corps. It flew mainly Sopwith Camels, and many of J.R.’s flights were aboard the Sopwith Camel, as well as the De Havilland 6. The Sopwith Camel was one of the best known British fighters during the First World War and shot down 1,294 enemy aircraft during the conflict. It was, however, particularly infamous for its extremely vicious spinning

Many of J.R.’s flights were aboard the Sopwith Camel

The Camel was infamous for its tendency to spin viciously

J.R. enjoyed time in Monte Carlo with his fellow airmen


During his time working for Union Carbide, the Hotel des Indes, in what is now Java, served as a base and office for J.R.

characteristics, which resulted in 3,285 pilots dying from non-combat incidents. The pilots jokingly said they would receive a ‘wooden cross, Red Cross or a Victoria Cross’. After the Armistice of 1918, J.R. had the opportunity to visit Paris, the Cote D’Azur, Monte Carlo and North Africa before his return to the US and, ultimately, to Yale, from where he graduated in 1920. In the fall of that year, J.R. joined Union Carbide Corporation, a multinational American company that was international in scope. Two years later, he was selected to go to

the Far East to promote business, and in 1923 he sailed from San Francisco to Japan. During the 1920s and 1930s he continued to travel the Far East, until this was brought to an end with the outbreak of the Second World War. J.R. returned to New York, where he remained until his retirement in the 1960s. J.R. died in September 1976 at the age of 79, having traveled the Far East for Union Carbide and observed it as the region’s countries emerged from their colonial pasts, and before the turmoil of the Second World War.


Eagles in the burning blue John Michaelson, Chairman of the Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation, reflects on the part played by American pilots in the Royal Air Force during and after the Battle of Britain


rthur Donahue, a Minnesota farm boy, took a bus to Canada and joined the RAF in 1940. He wrote to his parents that he was doing this because he did not want to have to fight Hitler in his own backyard. By the time the US entered the war in December 1941, approximately 7,000 Americans had done likewise. It was not easy for Americans to join the British forces. Under the strict Neutrality Acts, it was a federal offence to fight for Britain. An

American citizen who did so not only risked his life, but also his citizenship and liberty. Yet so many went that by the time ‘Nick’ Knilans from Wisconsin approached the Canadian border in October 1941, he was greeted by a Canadian immigration officer with the welcome,“I suppose you’ve come to join the Air Force as well?” Knilans was following in the footsteps of the 11 young Americans who fought in the Battle of Britain and a host of other volunteers, many of whom would subsequently be

Strapping an American pilot of 121 (Eagle) Squadron into his Spitfire, 1941


transformed into the ‘Eagle Squadrons’ and, Of the 11 Americans who flew fighters in eventually, form the nucleus of the USAAF the Battle of Britain, four were killed during the 4th Fighter Group. Battle itself and five died in action later. A British They were characters to a man. Jim Goodson pilot who flew with ‘Shorty’ Keough, ‘Red’ Tobin wore a monocle and the RAF’s Distinguished and ‘Andy’ Mamedoff in 609 Squadron recalls Flying Cross. When General Ira Eaker, commander his comrades: “They were typical Americans, of the Eighth Air Force, asked him to remove the amusing, always ready with some devastating latter from his new USAAF uniform, he replied: wisecrack (frequently at the expense of “King George pinned this on my chest and only authority) and altogether excellent company. the King can remove it.” When asked why he Our three Yanks became quite an outstanding wore the monocle, he would quietly say that it feature of the Squadron.” “had no effect in London, but would stop the traffic in Chicago”. THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE Vic France, from Dallas, had his Eagle Billy Fiske was a dashing young New Yorker. Squadron shoulder flash re-embroidered so Wealthy and privileged, he had already found that the letters ‘USA’ were delicately over-sewn fame as an Olympic bobsleigh champion and with ‘TEXAS’. He also replaced his standardas a racing driver, and had studied at Cambridge. issue RAF flying boots with ‘standard-issue’ He returned to England in 1939 and joined the cowboy boots and RAF, claiming to always flew correctly be Canadian. He attired for the range. completed his training Two hundred and forty-four Two hundred and in July 1940 and went Americans served with the forty-four Americans to join 601 Squadron Eagle Squadrons in the RAF served with the Eagle at RAF Tangmere. Squadrons in the RAF, On 16 August, alongside 16 British Fiske flew two pilots. The attrition rate was high – 77 of them operations. During the second, his aircraft was falling with the Eagles and a further 31 after damaged. Understanding the acute shortage they had transferred to the USAAF. of fighters, he nursed his Hurricane back to Tangmere. Although he landed intact, the FEMALE FLYERS aircraft caught fire and he was severely burned. Not only young men came to Europe to fly. In Fiske died of his injuries the next day. 1940, American racing aviatrix Jackie Cochran Fiske was buried at Boxgrove Priory. In 1941, had the idea of forming a female corps of a plaque in his honour was placed in the crypt transport pilots. Her idea was rejected, so she of St Paul’s Cathedral. It reads: “An American took her young women to Britain, where the Air Citizen who died that England might live.” As Transport Auxiliary (ATA) welcomed them. In all, Sir Archibald Sinclair, Secretary of State for Air, 27 American women flew with the ATA. unveiled the plaque on 4 July 1941, he said: “Here John Gillespie Magee Jr of Connecticut was was a young man for whom life held much. Under one of those who joined the Royal Canadian Air no kind of compulsion he came to fight for Britain. Force before America entered the war. He became He came and he fought, and he died.” a Spitfire pilot, and was killed in December 1941 Those words stand for other young men who at the age of 19. He lies at Scopwick, Lincolnshire, died in the air war over Europe, and for all of where his gravestone is inscribed with the first those from both our nations who have died since and last lines of his poem, High Flight: while swirling up “the long, delirious, burning “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth – blue” in the cause of freedom. Put out my hand, and touched the Face of God.” We salute them all.


The next 100 years: alongside the USAF As the RAF enters its second century, the British and American Air Forces will continue to collaborate on common challenges


he historically close relationship between the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force reflects in microcosm the unique strategic partnership that has bound the United Kingdom and the United States for the better part of the previous century. Since the First World War, British and American airmen have consistently displayed a remarkable capacity to effectively work together, in peace and war, to further their two countries’ shared goals. In the process, they have solidified their services’ collaborative association as one of the strongest pillars of the broader “special relationship” linking their respective nations.

A broad spectrum of historical examples illuminates the scope and depth of that collaboration. The RAF and the USAF have functioned as allies and partners in a variety of contexts, from the global struggle of the Second World War, through decades of heightened international tension during the Cold War, to the more recent, highly complex conflicts in the Balkans, the Middle East and Central Asia. Given the commonality of values, strategic interests and political cultures, there is little doubt that the partnership between the United Kingdom and the United States will remain a cornerstone of international stability and prosperity for the foreseeable future. British and American airmen will need to successfully confront a

RAF Reaper: unmanned operations will remain essential


Aerospace Systems Operators at RAF Scampton. Our people remain our greatest strength

variety of bewildering shifts in the character of future armed conflict. Simply put, many of the certainties that have underpinned the RAF and USAF’s force structures, operational doctrines, and acquisition strategies for the past few decades are slowly eroding in the face of new types of threats and challenges. These challenges are myriad. Potential adversaries increasingly seek to exploit a range of new technologies and capabilities expressly designed not only to degrade or complicate the ability of the RAF, the USAF and their coalition partners to operating smoothly in a joint environment, but to contest outright their capacity to exercise full-spectrum dominance on the multi-domain battlefield. These threats represent a problem that is greater than the sum of its parts: not simply an aggregation of new technologies, but the harbinger of a momentous paradigm shift in the character of armed conflict, with profound implications for the two nations’ air forces and their continued ability to function as effective instruments of military power. The magnitude of the problems that the RAF and the USAF will confront in the 21st century is daunting. In consequence, the imperative to find creative solutions to seismic shifts in the character of warfare will represent the single most significant area of continued co-operation between British and American airmen. That co-operation will

assume many forms, the most evident of which will likely revolve around ever-closer integration of technological capabilities, and the sharing of platforms, systems, and intelligence. The collaborative nature of the development of the F-35 exemplifies these trends, as do the RAF and the USAF’s joint training initiatives and their on-going coalition efforts in realworld operational environments. Such obvious manifestations of close teamwork do not, however, exhaust the range of possibilities available to the two services as they pursue shared solutions to common problems. If the historical record is any indication, the most fruitful and lasting form of co-operation between British and American airmen over the next century will transcend matters related to resource-sharing or the closer integration and synchronization of operational practices, important as such initiatives might be. Instead, it will emphasize, as its principal point of departure, a series of sustained efforts to conceptualize, in an analytically rigorous and intellectually honest fashion, the implications for both air forces of the challenges they are likely to face. Only in this way can the RAF and the USAF foster a shared culture of innovation and adaptation necessary to maximize their effectiveness and strategic utility in the 21st century.


617 Sqn: “The Dambusters” The illustrious record of the RAF’s best-known squadron is set to continue as it reforms to fly the Joint Strike Fighter F-35B


erhaps the most famous RAF squadron, 617 Squadron was formed at RAF Scampton on 23 March 1943, specifically to undertake one operation – Operation Chastise – the breaching of dams vital to the German war effort. The Squadron’s Commanding Officer, Wing Commander (Wg Cdr) Guy Gibson, was given freedom to choose the crews he thought could best undertake the mission. For weeks, not even Gibson was told of the unit’s task, only that low-level flying over water was essential, and training was undertaken above the reservoirs of Derbyshire and surrounding countryside. Chastise called for the breaching of

three enormous dams in the Ruhr – the heart of German industrial production – by dropping a specially designed mine at exactly 60 feet and at a speed of 220mph. Nineteen specially modified Lancasters carried out the attack during the night of 16-17 May 1943, successfully breaching the Mohne and Eder dams. Wg Cdr Gibson repeatedly flew over the Mohne and Eder dams to draw fire away from the attacking aircraft and was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry. Thirtytwo other members of the Squadron were also decorated, but eight aircraft and their crews (56 men in total) were lost during the night. Following this success, the Squadron was retained as a specialist bombing unit. In September 1943, command of the Squadron

Wing Commander Guy Gibson (entering aircraft) and his crew board a Lancaster bomber


A Tornado GR-4, flown by 617 Squadron from 1983 to 2014

Scampton, equipped with the Avro Vulcan. As part of the UK’s V-Force, the Squadron’s offensive capability was enhanced in 1963 when it became the first Squadron to become operational with the Blue Steel nuclear missile. Reverting to a conventional role during the 1970s, the Squadron’s Vulcans continued to be a familiar sight until it disbanded in December 1981. Reformed as a Tornado unit at RAF Marham in 1983, the Squadron soon re-confirmed its precision bombing capabilities and, in 1984, became the first non-American unit to win both the Le May and the Meyer trophies in competition against American counterparts. In 1990, the Squadron sent detachments to the Middle East for what was to become the Gulf War, where it introduced TIALD laser guidance. After the ceasefire, the Squadron crews continued to serve in this theatre, patrolling the Southern “no-fly” zone. The onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 saw the Squadron operational again, under the command of Wg Cdr David Robertson. On 21 March 2003, exactly 60 years after its formation, the Squadron again had the honour of introducing the RAF’s latest weapon into operational use – “Storm Shadow” – a conventionally armed, stand-off missile capable of long-range precision targeting. From 2004, until the Squadron was disbanded in 2014, it was in active Service in Iraq and Afghanistan. No 617 Squadron will reform in 2018 as the UK’s first Joint Strike Fighter F-35B (Lightning II) Squadron.

Vulcan bombers: nuclear and conventional attack

passed to Wg Cdr Leonard Cheshire. Under his leadership, the Squadron mounted highly destructive precision raids on targets in occupied territory, using 12,000lb blast bombs. Precision attacks continued with the 12,000lb “Tallboy” deep penetration bomb, targeting railway tunnels, U-boat pens and large V-weapon sites. After completing his 100th operation, Wg Cdr Cheshire relinquished his command to Wg Cdr “Willie” Tait. The autumn of 1944 saw attention turn to the German battleship Tirpitz, finally sunk after three operations, one mounted from Russia. The spring of 1945 saw an addition to the Squadron’s arsenal, with the advent of the 22,000lb Grand Slam. Under the command of Group Captain John Fauquier RCAF, the Squadron’s specialist skills and weapons were used against railway viaducts and naval targets, culminating in a final operation against Hitler’s Berchtesgaden Bavarian retreat on 25 April 1945. In May 1946, the Squadron was returned to the UK from India to commence re-equipment with Avro Lincolns. The following year saw a goodwill tour of the United States, involving the first direct crossing of the Atlantic by an RAF squadron. January 1952 saw the Squadron re-equip with Canberras. The Squadron disbanded at the end of 1955 and re-formed on 1 May 1958, again at RAF


A royal message of thanks At the conclusion of the First World War, His Majesty King George V sent congratulations to the men and women of the recently formed Royal Air Force and expressed his gratitude for their sacrifice



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The Royal Air Force: A Century of Air Power  

A celebration of the Centenary of the Royal Air Force and the enduring relationship between the RAF and the United States Air Force.

The Royal Air Force: A Century of Air Power  

A celebration of the Centenary of the Royal Air Force and the enduring relationship between the RAF and the United States Air Force.