Royal Air Force Police

The Royal Air Force Police (RAFP) is the service police branch of the Royal Air Force, headed by the provost marshal of the Royal Air Force. Its headquarters are at RAF Honington and it deploys throughout the world to support RAF and UK defence missions.

Royal Air Force Police
Royal Air Force Police crest.png
Active1 April 1918 – present
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
AllegianceHM The King
Branch Royal Air Force
TypeService police
RolePolicing, protective security and counter-intelligence
Motto(s)Fiat justitia
(Latin: Let justice be done)[1]
MarchRAF Police March Past
Provost marshal
Group Captain Russ Foster-Jones
PMWOWarrant Officer Jimmy Brown[2]


Foreground - Cpl Brian Nash and on the left, directing Army motorcyclist, is Cpl Harry Petters, RAFP, 2nd Tactical Air Force, 1943-1945, controlling traffic at "Gripper's Cross", a busy roundabout on the Caen to Bayeux Road in Normandy.

The RAFP was formed on 1 April 1918, when the RAF was formed by the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. By the end of World War II there were 500 officers and 20,000 NCOs in the RAFP. In January 1947, the RAF Provost Branch became a Specialist Branch within the RAF. In December 1950, George VI approved the badge and motto Fiat Justitia. By 2009, the RAFP had served in 66 countries around the globe.

Uniform and insigniaEdit

RAFP non-commissioned officers and warrant officers are noticeable by their white-topped caps (giving rise to their nickname of "Snowdrops"),[3] which they have worn since 1945, and by black and red flashes worn below their rank slides. RAFP commissioned officers wear the standard peaked cap of all RAF officers, with the red and black flashes. In dress uniform, all RAFP wear a red and black brassard on the left arm, reflecting the flashes worn with normal working dress. In tactical dress, RAFP personnel wear red "MP" badges, the internationally recognised symbol for military police.

The oathEdit

"I do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that as a member of the Royal Air Force Police I will well and truly serve His Majesty the King, acting with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, maintain service law and investigate independently and impartially all service offences against people and property; and that while I continue to be a member of the Royal Air Force Police I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties of that appointment faithfully according to law."[4]


Royal Air Force Police member with distinctive armband and white cap in 2011.
A Royal Air Force Police Dog Handler attached to 42 Commando, on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan (2011).

The RAFP are responsible for the policing and security of all service personnel, much like their Royal Navy and British Army counterparts.

Provision of policing, counter-intelligence and specialist security support to the RAF includes:

  • Front line, Response and General Policing duties (Law Enforcement)
  • Criminal and security investigations
  • Serious and Complex Criminal Investigations
  • Aircraft protection and security
  • Covert Operations
  • Counter Intelligence operations to identify and counter threats from terrorism, espionage, subversion, sabotage and Organised Crime.
  • Cyber and information security
  • Military working dogs
  • Force protection (on deployed operations)
  • Close protection of VIPs
  • Close support of other UK military units [5]

In addition to general policing, the RAFP has specialist security and criminal investigators tasked with the investigation of more serious and complex crime and security threats.

The Special Investigation Branch investigate serious and complex crimes within the Defence community, up to and including murder.

Counter Intelligence Operations Squadron investigate serious security breaches and support the RAF through the gathering of intelligence and protective security based activities.

These specialist capabilities are supported by forensic and intelligence units. Members of all wings are used for operations overseas, deploying as individuals, with the aircraft they support, or as a formed unit drawn together under the Tactical Police Squadrons. Members of the RAFP may also specialise in close protection duties, ensuring the safety of VIPs and other dignitaries in hostile environments.[6]

The RAFP are the only branch of the Service Police who operate police dogs within the UK military. They manage all RAF military working dogs, with detachments at many RAF stations. RAFP dogs and their handlers support overseas operations. Recently, this has included Iraq and Afghanistan, in both patrol and specialist search roles.[7]

The RAFP is subject to inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, in the same way as the UK's civilian police forces.[8]


Office of the Provost Marshal (OPM) is the HQ of the Provost Marshal, who holds the rank of group captain. A component of the RAF's Force Protection Force, the RAFP is organised into three functional wings that operate both within the UK and internationally.

No 8 Force Protection Wing covers the north of the UK, and incorporates No 4, No 5 & No 6 RAF Police Squadrons and The Queens Colour Squadron, RAF Regt.

No 4 Force Protection Wing covers the south of the UK and supports Operations in Northern Ireland. This Wing incorporates No 1 Tactical Police Squadron (TPS) (formerly the Tactical Provost Wing) which forms the RAF Police's deployable capability; their primary role is to conduct Force Protection providing specialist security expertise to deployed operations. No 7 RAF Police Squadron and No 2 Squadron RAF Regt.

No 3 Specialist Police Wing (SPW) provides deployable support to RAF and MOD operations worldwide, including Counter Intelligence Squadron, Special Investigation Branch, named as SIB(North) and SIB(South) and all RAF Police Reserves, 3 Tactical Police Squadron and 603 (City of Edinburgh) Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron. 3 SPW moved to RAF Honington in 2015 to provide a single hub for RAF Force Protection.[9][10]

Detachments of RAFP can be found at most RAF stations. Usually, the detachment consists of a Flight, commanded by either a Flying Officer or a Flight Lieutenant; either a Flight Sergeant or Sergeant usually functions as the senior non-commissioned officer of the flight.

RAF Police Flights are responsible to and directed by a RAFP Squadron. Squadron HQs are based at the larger RAF stations and provide remote oversight of the Police Flights at the units within their respective area of responsibility. Squadron HQs are themselves responsible to, and directed by, the Deputy Provost Marshal of the RAFP, who is a Wing Commander. RAFP personnel are not responsible to, or under the direct command of, the Commanding Officer (Station Commander) of the station at which they are situated; all service police on RAFP Wings remain under the command of the Provost Marshal (RAF). Their authority to act as service police stems directly from the Armed Forces Act 2006. Service police are able to issue lawful commands to any service person, regardless of their rank or trade. The RAF Police also provides the RAF's Counter-intelligence & Protective Security (CI) & (PS) role, similar to that carried out by the Intelligence Corps and elements of the Royal Signals of the British Army. IT Security (ITSy) is a further specialisation within the protective security field and personnel trained to this level are expected to perform all PS and ITSy related tasks. Over 400 RAF Police personnel are seconded to roles within Strategic Command providing Law Enforcement, Counter Intelligence and Protective Security capabilities to UK and overseas operations.

2021 New Operating ModelEdit

The RAF Police is to reform in 2021–2022. These reforms will see Wing Headquarters align with individual RAF groups, and the squadrons align with individual operational forces (e.g. Lightning Force, ISTAR Force, etc) within their respective groups.[11]

Recent operationsEdit

Royal Air Force Police guarding the Main Entry Point at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan (2013).

In Afghanistan, as part of the RAF's Force Protection Wing, the RAFP provided security for Camp Bastion[12] along with external support to frontline troops.

On 12 May 2012, Cpl Brent McCarthy – an RAF Policeman stationed at RAF Brize Norton – was shot and killed while on duty in Helmand Province.[13]

RAF Police, along with other units, took part in the Mobility Guardian exercise in 2017.[14]


A Royal Air Force Police car in 2018.

Ground Trades within the Royal Air Force start their service career at RAF Halton where they undergo Basic training. Once this is successfully completed, recruit intakes are dispersed to the various Ground Trades Training Schools.

Potential RAFP recruits are trained at the Defence School of Policing and Guarding at Southwick Park, Hampshire, along with the Royal Navy Police and the Royal Military Police. In order to conduct some of the wider specialist roles, particularly involving the investigation of more serious and complex crime and security investigations, extensive further post-graduation training is provided outside of DSPG to all RAFP specialists by Home Department Police Forces and Training providers. Most of the training requirements of a Home Department Police Force in terms of Detective training and Covert Operations are delivered to specialist RAFP elements.

During the 1950s, training was carried out at RAF Netheravon in Wiltshire, and in the 1960s at RAF Debden near Saffron Walden. Until the mid-1990s, trade training took place at RAF Newton in Nottinghamshire, before moving to RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire. In 2004, all UK service police training was consolidated at Southwick Park.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 75. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. ^ "Royal Air Force". Royal Air Force.
  3. ^ Ferguson, Neil (2017). "Part 2: the arms, Chapter 5: trades and branches". For the love of the Air Force: a companion. Chichester: Summersdale. p. 104. ISBN 9781786850652.
  4. ^ "RAF Police Factsheet" (PDF). RAF Police Associates. 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 February 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  5. ^ "RAF Police". Royal Air Force. 6 November 2012. Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  6. ^ "RAF Recruitment – RAF Police". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  7. ^ "Wetnose Bravery Awards for RAF dogs". BBC News. 8 March 2010. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  8. ^ "Armed Forces Act 2011". Archived from the original on 27 June 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  9. ^ "Number 3 Police Wing March on RAF Honington". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  10. ^ "RAF police move to new headquarters". BBC News. 9 June 2015. Archived from the original on 31 December 2017.
  11. ^ "Introducing the New RAF Police Operating Model". Royal Air Force. 12 February 2021. Retrieved 13 February 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "7 Force Protection Wing Take Control at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan". Royal Air Force. 6 December 2012. Archived from the original on 11 December 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  13. ^ "Family of Cpl Brent McCarthy pay tribute to 'perfect' son". BBC News. 15 May 2012. Archived from the original on 19 May 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  14. ^ "RAF Force Protection leads on security on Exercise Mobility Guardian". Royal Air Force. 8 August 2017. Archived from the original on 11 August 2017. Retrieved 11 August 2017.

External linksEdit