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How 100 Years of the RAF Changed Aviation

  • by: Ryan Abbot
  • On: 24, Sep 2018
2 min read

As the Royal Air Force celebrates its 100th Anniversary, we look at how the RAF has shaped Aviation in the past century.

Royal Air Force: The History

Since its inception on April 1st 1918 the Royal Air Force has been crucial in military operations around the world, being deployed in both World Wars, The Cold War, and today being involved in 15 operations across 22 countries. The Royal Air Force has always positioned itself at the forefront of cutting edge Aviation technology, from the first aerial engines to weaponry, all the way through to the unmanned aircraft we see today. 

The RAF as we know it was originally formed from two separate services: the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. This was the first time any country had an independent air force, and the RAF was soon the most powerful in the world with 290,000 personnel and 23,000 aircraft. Aerial units were credited as vital support in WWI, providing reconnaissance, delivering communications, and scouting enemy positions. The invention of the interrupter – a mechanism which allowed for synchronized propeller rotations and machine gun fire – meant that aerial combat would become more important as the war came to a close.

More specialized fighters and bombers would go on to make the difference between victory and defeat in WWII. The most famous fighter plane of World War II was the Spitfire, first flown in 1936. One of the most successful fighters ever built, the Spitfire would prove invaluable to the war effort, and earn its fame during the Battle of Britain.

The world famous Red Arrows were formed in 1965, and have gone on to become one of the world’s best aerobatic display teams. While originally piloting seven Folland Gnat planes, the Red Arrows switched to the BAE Hawk in 1979, a modified version of the RAF’s fast jet and weapons trainer craft.

Now the RAF is the only UK military service that allows 100% of its roles to people of all genders, and offers numerous internship and sponsorship schemes to promote mobility through its ranks. No longer just a military force, the RAF has played vital roles in providing aid and relief to areas impacted by natural disasters, helped refugees, and delivered food to those who desperately need it.

How The Royal Air Force Innovated New Aviation Technology

The technology in the construction, maintenance, and piloting of aircraft have all changed dramatically over the last hundred years, allowing the RAF to adapt, improve, and refine what the service is capable of.

Planes during the First World War often had open cockpits, and limited (if any) communications. The Second World War saw vast improvements both in quality of aircraft design and the resources available to pilots. This technology has developed to include the creation and utilization of unmanned drones, stealth systems that reduce radar signatures, and solar-powered sub-orbital surveillance craft which can provide tactical support faster, more precisely, and in more detail than any human ever could.

The Aviation industry is changing all the time, and thanks to ground-breaking technological advancements there’s never been a better time to consider a career in Aviation.

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