Royal Air Force
Founded1 April 1918; 101 years ago (1918-04-01)
CountryUnited Kingdom
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size33,840 active personnel[1]
832 operational aircraft[2]
1,940 RAuxAF
2,220 reserve personnel[a]
Part ofBritish Armed Forces
Air Staff OfficesWhitehall, London
Motto(s)Latin: Per Ardua ad Astra
"Through Adversity to the Stars"[3]
MarchRoyal Air Force March Past
Chief of the Air StaffAir Chief Marshal Mike Wigston
Lord Trenchard
Lord Portal
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Logo of the Royal Air Force.svg
Roundel Low visibility roundel
Fin flashes
Fin flash Low visibility fin flash
Pilot's brevetRAF pilot brevet (Queen's Crown).jpg
Aircraft flown
Trainer helicopter
Utility helicopter

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918,[4] it is the oldest independent air force in the world.[5] Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world.[6] Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.[7]

The RAF's mission is to support the objectives of the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), which are to "provide the capabilities needed to ensure the security and defence of the United Kingdom and overseas territories, including against terrorism; to support the Government's foreign policy objectives particularly in promoting international peace and security".[3] The RAF describes its mission statement as "... [to provide] an agile, adaptable and capable 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".[8] The mission statement is supported by the RAF's definition of air power, which guides its strategy. Air power is defined as "the ability to project power from the air and space to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events".[9]

Today the Royal Air Force maintains an operational fleet of various types of aircraft,[10] described by the RAF as being "leading-edge" in terms of technology.[11] This largely consists of fixed-wing aircraft, including: fighter and strike aircraft, airborne early warning and control aircraft, ISTAR and SIGINT aircraft, aerial refueling aircraft and strategic and tactical transport aircraft. The majority of the RAF's rotary-wing aircraft form part of the tri-service Joint Helicopter Command in support of ground