Royal Australian Air Force

Royal Australian Air Force

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=Royal Australian Air Force

caption=The RAAF Ensign
start_date= 31 March 1921
branch= Air Force
fleet size= 538
size=15,430 personnel (2006)
command_structure=Australian Defence Force
garrison_label=Air Force Headquarters
motto="Per Ardua ad Astra" ('Through Struggle to the Stars')
mascot= Kangaroo
commander1=Air Marshal Mark Binskin
commander1_label=Chief of Air Force
commander2=Air Vice Marshal Geoff Brown
commander2_label=Deputy Chief of Air Force
commander3=Air Vice Marshal Mark Skidmore
commander3_label=Air Commander Australia
commander4=Warrant Officer of the Air Force Ray Woolnough
commander4_label=Warrant Officer of the Air Force
identification_symbol_label=RAAF badge
identification_symbol_2_label=RAAF roundel
identification_symbol_3_label=RAAF low visibility roundel
aircraft_electronic=Boeing 737 AEW&C
aircraft_fighter=F/A-18 Hornet
aircraft_patrol=AP-3C Orion
aircraft_trainer=PC-9, Hawk 127, B300
aircraft_transport=C-130 Hercules, DHC-Caribou, C-17 Globemaster III, Boeing 737, Challenger 600
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is the Air Force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF began in March 1912 as the Australian Flying Corps and became a fully independent Air Force in March 1921. Widely regarded as one of the most potent air forces in the Asia Pacific region, the RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts including both World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. More recently the RAAF participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The motto on the RAAF's coat of arms is the Latin phrase "Per Ardua ad Astra", which means "Through Struggle to the Stars",cite web
title =RAAF Badge and Roundel
publisher =Australian Department of Defence
url =
accessdate = 2007-03-15
] The Royal Air Force uses the same motto but translates it as "Through Adversity to the Stars".


World War I

Soon after the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Australian Flying Corps sent aircraft to assist in capturing German colonies in what is now north-west New Guinea. These colonies surrendered quickly however, before the planes were even unpacked. The first operational flights did not occur until May 27, 1915, when the Mesopotamian Half Flight was called upon to assist the Indian Army in protecting British oil interests in what is now Iraq. The Corps later saw action in Egypt, Palestine and on the Western Front throughout the remainder of World War I. By the end of the war, four squadrons had seen active service.

AFC World War I flying aces include the following pilots:
* A. H. "Harry" Cobby (29)
* Elwyn King (26)
* Alexander Pentland (23)
* Edgar McCloughry (21)
* Richard Minifie (21)
* Edgar Johnston (20)
* Andrew Cowper (19)
* Cedric Howell (19)
* Fred Holliday (17)
* Allan Hepburn (16)
* Francis Ryan Smith (16)
* John Rutherford Gordon (15)
* Roy Cecil Phillipps (15)

World War II

Europe and the Mediterranean

In 1939, just after the start of World War II, Australia joined the Empire Air Training Scheme, under which flight crews received basic training in Australia before travelling to Canada for advanced training. A total of 19 RAAF bomber, fighter, reconnaissance and other squadrons served initially in Britain, and/or with the Desert Air Force, in North Africa and the Mediterranean. About nine per cent of the personnel who served under British RAF commands in Europe and the Mediterranean were RAAF personnel. []

With British manufacturing targeted by the "Luftwaffe", the Australian government created the Department of Aircraft Production (DAP; later known as the Government Aircraft Factory) to supply Commonwealth air forces and the RAAF was eventually provided with large numbers of locally-built versions of British designs like the DAP Beaufort torpedo bomber.

In the European Theatre of World War II, RAAF personnel were especially notable in RAF Bomber Command: they represented two percent of all RAAF personnel during the war, but accounted for 23% of the total number killed in action. This statistic is further illustrated by the fact that No. 460 Squadron RAAF, mostly flying Avro Lancasters, had an official establishment of about 200 aircrew and yet had 1,018 combat deaths. The squadron was therefore effectively wiped out five times over.

Pacific War

The beginning of the Pacific War — and the rapid advance of Japanese forces — threatened the Australian mainland for the first time. The RAAF was quite unprepared for the emergency, and initially had negligible forces available for service in the Pacific.

In 1941 and early 1942, many RAAF airmen, including 21 and 453 Squadrons, saw action with the RAF Far East Command in the Malayan, Singapore and Dutch East Indies campaigns. Allied fighter pilots, in particular, performed well in the campaign, despite being outnumbered and the fact that many were allocated sub-standard examples of the Brewster Buffalo.

The devastating air raids on Darwin on 19 February 1942 drove the point home. Some RAAF squadrons were transferred from the northern hemisphere — although a substantial number remained there until the end of the war. Shortages of fighter and ground attack planes led to the acquisition of US-built P-40 Kittyhawks and the rapid design and manufacture of the first Australian fighter, the CAC Boomerang. RAAF Kittyhawks came to play a crucial role in the New Guinea and Solomon Islands campaigns, especially in operations like the Battle of Milne Bay. As a response to a possible Japanese chemical warfare threat the RAAF imported hundreds of thousands of chemical weapons into Australia. [] .

In the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, imported Bristol Beaufighters proved to be highly effective ground attack and maritime strike aircraft. Beaufighters were later made locally by the DAP. Although it was much bigger than Japanese fighters, the Beaufighter had the speed to outrun them.

The RAAF's heavy bomber force was predominantly comprised of 287 B-24 Liberators, which could bomb Japanese targets as far away as Borneo and the Philippines from airfields in Australia and New Guinea.

By late 1945, the RAAF had received or ordered about 500 P-51 Mustangs, for fighter/ground attack purposes. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation initially assembled US-made Mustangs, but later manufactured most of those used. The RAAF's main operational formation, the First Tactical Air Force, comprised more than 18,000 personnel and 20 squadrons; it had taken part in the Philippines and Borneo campaigns and was scheduled to participate in the invasion of the Japanese mainland, Operation Downfall. So too were the RAAF bomber squadrons in Europe, as part of the proposed Tiger Force. However, the war was brought to a sudden end by the US nuclear attacks on Japan. As a result of the Empire Air Training Scheme, about 20,000 Australian personnel had served with other Commonwealth air forces in Europe during World War II. A total of 216,900 men and women served in the RAAF, of whom 11,061 were killed in action.

ervice since 1945

In the Korean War, Mustangs from No. 77 Squadron (77 Sqn), stationed in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, were among the first United Nations aircraft to be deployed, in ground support, combat air patrol, and escort missions. When the UN planes were confronted by MiG-15 jet fighters, 77 Sqn acquired Gloster Meteors, which enabled some success against the Soviet pilots flying for North Korea. However the MiGs were superior aircraft and the Meteors were relegated to ground support missions, as the North Koreans gained experience. The air force also operated transport aircraft during the conflict.

During the Vietnam War, from 1966-72, the RAAF contributed squadrons of Caribou STOL transport aircraft (No. 35 Squadron), UH-1 Iroquois helicopters (No. 9 Squadron) and English Electric Canberra bombers (No. 2 Squadron). The Canberras flew a large number of bombing sorties, and two were lost. One went missing during a bombing raid, and neither the crew nor the aircraft has ever been located. The other was shot down by a surface to air missile, although both crew were rescued. RAAF transport aircraft also supported anti-communist ground forces. The UH-1 helicopters were used in many roles including Dustoff (medical evacuation) and Bushranger Gunships for armed support.

Military airlifts were conducted for a number of purposes in the intervening decades, such as the peacekeeping operations in East Timor from 1999. Australia's combat aircraft were not used again in combat until the Iraq War in 2003, when F/A-18s from No. 75 Squadron operated in the escort and ground attack roles.

Ranks and uniform

The RAAF uses RAF-derived ranks for both officers and other ranks, with the following exceptions:
* the RAAF does not use "Technician" ranks
* non-commissioned aircrew do not wear an eagle above their chevrons
* the insignia for Leading Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman (LAC/W) is a single chevron, rather than a two-bladed propeller
* there is no Senior Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman (SAC) rank. Unlike their British, Canadian and New Zealand counterparts, they do not wear a blue-grey uniform. AUSTRALIA on slip-on rank epaulettes or otherwise known as (SRI) 'Soft Rank Insignia' and are worn on the shoulders of the service dress uniform. When not in the service dress or "Ceremonial" uniform, RAAF personnel wear the Auscam DPCU, which has replaced the old working dress.


The current version of the RAAF Roundel was formally adopted on the 2nd of July, 1956. The Roundel exists of a white inner circle with a Red Kangaroo surrounded by a royal blue circle. The kangaroo faces left, except when used on aircraft or vehicles, when the kangaroo should always face the front.

Originally, the Air Force used the existing red, white and blue Roundel of the Royal Air Force. However, during World War II, the inner red circle was removed after a No. 11 Squadron Catalina was mistaken for a Japanese aircraft by a US Navy Wildcat in the Pacific Theatre.

After the war, a range of options were proposed, including the Southern Cross, a boomerang, a sprig of wattle and the red kangaroo.

Royal Australian Air Force Badge

The RAAF badge was accepted by the Chester Herald in 1939. The badge is composed of the Imperial Crown mounted on a circle featuring the words Royal Australian Air Force, beneath which scroll work displays the Latin motto Per Ardua Ad Astra. Surmounting the badge is a wedge-tailed eagle. Per Ardua Ad Astra is attributed with the meaning “Through Struggle to the Stars” and is from Sir Henry Rider Haggard's novel The People of the Mist. []

Current strength


"See also: Current RAAF Aircraft"

As of 2007, the following aircraft are operated by the RAAF:

! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Aircraft! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Origin! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Type! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Versions! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|In service"World Military Aircraft Inventory", Aerospace Source Book 2007, "Aviation Week & Space Technology", January 15 2007.] [" [ 2005-06 Defence Annual Report] " Page 134] [ [ RAAF A97 Lockheed C-130A/E/H/J Hercules- list] retrieved 2007-08-30.] ! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Notes
BAE Systems Hawk
Lead-in fighter trainer
Hawk 127
fighter jet conversion trainer.
Beechcraft Super King Air
Navigational trainer

Boeing Business Jet
VIP transport
737-700 BBJ
Long term lease, transport for the Prime Minister, Queen and Distinguished Guests.
Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
All aircraft were delivered by January 2008 [ [ Australian military aviation OrBat] ] .
Bombardier Challenger 600
VIP transport
CL 604

de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou
The DHC-4 will be retired in 2009. [cite news|url=|title=Australian Aviation Express. Issue 241.|date=2008-09-29|publisher=Phantom Media|accessdate=2008-09-29]
General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark
F-111 total
Mixture of the original long-range F-111C type, RF-111C reconnaissance variants, and ex-USAF F-111A (upgraded to most of the C specifications) and F-111G attrition replacements. These aircraft are due to be retired in 2010. The F/A-18F has been selected as an interim replacement. All F-111G Aircraft were retired in September 2007.
Lockheed C-130 Hercules
C-130 total

Lockheed P-3 Orion
Maritime patrol/strike
P-3 total
All aircraft to withdrawn by 2018. Will probably be replaced by Boeing P-8 Poseidon
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet
F/A-18 total
Built in Australia under licence from McDonnell Douglas. The F/A-18 fleet has been the subject of various upgrades since it entered service in the 1980s and remains capable, but fatigue issues mean that it may not remain a viable front-line air defence option until the planned retirement date of 2015, although this is being mitigated through a centre barrel replacement programFact|date=November 2007. They are expected to be replaced by 100 F-35 Lightning II.
Pilatus PC-9
Advanced trainer
Produced under licence in Australia by de Havilland Australia.
Fighters/ Attack Aircraft----Trainers----Transport(Inc. VIP
Trainers includes the 24 PAC CT/4 basic trainersIn addition, 24 PAC CT/4 basic trainers, better known as the "Plastic Parrot", are owned and operated by BAE Systems for primary training.

mall arms

* L9A1/L9A3 Self Loading Pistol (Browning Hi-Power)
* Glock 19 Jet Aircrew Pistol
* Heckler & Koch MP5 Sub-Machine Gun
* Remington 870 shotgun
* F88 Austeyr rifle (Steyr AUG)
* SR-98 sniper rifle
* F89 Light Support Weapon (Minimi)
* MAG58 General Service Machine Gun
* M203 grenade launcher [ [ RAAF Airfield Defence Guard webpage] Retrieved: June 27 2008.]

Current flying squadrons

*No. 1 Squadron - General Dynamics F-111 (Ground Attack)
*No. 2 Squadron - Boeing Wedgetail (AEW&C) (operational 2009)
*No. 3 Squadron - McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (Air Defence)
*No. 6 Squadron - General Dynamics F-111 (Training/Ground Attack)
*No. 10 Squadron - Lockheed P-3C Orion (Maritime Patrol)
*No. 11 Squadron - Lockheed P-3C Orion (Maritime Patrol)
*No. 33 Squadron - To be equipped with KC-30B Multi-Role Tanker Transports
*No. 34 Squadron - Boeing 737, Bombardier Challenger 604 (Transport)
*No. 36 Squadron - Boeing Globemaster III (Transport)
*No. 37 Squadron - Lockheed C-130H/C-130J-30 Hercules (Transport)
*No. 38 Squadron - De Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou (Transport)
*No. 75 Squadron - McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (Air Defence)
*No. 76 Squadron - BAE Systems Hawk 127 (Lead-in Fighter Training/Close Support)
*No. 77 Squadron - McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (Air Defence)
*No. 79 Squadron - BAE Systems Hawk 127 (Hawk Conversion/Close Support)
*No. 292 Squadron - Lockheed P-3C Orion (Training/Maritime Patrol)
*No. 2 OCU - McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (Training & Type Conversion)
*No. 2 FTS - Pilatus PC9/A (Advanced Training)

Future equipment

This list includes aircraft on order or a requirement which has been identified.
* Up to 100 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II (CTOL variant) — are scheduled to be delivered from 2013.
* 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets. On March 6 2007, Defence Minister Brendon Nelson announced that the Australian Government had purchased 24 F/A-18F aircraft to reduce the risk of a gap in strike capability, between the retirement of the F-111 in 2010 and delivery of the F-35A. . []
* Six Boeing Project Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft, including another single aircraft optioned.
* Five Airbus KC-30B Multi-Role Tanker Transports — to replace the dated Boeing 707s in aerial refueling and strategic transport roles.
* Maritime patrol aircraft to replace AP-3C Orions. Australia is participating in the development of the P-8 Poseidon to fill this role, but has not committed to purchase the aircraft.

Procurement Review

The new Labor government made a pledge to review the procurement of both the F-35 Lightning and the F/A-18F Super Hornet as part of a review of overall defence procurement. The new defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon made clear that "no option would be ruled out". This includes the possibility of purchasing the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor [ [ Govindasamy, Siva. "Australia to weigh Lockheed Martin F-22 against Russian fighters."] Reed Business Information,, 10 January 2008. Retrieved: 28 February 2008.] . On 17 March 2008 defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon confirmed that Australia would purchase 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets. [ [ Kerr, Julian. "Australian government commits to Super Hornet acquisition."] Janes Information Group,, 18 March 2008. Retrieved: 1 April 2008.]

However, the Howard government ruled out purchase of the F-22, on the grounds that it is unlikely to be released for export, and does not have sufficient ground/maritime strike capacity. This assessment was supported by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a non-partisan, government-funded think-tank, which claimed that the F-22 "has insufficient multi-role capability at too high a price."

The US Congress upheld the ban on F-22 Raptor foreign sales during a joint conference on 27 September 2006. After talks in Washington in December 2006, the US DoD reported the F-22 would not be available for foreign sale.

Following the victory of the Australian Labor Party in the 2007 national election, the new government ordered a review of plans to procure the F-35 and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. This review will include an evaluation of the F-22's suitability for Australia; moreover, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has stated: "I intend to pursue American politicians for access to the Raptor". In February 2008, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he had no objection to sale of the Raptor to Australia, but Congress would have to change the law.

In August 2008 reports in the press indicated that the RAAF is now also considering the purchase of the E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft to compliment the new F model purchase. Up to 6 Growlers are being considered.

Gallery of RAAF Aircraft

ee also

*List of aircraft of the RAAF
*List of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft squadrons
*List of Royal Australian Air Force independent aircraft flights
*List of Australian air force bases
*List of Australian military memorials
*Australian Air Traffic Control
*Airfield Defence Guards
*Australian Air Force Cadets
*Royal Australian Air Force Memorial, Canberra
*Royal Australian Air Force Memorial, Brisbane
*RAAF Museum
*Australian Defence Force ranks and insignia
*Royal Australian Air Force VIP aircraft
*List of air forces


External links

* [ RAAF official site]
* [ RAAF Air Power Doctrine]
* [ ADF Aircraft Serial Number]

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