Introduction

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The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. 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.

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 describe its mission statement as "... [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".

Today the Royal Air Force maintains an operational fleet of various types of aircraft, described by the RAF as being "leading-edge" in terms of technology. This largely consists of fixed-wing aircraft, including: fighter and strike aircraft, airborne early warning and control aircraft, ISTAR and SIGINT aircraft, aerial refueling aircraft and strategic and tactical transport aircraft. The majority of the RAF's rotary-wing aircraft form part of the tri-service Joint Helicopter Command in support of ground forces. Most of the RAF's aircraft and personnel are based in the UK, with many others serving on operations (principally over Iraq and Syria) or at long-established overseas bases (Ascension Island, Cyprus, 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.

Selected article

The Victoria Cross (VC) is a military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of armed forces of some Commonwealth countries and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other postnominals and medals. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and civilians under military command, and is presented to the recipient by the British monarch during an investiture held at Buckingham Palace. It is the joint highest award for bravery in the United Kingdom with the George Cross, which is the equivalent honour for valour not "in the face of the enemy".

There have been a total of 26 recipients of the VC who were serving in the Royal Air Force, including the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, at the time of their valiant deed or deeds. All of the 26 served as aircrew and no RAF ground branch officers or tradesmen have ever won the VC while serving in the RAF. The vast majority of air force VCs awarded in a single conflict were for the Second World War and no RAF personnel have been awarded the VC since the end of that conflict.

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The Red Arrows lined up
Credit: Adrian Pingstone

All ten Red Arrows line up ready prior to a display at Kemble Airfield, Gloucestershire, England.

Selected biography

Mannock in his flying kit, c. 1917
Edward Corringham "Mick" Mannock VC, DSO & Two Bars, MC & Bar (24 May 1887 – 26 July 1918) was a British flying ace in the Royal Flying Corps and in the Royal Air Force during the First World War. Mannock was a pioneer of fighter aircraft tactics in aerial warfare. At his death he had amassed 61 aerial victories, the fifth highest scoring pilot of the war.

Mannock was born to parents of English and Scottish descent in 1887. Mannock's father served in the British Army and the family moved to India when Mannock was a small child. Mannock was sickly and developed several ailments in his formative years. Upon his return to England he became a fervent supporter of Irish nationalism and the Irish Home Rule movement but became a member of the Independent Labour Party where he satisfied his interest in politics.

In 1914 Mannock was working as a telephone engineer in Turkey. After the Ottoman Empire's entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers he was interned. Mannock was badly treated and soon fell ill. Turkish authorities repatriated him to Britain believing him to be unfit for war service.

Mannock recovered and joined the Royal Engineers and then Royal Army Medical Corps. He moved services again and in 1916 joined Royal Flying Corps (RFC). After completing his training he was assigned to 40 Squadron RFC. Mannock went into combat on the Western Front participating three separate combat tours. After a slow start he began to prove himself as an exceptional pilot, scoring his first victory on 7 May 1917.

By February 1918 Mannock had achieved 16 victories and was appointed Flight Commander of No. 74 Squadron. He amassed 36 more victories from 12 April—17 June 1918 before returning to England. Mannock returned as commanding officer of No. 85 Squadron in July 1918, and scored nine more victories that month. Days after warning fellow ace George McElroy about the hazards of flying low into ground fire, that fate befell Mannock and he was killed in action dogfighting too close to the ground on 26 July 1918.

Mannock was among the most decorated men in the British Armed Forces. He was honoured with the Military Cross twice, was one of the rare three-time recipients of the Distinguished Service Order, and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Selected aircraft

Typhoon f2 zj910 arp.jpg
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine canard-delta wing multirole aircraft. It is being designed and built by a consortium of three separate partner companies: Alenia Aeronautica, BAE Systems, and EADS working through a holding company Eurofighter GmbH which was formed in 1986.

The series production of the Eurofighter Typhoon is underway, and the aircraft is being procured under three separate contracts (referred to as "tranches"), each for aircraft with successively greater capabilities. The aircraft has entered service with the UK Royal Air Force, the German Luftwaffe, the Italian Air Force, the Spanish Air Force and the Austrian Air Force.

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