Dispensable? RAF's contribution has never been more vital

In Afghanistan, the need for the RAF is plain, says the man who runs Kandahar airfield

Claims that the RAF is living on its history and has no part in modern warfare produces wry smiles among those serving in Kandahar, one of the most violent parts of Afghanistan. When a team of suicide bombers charged the main air base it was the RAF Regiment which repelled the attack.

Group Captain Ash Bennett, whose men from 5 Force Protection Wing guard the airfield, said: "This was quite an extreme attack, but this is not the first time we have been hit and it will not be the last.

"We have an area outside the base where we provide security, and we have taken some losses, but overall I think we are bringing stability. Yes, it is the case that the RAF has a role on the ground, although not many people may know this."

The more traditional role of the RAF is in flying Tornados as part of the dozens of Nato aircraft which patrol the skies, providing air cover for operations on the ground as well as surveillance information on IEDs (improvised explosive devices) being planted by the Taliban and taking a lethal toll of British lives.

Air Commodore Gordon Moulds, of the RAF, in charge of Kandahar airfield, which now has the busiest runways in the world, said: "If you look at the terrain of Afghanistan you can see how strategic air is essential. This base has increased in size, six, seven times.

"The next six months are critical to the success of this mission and what the air assets do will be pretty important in that."

However, air strikes have also led to civilian casualties which had led to protests from Afghan civilians as well as President Hamid Karzai.

Air Commodore Moulds said that safety precautions brought in by General Stanley McChrystal, the US officer who formerly commanded Nato forces, and his successor, General David Petraeus, were "essential ... If we kill or injure civilians it gives more support to the Taliban, and not taking enough precautions is plainly the wrong thing to do, it's as simple as that. That is the reason we are putting so much emphasis on surveillance from air."

Air Commodore Moulds and his colleagues hear reports of what the Strategic Defence and Security Review may cut. "Not sure whether I'll have a job when I get back," he laughs.

"I think good sense will prevail. My concern is wider than air, I can see the need for carriers and air and the Army, and all they have been doing is salami slicing and that's been going on for too long.

"I understand that we are in a very difficult financial situation and people have to make sacrifices and it is unlikely to come much from things like the health service.

"But defence is our insurance for providing the security which allows our country to function and provide services like health and education."

"But really, I am not worried of being shortchanged by UK plc. I think good sense will prevail. I think we are a force for good in the world, and unless we have the instruments to do that good we will slip further and further in the coat-tails of America."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'