Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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RAF Organisational Structure and Index

[Air Council and Air Staff | Commands | Groups | Stations | Wings | FTS | Squadrons | OTUs | OCUs | Flights]

The basic command structure of the RAF has remained almost unchanged throughout its history and is exercised at a number of levels.

Air Council and Air Staff

Ultimately under the control of Parliament, political control was delegated to the Air Ministry (Ministry of Defence from 1964).  Until 1964 the overall controlling body was the Air Council, composed of both military officers and politicians.  The Air Staff is responsible for the planning and policy making.  Senior Air Officers are in charge of each the main policy making functions, under the overall control of the Chief of the Air Staff.  In 1964, with the establishment of the Defence Council, the Air Council was abolished but its members remained the heads of the Air Staff Departments.  The Air Staff is responsible for setting policy and procurement.

Air Staff Development Air Council Appointments


Operational control is delegated to Command level.  Because Commands may control subordinate formations commanded by Air Officers these formations are usually commanded by an Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, although smaller commands without subordinate formations commanded by Air Officers, may only have an Air Officer Commanding.  Commands have been and remain to be formed on both a geographical and a functional basis.

Each Command usually has an Air or Senior officer, responsible to the AOC(-in-C) for operational matters known as the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) and another responsible for admin and organisation known as Air or Senior Officer i/c Administration (AOA/SOA).

Home Commands

Training Division No 1 Area No 2 Area
No 3 Area No 4 Area No 5 Area
South-Eastern Area South-Western Area Midland Area
North-Eastern Area North-Western Area  No 5 Group
No 29 Group Coastal Area Southern Area
Northern Area RAF Halton RAF Cranwell
RAF Ireland Air Defence of Great Britain HQ Superintendent RAF Reserve
Fighting Area Western Area Central Area
 Wessex Bombing Area Training Command Bomber Command
Fighter Command  Coastal Command Maintenance Command
Balloon Command Reserve Command Army Co-operation Command
Flying Training Command Technical Training Command Ferry Command 
RAF in Northern Ireland Transport Command Home Command
Signals Command Air Support Command Strike Command
Support/RAF Support Command Personal and Training Command Logistics Command
Permanent Joint Headquarters Joint Helicopter Force Defence Logistics Organisation
  Air Command  

Overseas Commands

Click on the area of the world to view details of the RAF Command organization for that region, the details will open in a new window.

Far East and Pacific India and Iraq Africa Mediterranean, Middle East and Southern Europe Northern EuropeMap of the World

Regions available : - [Europe | Middle East | Mediterranean | Iraq | India | Far East & Pacific]


Further operational control is delegated to Group level, usually commanded by an Air Officer Commanding.  Being subordinate to Commands, Groups usually reflect the role of their parent Command, although when a Command is formed on a geographical basis, Groups may assume a functional role.  Some Establishments responsible directly to the Air Ministry/Ministry of Defence operate at Group status and their details are available below.  The senior post of  many of these Establishments is often referred to as Commandant.  Like Commands, Groups usually have a SASO and a AOA.

Numbered Groups

Select a link to view the Group badge (if available) and details of formation and commanders.  When a Group number appear twice, t means that there two separate listing for that Group.  Clicking the left hand link will take you to the earliest listing, the right hand link will take you to the full listing.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34 38 40 41 42 43 44
45 46 47 48 50 51 52 53 54 60
61 62 63 64 65 66 67 70 71 72
81 82 83 84 85 87 88 90 91 92
93 100 106 200 201 202 203 204 205 206
207 209 210 211 212 213 214 215 216 217
218 219 221 222 223 224 225 226 227 228
229 230 231 232 233 238 241 242 246 247
300 333      


RFC and early RAF formations equating to Group status are also included to maintain continuity and can be found through the links below: -

I Brigade/1st Brigade II Brigade/2nd Brigade III Brigade/3rd Brigade IV Brigade/4th Brigade
V Brigade/5th Brigade VI Brigade/6th Brigade VII Brigade/7th Brigade VIII Brigade/8th Brigade
IX Brigade/9th Brigade X Brigade/10th Brigade XII Brigade/11th Brigade Home Defence Brigade
Training Brigade Northern Training Brigade Eastern Training Brigade Southern Training Brigade
Middle East Brigade Palestine Brigade Training Brigade (Middle East) HQ RAF Middle East

Home based Named Groups and Group status units

Experimental Group Firth of Forth Group

Technical Group

Air Defence Group

 Armament Group

AOC Training Units


Training  Group (Defence Agency)


AHQ Cyprus 

Directorate of Flight Safety

 Inspectorate of Flight Safety

HQ Air Cadets

HQ Military Air Traffic Organisation/Operations

Royal Observer Corps  

Overseas Named Groups

Click on the area of the world to view details of the RAF Group organisation for that region, which will open in a separate window

Far East and Pacific Iraq and India Africa Middle East Mediterranean and Southern Europe Northern EuropeMap of the World

Regions available : - 

[Northern Europe | Middle East | Southern Europe and Mediterranean | Iraq | India | Far East and Pacific]


Central Flying School Empire Central Flying School Empire Air Armament School
Empire Air Navigation School   Central Navigation School School  Empire Flying School
RAF Flying College   College of Air Warfare   School of Land/Air Warfare

RAF College

The Officers Advanced Training School  

No 1 School of Technical Training

RAF Staff College Joint Services Staff College  National Defence College 
Joint Services Defence College Joint Services Command and Staff College Imperial Defence College
Royal College of Defence  Studies Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment Central Fighter Establishment
Central Bomber Establishment Central Photographic Establishment Central Reconnaissance Establishment
Central Signals Establishment Central Trials and Tactics Organisation Air Warfare Centre
Joint Warfare Establishment Officers and Aircrew Selection Centre RAF Record Office
RAF Personnel Management Centre/Agency   Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering Defence College of Communication and Information Systems



Groups usually control a number of stations and/or Establishments. These stations will have other subordinate units based there. These units may be responsible to their controlling Group either directly or through the station commander, who holds the appointment of Officer CommandingWhilst many RAF unit locations are referred to as 'stations', they are only classed as stations by the RAF if they are 'self-accounting and have a dedicated OC and station HQ. 

Prior to the RAF expansion in the 1930's very few RAF locations were classed as stations, for instance in 1922 there is only one unit listed as a Station in the Air Force List, Hinaidi in Iraq.  By 1925 Hiniadi has been joined by six more Station HQs, namely Andover, Bircham Newton, Duxford, Kenley, Northolt and Spittlegate.  Other locations, whilst being known by the as RAF 'X' or RAF 'Y' were listed in the Air Force Lists by the name of the unit based there, e.g. No 1 Stores Depot was at RAF Kidbrooke but personnel posted to the unit were posted to No 1 SD not RAF Kidbrooke.

With the build up of the mid-late 1930's it became necessary to increase the number of units at locations and the establishment of separate Station Headquarters was increasedAnother factor here was probably the realisation that squadrons/units would need to be more mobile and therefore the various RAF locations around the world needed dedicated organisational structures and staffs to administer them, regardless of the units stationed there. During WW2, the expansion of Bomber Command was such that there were insufficient senior officers with the relevant experience to command all the new stations and the BASE system was therefore adopted.  This grouped three or four stations together with a Base Commander, who was an Air Commodore.

Home Stations Overseas Stations Bomber Bases


Wings can be a sub-division of a Group acting independently or can be a sub-division of a station or establishment and these are usually sub-divided further into Squadrons.  These are commanded by officers holding the appointment of Officer Commanding.  Today, stations usually consist of three Wings, Operations/Flying, Administrative and Engineering. 

No's 1 - 50 No's 51 - 110 No's 111 - 192 No's 215 - 298 No's 300 - 910

Flying Training Schools

Originally subordinate to Groups, these units were later directly controlled by Command HQs (1970's).  The station Commanding Officer usually also being the Officer Commanding, the FTS.  Historical details of these unis can be found in the Members' Area

Formation details Officers Commanding


There are two types of Squadrons, Squadrons of the RAF, which whilst subordinate to higher authority are technically independent, in that if the station on which they are based is closed down, they can continue to operate by moving to a new base.  They equate to an Army Regiment, in that they can be awarded Standards and Battle Honours.  However, stations can also have squadrons (e.g. Catering Squadron, Mechanical Engineering Squadron and MT Squadron), but these only exist whilst the station is operational.  They are all commanded by officers holding the appointment of Officer Commanding.

No's 1 - 5 No's 6 - 10 No's 11 - 15 No's 16 - 20 No's 21 - 25
No's 26 - 30 No's 31 - 35 No's 36 - 40 No's 41 - 45 No's 46 - 50
No's 51 - 55 No's 56 - 60 No's 61 - 65 No's 66 - 70 No's 71 - 75
No's 76 - 80 No's 81 - 85 No's 86 - 90 No's 91 - 95 No's 96 - 100
No's 101 - 105 No's 106 - 110 No's 111 - 115 No's 116 - 120 No's 121 - 125
No's 126 - 130 No's 131 - 135 No's 136 - 140 No's 141 - 145 No's 146 - 150
No's 151 - 155 No's 156 - 160 No's 161 - 165 No's 166 - 170 No's 171 - 175
No's 176 - 180 No's 181 - 185 No's 186 - 190 No's 191 - 195 No's 196 - 200
No's 201 - 205 No's 206 - 210 No's 211 - 215 No's 216 - 220 No's 221 - 225
No's 226 - 230 No's 231 - 235 No's 236 - 240 No's 241 - 245 No's 246 - 250
No's 251 - 255 No's 256 - 260 No's 261 - 265 No's 266 - 270 No's 271 - 275
No's 276 - 280 No's 281 - 285 No's 286 - 290 No's 291 - 295 No's 296 - 299
No's 300 - 309 No's 310 - 313 No's 315 - 318 No's 320 - 322 No's 326 - 329
No's 330 - 336 No's 340 - 347 No's 349 - 352 No's 353 - 361 No's 400 - 410
No's 411 - 420 No's 421 - 433 No's 431 - 443 No's 450 - 467 No's 485 - 490
No's 500 - 520 No's 521 - 540 No's 541 - 598 No's 600 - 610 No's 611 - 620
No's 621 - 650 No's 651 - 670 No's 671 - 1435 No's 712 - 825 No's 900+


Operational Training Units

Prior to WW2, aircrew completed their operational training on their squadrons, however, once war had broken out and operations begun, it became obvious that this duty could not effectively be carried out by units and personnel actively engaged on operations.  The first solution to this was to remove some squadrons from operations and allocate them the task of preparing new crews for operations.  It was not long before it was decided to formalise this arrangement by redesigning these 'training' squadrons as Operational Training Units.  These units were usually larger than a squadron and were commanded by officers holding the appointment of Officer Commanding

1 - 23 24 - 38 41 - 63 70 - 86 101 - 152


Operational Conversion Units

With the drawdown in the size of the RAF towards the end and after WW2, the need for new aircrew reduced dramatically and The OTUs were gradually reduced in size and many were disbanded.  However, the concept had proved its worth and it was decided to continue the idea of separating type conversion and crew familiarisation from operational activities and OCUs were established.  These were of squadron size and each unit trained crews for a specific aircraft or role.  Final training is still carried out on the squadron but it can be more specifically aimed at squadron operating techniques rather than type conversion.  Many OCUs were allocated 'Shadow' Squadron designations in order to keep Squadrons of the Line alive and in time of war they would have operated under these squadron designations.  Like squadrons they were commanded by officers holding the appointment of Officer Commanding.  Some of these units later changed their designations to indicate more clearly their actual role or new units were formed with named rather than numbered designations

226 227 228 229 230
231 232 233 235 236
237 238 240 241 242



Both types of Squadron can be further sub-divided into Flights, although occasionally Flights are formed to act independently in the same way as Squadrons of the RAF.  In the early days of the RAF Squadrons were formed from grouping independent numbered flights, these flights retaining their original numbers, however, it soon became more common to simply designate Flights as 'A', 'B', 'C' etc.  Flights are usually commanded by an Officer in charge.  Historical details of the various independent flights can be found in the Members' Area

This page was last updated on 09/06/17 using FrontPage 2003 

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