British Royal Air Force

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The Royal Air Force seal.

The British Royal Air Force or RAF is the air arm of the armed forces of the United Kingdom.


It's something of a toss up which of the many nations during the Great War were the first to set up the first formal Air Forces. Between the Germans, French and British these nations were all deploying reconnaissance and observation aircraft to observe behind the lines during the stalemate that was a major feature of the conflict. It did not take long before all of these nations began arming their aircraft as it was quickly found that the best weapon for keeping observation aircraft away from you rear areas was another aircraft. This soon lead to the design and deployment of dedicated fighter aircraft to attack and defend the observation aircraft used on both sides.

Soon the British were among the leaders in aviation technologies. One of the most famous of the aircraft from this period was the Sopwith Camel. The British were also one of the first nations to begin to deploy dedicated bomber aircraft. By the end of the war the British Royal Air Force possessed the largest bomber in production at the time.

All during the period following the Great War, the British updated and designed an ever increasing array of bomber and fighter aircraft. By the time of the start of the Second World War only the German Luftwaffe and the US Army Air Corps matched the British in aircraft diversity and technical capability. All during the early period of the war the superior tactics of the Luffwaffe in France soon lead to only the RAF as the only major air force left in Western Europe to be able to challenge the Nazi Luftwaffe. The Nazi leadership was very much aware that unless they could neutralize the twin threat that was the RAF and The Royal Navy they had no chance to even consider any invasion of the British Islands.

Soon the RAF found itself in the fight for it's life as the Battle of Britain soon raged over the skies of the United Kingdom. The RAF due to excellent leadership were able to take advantage of several technological developments including close-circuit communications, interconnected Operational Control Centers and the most important new innovation RADAR. In fact the level of information sharing in the British fighter command could possibly be a good early example of the data communication technology that would grow into today's internet. One of the most important strategies that were important to the eventual British victory in the battle was the RAF only deploying the required strength to repulse the German bombers with only minimal losses expended. Of course often this meant not being able to attack every enemy formation as they attacked British cities. Massive losses were seen on both sides as both Fighter Command and Bomber Command defended and attacked German targets. In the early parts of the battle, the German strategy was beginning to have success in wearing down the resources of the RAF. But due to RAF Bomber Command making strikes on German cities Hitler soon insisted that the target priority of the Luftwaffe change to focus on British population centers especially London. With their airbases not under direct attack Fighter Command was soon able to bring ever increasing casualties against the German attacking aircraft. Regardless of the tactical reasons the RAF was able to prevent any attempt by the Germans to gain air superiority over the British Islands.

Soon the tide would turn as RAF Bomber Command gained an ever increasing array of heavy and ultra heavy bombers as well as one of the most effective light bombers of the entire war, the mighty Lancaster and Mosquito in particular. Soon it was the Germans seeing constant bombing raids of their cities as the size of RAF forces steadily grew. Included in these raids were several spectacular raids on the Ruhr Dams by the legendary 617 Squadron who's exploits also include the elimination of the German battleship Turpitz. In fact, it was the staging of the attack on the dams in the movie The Dam Busters that inspired George Lucas for how he shot and planned the trench run in the movie Star Wars.

Once the RAF was joined in the war by the United States Army Air Corps the air war soon became a campaign of constant bombing raids of the German occupied territories. The RAF by night and the USAAC by day. While this air campaign did see massive losses it was now very evident that the tide had turned. All during the rest of the war, while Allied forces did see losses, the Germans were never able to prevent the bombing of their cities.

All during the rest of the war, the RAF provided fighter and bomber cover for various invasions of the Nazi vaunted Fortress Europe. Of course the most notable and best example was during the lead up and part of the massive Normandy invasion of France.

After the war the RAF fared much better then did the Royal Navy. While in numbers it did see massive reductions, the RAF with the help of extra funding, because of the NATO alliance and being included as part of the United States' Strategic Air Command were able to maintain a potent strike capability.



  • Hawker Hurricane
  • Supermarine Spitfire
  • P-51 Mustang
  • Bristol Beaufighter
  • Hawker Typhoon
  • Hawker Hector
  • Hawker Hind
  • Vickers Vildebeest
  • Vultee Vengeance
  • Westland Wapiti


  • De Havilland Mosquito
  • Avro Manchester
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Boeing Fortress
  • Bristol Beaufort
  • Bristol Blenheim & Bisley
  • Bristol Bombay
  • Douglas Boston
  • Fairey Battle
  • Fairey Gordon
  • Handley Page Halifax
  • Handley Page Hampden & Hereford
  • Lockheed Hudson
  • Lockheed Ventura
  • Martin Maryland
  • Martin Marauder
  • Martin Baltimore
  • North American Mitchell
  • Short Stirling
  • Vickers Valencia
  • Vickers Vincent
  • Vickers Wellesley
  • Vickers Wellington


  • Consolidated Catalina PBY
  • Boeing Sentry AEW1
  • Bombardier Sentinel R1
  • Beechcraft Shadow R1