Paul Beaver: Yes, we need air power – but must it be provided by the RAF?

Today, the Army Air Corps flies the Apache, arguably the world's best attack helicopter

Share
Related Topics

No right-minded person should be calling for the abolition of the Royal Air Force. Britain's three armed forces have unique and important capabilities to bring to the defence of the United Kingdom's national interests.

But the RAF will have to change.

In the Battle of Britain's 70th anniversary year, it's worth remembering that the Second World War produced other air triumphs, too, including a scarcely less vital operation in the Mediterranean. In the Battle of Taranto, in November 1940, the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm delivered a knock-out blow to the Italian fleet with 21 antique biplane Swordfish launched from an aircraft carrier. This operation, on one night, prevented the Axis Powers from dominating that sea. It also proved that air power isn't just the preserve of the Royal Air Force.

Today, the Army Air Corps flies the Apache, arguably the world's best attack helicopter providing close combat attack to within a handful of metres from International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan: closer than fixed-wing aircraft can.

So nobody can seriously believe the mantra that "everything that flies" should be RAF. A quick look around at the most powerful nations in the world shows that three services need to be supported by organic air and aviation.

But that's not to say there has been change. A decade ago, the three services' battlefield helicopters were under Army control and for a very good reason.

The Land Commander needs his prime movers and close attack assets to be under direct command. That need hasn't stopped all three services providing commanders for this Joint Helicopter Command. Joint doesn't always work of course – the notorious Joint Force Harrier proved to be the wrong way to go about bringing the fast jets of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force together. The dynamics and culture-clash made it worse than a hostile take-over.

But whither the Royal Air Force? The numbers of fast jets in service and planned is unrealistic. The need for the Joint Strike Fighter is nebulous. And against whom will Britain use a Stealth Bomber?

After all, the nation has spent billions on the Typhoon, so let's invest a little more and make it work properly. By 2018, the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, it will still exist. But its capabilities will, with luck, be better-tuned and directed. It will be smaller and more cost-effective. It will then proudly see out its centenary.

Paul Beaver is a defence analyst and pilot

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Planner

£30000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Infrastructure Test Lead

£55000 - £60000 per annum + bonus + bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Our c...

Messaging Support Consultant

£40000 - £45000 per annum + bonus + bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Messa...

Supply Chain Manager

Not Specified: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's most progressive and innova...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Is Ed Sheeran the most important British man in black music?

Lee Pinkerton Lee Pinkerton
A young Palestinian boy walks over debris from a house that was destroyed in an airstrike in Deir Al Balah  

The Middle East debate has more to do with the fashion for revolutionary tourism than real politics

James Bloodworth
Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor