RAF Regiment

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= Royal Air Force Regiment

caption= Crest of the RAF Regiment
dates=1 February 1942 – "Present"
country= United Kingdom
branch= Royal Air Force
type= Infantry
role= Ground Defence
size= 8 squadrons
command_structure= No. 2 Group, Air Command
garrison= RAF Honington
garrison_label= RAF Regt Depot
nickname= "The Rock Apes"
motto="Per Ardua" (Latin: Through Adversity)
march=Quick - "Holyrood"
commander1=Air Commodore S Abbott [http://www.rafweb.org/AirMin3.htm]
commander2=HM The Queen
commander2_label=Air Commodore-in-Chief
identification_symbol_label=Tactical Recognition Flash

The Royal Air Force Regiment (RAF Regt) is a specialist airfield defence Corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. After a 29 week training course, its members are responsible for defending airfields, and training Royal Air Force personnel in military skills. Members of the Regiment are known within the RAF as 'the Regiment', 'Rock Apes' or 'Rocks'.


The genesis of the RAF Regiment was with the creation of No. 1 Armoured Car Company RAF in 1921 for operations in Iraq, followed shortly afterwards by Nos II and 3 companies. These were equipped with Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars and were highly successful in ground combat operations throughout the Middle East in the 1920s and 1930s. The RAF Regiment came into existence, in name, on 5 February 1942. From the start it had both field squadrons and light anti-aircraft squadrons, the latter originally armed with Hispano 20mm cannon and then the Bofors 40 mm gun anti aircraft gun. Its role was to seize, secure and defend airfields to enable air operations to take place. Several parachute squadrons were formed to assist in the seizing of airfields and No II Squadron retains this capability. 284 Field Squadron was the first RAF unit to arrive in West Berlin in 1945, to secure RAF Gatow.

The Regiment has a museum at RAF Honington near Bury St Edmunds. The RAF Regiment frequently mounts the King's Guard/Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, with the first occasion being on 1 April 1943.

During World War II, the RAF Regiment grew to a force of 66,000 men in 280 Squadrons of 185 men each (each squadron including five officers). Each squadron consisted of a Headquarters Flight, three Rifle Flights, an Air-Defence Flight, and an Armoured-Car Flight. The flights were grouped together into Wings as needed. It also operated six Armoured Car Squadrons to provide an area response capability to several RAF stations. Light Armoured Squadrons, equipped with FV101 Scorpion and FV107 Scimitar light tanks, continued to be operated into the 1980s.

Formerly the RAF's firefighters were also members of the RAF Regiment, although they are now independent of it.

Origin of the 'Rock Ape' nickname

In the past the nickname 'Rock Ape' has been attributed to their traditional role guarding areas of Gibraltar, but this is not so. The term came into use after an accident in the Western Aden Protectorate in November 1952. Two Regiment officers serving with the APL at Dhala decided to amuse themselves by going out to shoot some of the baboons (locally referred to as "rock apes"). The officers drew rifles and split up to hunt the apes yet in the semi-darkness one of the officers fired at a moving object in the distance. When he reached the target he discovered he had shot the other officer. After emergency treatment Flight Lieutenant Mason survived to return to service a few months later. When asked why he had fired at his friend by a board of inquiry the officer replied that his target had 'looked just like a rock ape' in the half light. The remark soon reverberated around the RAF and it was not long before the term was in general use.

Organisation and current role

command structure
name= RAF Regiment
subordinate=Depot - RAF Honington
No 1 Sqn - RAF Honington
No II Sqn - RAF Honington
No 3 Sqn - RAF Wittering
No 15 Sqn - RAF Honington
No 27 Sqn - RAF Honington
No 34 Sqn - RAF Leeming
No 51 Sqn - RAF Lossiemouth
No 63 Sqn (QCS) - RAF Uxbridge

The RAF Regiment comes under command of 2 Group, Air Command. Its members are organised into ten regular squadrons. The Regiment has nine field squadrons including three Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) squadrons, responsible for defending airfields against ground attack.

Members of the RAF Regiment are trained, equipped and manned to deal with the requirements of protecting high-value air assets during operations across the spectrum of conflict. They are particularly equipped with a range of direct and indirect fire systems and specialist surveillance and night vision equipment. Each member of a field squadron is required to master a wide range of skills that include covert observation and target acquisition, and dismounted close combat. The unique nature of air operations is such that RAF Regiment personnel must have a specific understanding of its requirements in order to ensure that the tactics, techniques and procedures employed do not disrupt those operations. Additionally, because air bases are fixed and supporting elements are unable to redeploy quickly, field squadrons must engage an attacking adversary at the earliest opportunity to prevent air operations from being disrupted.

Field Squadrons employ a variety of tactics to defend airfields, often operating up to 30km from the airfield or air asset in mobile long range patrols. Field Squadrons are divided into Flights, which are the equivalent of an army platoon. Each squadron contains several Rifle Flights, whose task is to engage the enemy at very close range, and a Support Weapons Flight, which provides fire support to the Rifle Flights by using machine guns, mortars, portable anti-tank weapons, and snipers.

The field squadrons are 166 strong (increasing soon to 171 strong) making them considerably larger than an infantry company in the army. All RAF Regiment personnel are male, in line with the British Government policy that women cannot serve in combat units. There are approximately 2,000 regular airmen (i.e. Other Ranks), 300 regular officers, and 500 reservists.

Since 1990, the RAF Regiment has supported air operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone. Furthermore, RAF Regiment officers and Senior Non Commissioned Officers have been seconded to the Army as instructors and more recently, as Forward Air Control

The RAF Regiment's basic training has recently increased to incorporate the field gunners course and currently stands at 29 weeks.

pecialist squadrons and units

*I Squadron took part in the Berlin Airlift, the 1991 Gulf War, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
*II Squadron is a parachute-trained Field Squadron which is capable of inserting by parachute and securing forward airfields.
*3 Squadron is a Field Squadron which until recently has been deployed to guarantee the security of RAF Aldergrove and Belfast International Airport in Northern Ireland. The squadron relocated to RAF Wittering in February 2007 after a 7 month tour in Basra, Iraq.
*27 Squadron is an element of the Jt CBRN Regt alongside 1st Royal Tank Regt. The sqn. operates the chemical, biological and radiological detection equipment and can operate in the infantry role.
*In addition, the Regiment has a ground extraction unit attached to No. 28 Squadron RAF, which provides Search and Rescue teams to recover downed RAF Aircrew.
*51 Squadron also took part in the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and had recently been deployed in Afghanistan for a six month tour ending in September 2007.
*63 Squadron, also the Queen's Colour Squadron, is a Field Squadron which represents the RAF at high profile ceremonial occasions (including mounting the Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace), and is also responsible for guarding the Queen's Colour of the Royal Air Force. It is a fully fledged field squadron.
*The RAF Regiment provides training teams for all RAF stations, which are responsible for training station personnel in Force Protection and operational deployment skills.
*The Regiment is also responsible for the Defence CBRN Centre at Winterborne Gunner which trains personnel from all three services and the civilian police in CBRN defence skills. It also provides CBRN specialist advice and support to other organisations.
*RAF Regiment personnel man several Tactical Air Control Parties, including three in the Army's 16 Air Assault Brigade. These parties contain RAF Regiment Forward Air Controllers who are responsible for directing fire support from fast jet attack aircraft in support of ground combat forces.
*A flight of 40 RAF Regiment personnel forms part of the tri-service Special Forces Support Group

Recent news

On 12 July 2004, it was announced by Geoff Hoon that the RAF Regiment will relinquish the Ground-Based Air Defence role, which will now be handed over to the Royal Artillery. Three RAF Regiment Rapier squadrons will be disbanded by 1 April 2008. The fourth squadron is to re-role to field operations:
*15 Squadron (March 2008)
*16 Squadron (March 2007)
*26 Squadron (March 2008)
*37 Squadron (March 2006)

However, as part of the same re-organisation, it was announced that a single Flight from the RAF Regiment would make up part of the new unit called the Special Forces Support Group designed to support the Special Forces. The RAF Regiment provides 40 personnel to support B Company, one of the three strike Companies provided to SFSG by the British Army, the fourth is a Royal Marines Company. In addition, a large number of personnel from the disbanding squadrons will be employed on other specialist tasks. The Special Forces Support Group was declared operational in April 2006.

As a result of the deletions of the GB Air Defence squadrons, No 3 Squadron and No 63 (QCS) Squadron will each receive an additional 40 personnel, in order to match their operational capabilities with the four other field squadrons, while another two Force Protection Wing HQs have been formed (No 5 FP Wing at Lossiemouth and No 6 FP Wing at Leuchars). In addition, No 1 Squadron has moved from RAF St Mawgan to RAF Honington, which has resulted in No 2625 Squadron, RAuxAF Regt being disbanded.

In 2008, following the disbandment of the last two GBAD squadrons, it was announced that a new field squadron, to be given the numberplate of No. 15 Squadron would be formed through the amalgamation of the previous 15 Squadron and 26 Squadron to be based at RAF Honington. In addition, a further FP Wing, No 7 FP Wing HQ, was also formed at RAF Coningsby.

Current RAF Regiment units

*Field Squadrons
**1 Squadron (based at RAF Honington, Suffolk)
**II Squadron (Parachute) (based at RAF Honington, Suffolk)
**3 Squadron (based at RAF Wittering, Cambridgeshire)
**15 Squadron (based at RAF Honington, Suffolk)
**34 Squadron (based at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire)
**51 Squadron (based at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray)
**63 Squadron (Queen's Colour Squadron) (based at RAF Uxbridge, Middlesex)
*CBRN Squadrons
**27 Squadron (Joint CBRN Regiment based at RAF Honington, Suffolk)
*Other Units
**Force Protection
*** RAF Force Protection Force Headquarters - RAF Honington
*** No 1 RAF Force Protection Wing HQ
*** No 2 RAF Force Protection Wing HQ
*** No 3 RAF Force Protection Wing HQ
*** No 4 RAF Force Protection Wing HQ
*** No 5 RAF Force Protection Wing HQ
*** No 6 RAF Force Protection Wing HQ
*** No 7 RAF Force Protection Wing HQ
**Combat Recovery
***Ground Extraction Force, E Flight, No 28 (AC) Squadron
*Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment Squadrons
** [http://www.2503sqn.co.uk 2503 Squadron] (Ground Defence)
**2620 Squadron (Ground Defence)
**2622 Squadron (Ground Defence)
**2623 Squadron (CBRN)

ee also

*Airfield Defence Guards
*Air Force Security Forces
*Objektschutzregiment der Luftwaffe
*Fusiliers Commandos de l'Air

Further reading

* Kingsley M Oliver, "Through Adversity: : History of the Royal Air Force Regiment", Forces & Corporate Publishing Ltd., 1997 ISBN 0952959704
* Tim Ripley, 'RAF Regiment to boost equipment and recruitment,' Jane's Defence Weekly, 16 April 2008, p.10


External links

* [http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafregiment/ Official RAF Regiment homepage]
* [http://www.rafregiment.net/RAF_Regt_History.htm RAF Regiment History]
* [http://www.rafregt.org.uk/ The Official RAF Regiment Association website]

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