Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
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Military aviation at Cranwell began on 1 April 1916,
when the Admiralty commissioned the site as the ‘Royal Naval Air Service,
Training Establishment, Cranwell’. The
establishment trained officers and men to fly and operate a range of aircraft,
including balloons and airships, and in common with other Naval Air Stations the
personnel were nominally held on the books of HMS Daedalus, which later gave way
to a popular misconception that Cranwell had been commissioned as HMS Daedalus;
but ‘Daedalus’ was a hulk that was moored in the Medway.
When the Royal Naval Air Service was amalgamated with
the Royal Flying Corps, on 1 April 1918, the Station became Royal Air Force
Cranwell, and was later chosen as the site of the Royal Air Force Cadet College,
which would provide initial officer training and basic flying training for the
future leaders of the new Service. The
first course began on 5 February 1920; but the only accommodation was in the
huts that had been erected for temporary use in 1916.
In 1922, it was decided that the temporary
accommodation should be replaced by permanent buildings, but it was not until
1929 that the foundation stone of College Hall was laid, and in the same year
the College was renamed the Royal Air Force College and was granted its Coat of
Arms. Meanwhile, from 1929 to 1938,
Cranwell’s airfield enabled the long take-off runs, which were required by the
Long Range Development Flight in its attempt to establish the World Long
Distance Record. After three
attempts this was claimed in February 1933 when a Fairy Long Range Monoplane
landed at Walvis Bay in South West Africa.
In August 1939, cadet training ceased and Cranwell
became the Royal Air Force College Service Flying Training School.
Then, in 1941, No 3 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit formed at
Cranwell, and was replaced
by a Ferry Training Unit in 1942. Cranwell
was also chosen for the test flying of a new generation of aircraft.
In 1941 Britain’s first jet aircraft was brought onto the airfield by
road, and made its first flight on the evening of 16 May.
Two years later, the Gloster F9/40 made its maiden flight from Cranwell,
and its derivative became the first jet aircraft to come into the Service, when
it became known as the Meteor.
The Royal Air Force
College re-opened in 1946, and in 1948 it became the first Royal Air Force Unit
to receive a King’s Colour. In
the years that followed the College broadened its officer training to include
candidates who were destined for a range of air and ground specialisations.
In 1965, the Royal Air Force Technical College was moved from Henlow to
Cranwell, where it became the Department of Engineering.
Then, in 1970, the Graduate entry scheme was introduced, and replaced the
flight cadet system. Under the new
scheme, university graduates completed a short initial officer training course,
followed by initial specialist training.
In the next decade, the College’s responsibilities
continued to increase: in November 1971, Cranwell assumed control of all
University Air Squadrons, and in January 1974, the College of Air Warfare was
moved from Manby to Cranwell to become the Department of Air Warfare.
During 1973 and 1974, the Supply and Secretarial Officer Training
Squadrons were transferred from Upwood, and the Department of Engineering became
the Department of Specialist Ground Training; but the Secretarial Officers’
Training Squadron was subsequently moved to Hereford.
In April 1976, the Central Flying School was
transferred to Cranwell from Little Rissington, before moving to Scampton in
November 1977. In April 1980 the
Officer Cadet Training Unit from Henlow was merged with the Royal Air Force
College, and since then, all officers of Royal Air Force and Princess Mary’s
Royal Air Force Nursing Sisters have completed their initial officer training at
Having disbanded at Leeming in 1984, No 3 Flying
Training School was reformed at Cranwell on 1 February 1989, when the Royal Air
Force College Basic Flying School was redesignated. In 1995, following the Defence Cost Studies, a number of
major changes to the College’s organization and structure commenced: the Joint
Elementary Flying Training School moved from Topcliffe to Cranwell’s satellite
airfield at Barkston Heath, and the Basic Flying Training School moved from
Cranwell to Linton-on-Ouse. Its
place was taken by No 45 (Reserve) Squadron, which had reformed at Finningley to
provide multi-engine training for pilots, flying the Jetstream.
They were subsequently joined by No 55 (Reserve) Squadron, which now
trains other aircrew specialists, using the Dominie.
The 1995 Defence Cost Studies also brought about the
move of Headquarters Air Cadets to Cranwell from Newton, and elements of the
Central Flying School arrived, from Scampton, together with the Royal Air Force
Aerobatic Team, ‘The Red Arrows’. The
Central Flying School Headquarters remains at Cranwell, but The Red Arrows
returned to Scampton when the airfield was reactivated at the end of 2000.
At the same time, the Central Flying School Bulldog Squadron began its
conversion to the Tutor.
In September 1992, the Directorate of Recruiting and
Selection was formed at Cranwell, by combining the Directorate of Recruiting,
the Inspectorate of Recruiting, and the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre.
On 1 April 2002, the organization was redesignated the Directorate of
Recruitment, with an Inspectorate of Recruiting, an Officers and Aircrew
Selection Centre, and a re-brigaded Department of Initial Officer Training.
A further change took place on 6 December 2002, when
the post of Commandant Royal Air Force College was re-graded to a one-star rank,
relinquishing the role of Air Officer Commanding, with re-subordination to the
Air Officer Commanding Training Group. At
the same time, Royal Air Force Cranwell was re-established, and re-brigaded
under Air Commodore Flying Training, together with No 3 Flying Training School
(consisting of No 45(R) and No 55(R) Sqns), the Central Flying School, and the
Department of Elementary Flying Training.
Ground training responsibilities were also changed,
when the Directorate of Specialist Ground Training was re-brigaded under Air
Commodore Ground Training. At the
beginning of 2003 the Department of Initial Officer Training began to train
Non-Commissioned Aircrew Cadets, and was re-designated the Officer and Aircrew
Cadet Training Unit, and adopted a near copy of the badge which had been first
been used by the Officer Cadet Training Unit at Cosford, and was later used at
At the same time, the Department of Elementary Flying
Training was redesignated No 1 Elementary Flying Training School, and adopted
the badge of its Second World War forebear, whilst its naval element at Barkston
Heath became 703 Royal Naval Air Squadron, and the army element became 674
Squadron, Army Air Corps. The most
recent change came about on 1 April 2003, when the Department of Specialist
Ground Training ceased to function and its training elements came under the
Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering and the Defence College of
Royal Air Force College.
The Commandant of the Royal Air Force College is the
Director of Recruitment for the Royal Air Force, and his command is comprised of
3 major elements of the Royal Air Force College:
Inspectorate of Recruiting (IofR).
The Inspectorate of Recruiting is responsible for recruiting and
selecting all non-commissioned personnel for initial recruit training at Halton
and Honington. In addition it is responsible for the selection of potential
officers for consideration by the Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre.
Recruitment is facilitated through the Royal Air Force Careers
Information Service, which consists of a network of Armed Forces Careers
Offices, Careers Liaison Officers and Motivational Outreach Teams.
Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC).
The Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre is responsible for the
selection of all commissioned officers and non-commissioned aircrew.
The Centre also selects University Bursars, Sixth Form Scholarships and
Welbeck College candidates. Testing
is conducted through a series of interviews, aptitude tests, group leadership
tasks and a full medical assessment.
Officer and Aircrew Cadet Training Unit (OACTU).
The unit runs 6 x 24-week Initial Officer Training (IOT) courses and
4x10-week Non-Commissioned Aircrew (NCA) Initial Training courses per year.
Each IOT course trains up to 120 cadets and each NCA course trains up to
40 aircrew cadets. Two to three
8-week Specialist Entrant and Re-entrant (SERE) courses are run each year for
doctors, dentists, chaplains, lawyers and nurses and up to 30 cadets attend each
course. There are also a small
number of one-week Induction courses for Commissioned Warrant Officers,
University Cadets, Bursars and Volunteer Reserve officers.
All IOT cadets are expected to attend a 2-day IOT Familiarization Visit
before starting the course
1 Elementary Flying Training School (1 EFTS).
1 EFTS provides the first stage of flying training for
pilots of all UK Armed Services. It
comprises 17 squadrons and 2 smaller flights based at 14 locations around the
UK, with its HQ at Cranwell. RAF
pilots are trained at 14 University Air Squadrons (UAS), either as
undergraduates before officer training, or as junior officers after initial
officer training at Cranwell. At
the end of this 62-hour syllabus, pilots are streamed for further training in
the fast jet, rotary wing or multi-engine stream.
The aircraft used for this training is the Tutor, a single-engined light
aircraft supplied for the purpose under a PFI contract.
The flying syllabus contains all the elements needed for a Private
Pilot’s Licence (for which students are qualified at the end) plus aerobatics,
formation and low-level navigation. RN
and Army student pilots are trained on 703 and 674 Sqn, respectively, at
Barkston Heath. RN students fly the
same syllabus as their RAF counterparts, with a small number being selected for
fast jet training for the RN Harrier Force, while the Army fly a shorter
(40-hour) syllabus before proceeding, along with most of the RN, to rotary wing
training. The aircraft used for RN
and Army training is the Firefly, a similar aircraft to the Tutor, which is also
used for RAF multi-engine lead-in (MELIN) training, and for Army Grading, an
airborne selection procedure for potential pilots. Again, a contractor supplies the aircraft.
CFS Tutor Sqn at Cranwell trains all the flying instructors for 1 EFTS.
EFT Standards instructors provide continuing checks on the quality of EFT
instructors and their output. Embedded
within the UASs are Air Experience Flights (AEF), providing flying opportunities
for Air Cadets of the Air Training Corps and Combined Cadet Force.
AEF pilots are volunteer military aviators, either serving or, more
often, retired. In all their tasks,
EFT aircraft fly some 60,000 hours each year.
The UASs also provide more general Service training for potential
officers of all RAF branches. As
well as formal classroom teaching, this includes a large element of adventurous
training, helped by the Physical Training Instructor on the staff of each unit.
Some 1000 undergraduates are members of the UASs at any one time, 650 of
these being potential pilots. Direct
entry students from the RAF, RN and Army bring the total 1 EFTS student loading
to 1100. Students from other nations also train on 1 EFTS, but in
Air Cadets (HQ AC).
The Air Cadet Organization (ACO) is a national youth
organization sponsored by the RAF. It
comprises the Air Training Corps (930 squadrons) and the RAF sections of the
Combined Cadet Force (189 units); 2 Adventure Training Centres; 28 Volunteer
Gliding Schools; 36 Wing HQs, 6 Regional HQs.
It is established to promote and encourage among young people a practical
interest in aviation and the RAF; to provide training which will be useful in
the Services and civilian life; and to foster a spirit of adventure and to
develop qualities of good leadership and citizenship. The ACO offers air experience flying on Tutors, gliding on
the Vigilant (motorized) and Viking (winch-launched), shooting, sports and
adventurous activities, camps, international exchanges, Nijmegen marches,
participation in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, and an
aviation-orientated academic programme that also offers BTechs in Aviation
Studies and in Public Services. Some
98% of the members are volunteers. Averaged
over recent years, 58% of those in the pilot and navigator branches are
ex-cadets, and 38% of the other officer branches are ex-cadets.
Currently some 18% of all airmen undergoing training are ex-cadets.
The current strength of some 48,500 cadets across the entire spectrum of
society contributes directly to the RAF’s initiatives on diversity whilst also
mirroring its Ethos, Core Values and Standards.
3 Flying Training School (3 FTS)
The aim on 3 FTS is to supply RAF
front line operational conversion units with
Flying School (CFS).
CFS maintains standards of flying and flying instruction on fixed and rotary wing aircraft and gliders throughout all 3 Services. Instructor training itself has been collocated with aircraft type: Tutor and King Air at RAF Cranwell, Squirrel at RAF Shawbury, Tucano at RAF Linton-on-Ouse and Hawk at RAF Valley.
Standardization is carried out by CFS by means of audits of all flying
units, monitoring the output standard of students, staff and instructor aircrew
in all flying disciplines and at all stages of training, and ensures coherence
of flying training boundaries. Comdt
CFS also has delegated control of the RAF Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows.
The Team relocated to RAF Cranwell from RAF Scampton on 20 Feb 96 and
returned again to RAF Scampton at the end of 2001. The Red Arrows undertake 7
months of training at RAF Scampton annually before undertaking up to 100 public
RAF Station Cranwell provides
administrative and engineering support to other departments based at Cranwell.
The Station supports the College in many ways; personnel management,
policing and security, medical and dental services, budget management, property
management, physical education, chaplaincy services, education and library
services and health and safety.
Specialist Ground Training
At Cranwell, specialist ground training is delivered
by the Defence College of Aeronautical engineering (DCAE) and the Defence
College of Logistics (DCL) on a wide variety of courses, to British and overseas
students, covering not only core logistics topics but also related disciplines
such as computing and management. In
addition to initial specialist training, the colleges provide continued
professional development for engineer and supply officers.
Bands of the Royal Air Force College Royal Air Force Regiment
Two of only 3 remaining full time
bands in the Royal Air Force, the bands of the RAF College and RAF Regiment, are
both independent lodger units at RAF Cranwell who draw upon the Station element
for administrative support. Each
has a busy annual programme of engagements, which continue to promote the finest
traditions of musicians in the Forces as a whole and the RAF in particular.
Warfare Centre (AWC)
Another lodger unit, the AWC
conducts foundation and more advanced courses in the theory and practice of air
warfare, including air operations, electronic warfare, weapons, the military use
of space and targeting and battle damage assessment for all RAF personnel and
selected members of the Royal Navy and Army. The Department also conducts
advanced technology and aerosystems training for personnel destined for duty in
Operational Requirement, procurement and flight trials.
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