By Mark McConville
THE HISTORY of the Royal Air Force has been charted in a series of pictures in a new book to commemorate its 100th anniversary.
Stunning pictures show the early days of the organisation with airships, new aircraft they had been allocated and the Lewis Gun, which is a First World War-era light machine gun of US design that was perfected and mass-produced in the United Kingdom and widely used by British and British Empire troops during the war.
Other striking shots show NO. 111 Squadron rolling 22 aircraft in formation, Paveway Laser-Guided Bombs and the RAF College.
The pictorial history is showcased in Keith Wilson’s new book, RAF in 100 Pictures, which is published by Amberley.
“Looking back, many people will recall Hurricanes and Spitfires standing firm against the invading Luftwaffe, but how many will remember the Chain Home radar system or the key role played by the Fighter Controllers?” he writes in the book’s introduction.
“The parachute and ejector seat saved numerous lives, while permitting many pilots to return to the battle. The Lewis Gun had a major part to play in arming numerous aircraft.
“Then there was the invention of the gun synchroniser, often known as the Interrupter Mechanism, allowing machine-gun bullets to pass safely through the propeller arc without destroying it. Heavy weapons like the Grand Slam, Tallboy and Highball all played a part – each having been designed to solve a particular problem.
“Consider too the time when some thought that all aircraft would eventually be pilotless, and missiles would replace them; the Thor missile is included in the images.”
The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom’s aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on April 1, 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world.
Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. 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.
“Looking back on its first 100 years has been a most interesting and entertaining project but what is the future for the Royal Air Force?” adds Wilson.
“It certainly involves supporting ongoing British military operations, the introduction of new aircraft types, greater focus on network enabled capabilities along with the increasing interoperability with members of NATO. It will involve an increased use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) but may also involve increases in the use of Private Funding Initiatives.
“In the training role, a Private Finance Initiative valued at £6 billion is expected to be outsourced to the private sector to cover the RAF’s training requirement for the next twenty-five years.”
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