The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the air arm of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918 the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history ever since, playing a large part in World War II and in more recent conflicts. The RAF operates almost 1,100 aircraft and has a projected trained strength of over 40,000 regular personnel. The majority of the RAF's aircraft and personnel are based in the United Kingdom with many others serving on operations (principally Iraq, Afghanistan, Middle East, Balkans, and South Atlantic) or at long-established overseas bases (notably the Falkland Islands, Qatar, Germany, Cyprus, and Gibraltar).
The RAF's mission is to support the objectives of the British Ministry of Defence (MoD)
and to provide "An agile
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 Red Arrows
, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team
, is the aerobatics
display team of the Royal Air Force
. They were formed in late 1964 as an all-RAF team, replacing a number of unofficial teams that had been sponsored by various RAF commands.
Originally equipped with seven Folland Gnat trainers which were inherited from the RAF Yellowjacks display team, they flew at 65 shows across Europe during their first season. In 1966, the team was increased to nine members, enabling them to develop their Diamond Nine formation. In late 1979, they switched to the BAE Hawk trainer. The Red Arrows have now performed over 4,000 displays world-wide in 53 countries.
Such is the popularity of the Red Arrows that at a recent charity auction, a British woman paid £1,500,000 to fly with them.
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Graham Eric Stirrup, Baron Stirrup
, KG, GCB, AFC, FRAeS, FCMI
(born 4 December 1949), informally known as Jock Stirrup
, was a senior Royal Air Force
commander who was the Chief of the Defence Staff
from 2006 until his retirement in late 2010. He is now a Crossbench
member of the House of Lords
. In April 2013, he was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Garter
by Queen Elizabeth II
As a junior RAF officer, Stirrup was a fast jet pilot, seeing action in the Dhofar War. Later in his career, he commanded No. 2 Squadron and RAF Marham. After several senior air force appointments, Stirrup was made the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Strike Command and during this time he served as the first commander of British forces engaged in fighting the Taliban. In 2002, Stirrup was appointed the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff responsible for equipment and capability and was heavily involved in procuring equipment for the invasion of Iraq. Spending a little over a year in that role, he was then appointed the Chief of the Air Staff, in which capacity he served from 2003 to 2006. He became Chief of the Defence Staff in 2006: during his time in office the British Armed Forces faced significant commitments both to Iraq (Operation Telic) and Afghanistan (Operation Herrick). Stirrup retired as Chief of the Defence Staff on 29 October 2010, taking a seat in the House of Lords in 2011.