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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible