The RAF of the 21st century does not require fieldcraft skills or the RAF Regiment, discuss

If the RAF Regiment had taken an airfield in the last 20 years we’d never hear the end of it.


3 posts were merged into an existing topic: What do you think the ATC/CCF(RAF)/RAFAC will be like in the next 50 years? What are your predictions?

So are we saying the only military part of the RAF is the regiment…?

Fieldcraft is just an excuse to get cold, wet and miserable in the outdoors.

We’ve still got DofE for that!

And there is still a need for point defence and therefore shooting, even without the Regiment, so there’s no need to lose shooting as a cadet subject if all the other parts fell away.

I don’t believe that’s a credible argument for spending huge amounts of money on the RAF Regiment.


I love tradition but putting the emotional element to one side I’m moving closer and closer to endorsing a single defence force merging all the forces together. The savings on uniform, training and senior officers makes it financially attractive.

1 Like

And the RAF would still do both of those things at a basic level (GDT) which is actually closer to the level of Fieldcraft we do.

1 Like

Bob, I was not discussing the reasons for the cancellation of the MRA4, but the decision to relinquish the maritime air role without any plan to reinstate it in future. If it hadn’t been for the Seedcorn project we might well still be without the capability.

However as you’ve raised MRA4 here are few observations:

Talking to people who were involved with the MRA 4 at the AVRO museum, the project had multiple problems which started to emerge as the project developed

Yes, that how things happen!

one of the was that being a 50/60s aircraft was that they were ‘hand built’ and no two aircraft were exactly the same.

Funny old thing, we found out the same thing when trying to refiit the bomb bay doors to the Blue Steel Vulcans when converting them to the free-fall role.

Unlike today, you can take parts from A like wings and mount the on B all due to modern construction techniques.

737s are built pretty much the way they always have been. I had a very short acquaintance with the aircraft, but there’s an awful lot of legacy in there. Airbus is better, but it’s nowhere near as straightforward as you describe.

Talking to people who were involved with the MRA 4 at the AVRO museum…Also, they had lateral stability problems as well, I believe.

Hmm, I have to declare my hand and say I’ve a few thousand hours on all of the Nimrod marks that entered service. Longtitudinal stability was “adequate” but you had to work hard to ensure that you kept the aircraft in trim. There were 2 elevator gearing ratios, with Fine being used above 20,000ft to avoid large deflections in a regime where damping in pitch was reduced. Directional stability could get interesting at low speed so it was best to avoid that dusty corner of the flight envelope. Stability in the lateral axis was fine.

The directional stability “issue” that gets raised is usually associated with bomb bay door operation. This was present on the MR 1 & 2 and was mitigated by the “Rudder Limiter Stop” moving to the “Bomb Doors Open-Out” position. I have discussed it with one of the TPs involved and he described it as a non-issue. It would have been corrected in the normal course of events, it just happened to be on the pile at the point of cancellation and was seized upon by the media.

The other problem they had was the production run was too small and spares availability was also a problem,

Well, that was always a problem with the Nimrod. So, what you’re really saying is that we should have procured the P3 Orion back in the '70s. I can’t really disagree with that.

To finish on topic, relinquishing an entire role is a very big step as the expertise and experience associated with it dissipates very quickly and starting from scratch is fraught with difficulty. It’s not just the crew experience that you lose or the engineering manpower, the operational infrastructure; both personnel and physical; for the maritime role is extensive. Much the same could be said for most other roles.


1 Like

Well, it has already been tried:

The current iteration of the Canadian Armed Forces dates from 1 February 1968 and were merged into a unified structure and superseded by elemental commands, known as Air Command, Land Force, and Maritime Command. On 16 August 2011, the names for the three elemental commands were reverted to their historical predecessor, although the unified structure of the Canadian Armed Forces was maintained.

It has of course been a “great success”! That’s why they’ve reverted to their old names and individual service uniforms. Plus quite a lot more besides.


Not to take this off topic but I think this is pertinent to the discussion similar to that of the nimrod.

last year, the RAFs last (only?) bomb disposal Sqn was disbanded after 77 years. It was the only bomb disposal unit authorised to deal with
the aircraft specific aspects such as ejector seats & canopies.

Should this decision ever be reversed I imagine what would happen is that a number of the army EODs would transfer over & rebadge.

However the need for this to happen would be a large an increase in size of the RAF where EOD on airfields & dealing with aircraft ordinance would be needed on a regular basis.

How does this apply to the RAF regiment? They currently perform an infantry function that the Army & Marines did not have capacity to do.

However the RAF is both Shrinking and the advances is technology means that the range of aircraft has increased. This means that the airfields for strike aircraft to operate are further away from the infantry front line. It would take a typhoon aircraft approx 15 minutes to go for Edinburgh to London. It would take a lot longer for an infantry component to get even half that distance by which time the air battle would be over.

So is there an infantry air defence need for the RAF? No and as aircraft get greater range then it becomes next. If things continue to move into the space sphere and orbital weapons become more common the need will become even less.

So what is it’s most likly option for survival & most likly future role of the RAF Regiment?

Well this goes off into realms of science fiction a bit but as the RAF currently is grabbing the space sphere this fits long term. The role going forward for the RAF regiment could evolve into that space marine role - space station defence, boarding actions etc a completely different set of skills than fieldcraft in the terrestrial or maritime theatres.

Trouble is there’s no easy interim role until we get to that stage in circa 2120 (although first contact in 2063 may accelerate things).

So yes there is no current need for the RAF regiment but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a future role where it can come back into its own.

The RAF of the 21st century doesn’t need the RAF regiment but the RAF of the 22nd probably will.

I rekon we are quite some tens of decades from that sort of business.

Anything upto and inclusing geostationary can be dealt with by an ASat missile. So unless either technogy has a quantum acceleration OR the UK ends up having a lunar or martian military outpost… the RAF regt wont be doing this until 2100 plus.

Agreed although it’s only been 60 odd since we first went into space so who knows what the next 60 will hold.

Like the bomb disposal team, what do you do with them in the interim? It may be like the Royal observer Corps who got stood down rather than disbanded, kept just in case like those jars in the shed containing all those screws.

1 Like

But that comes back to another of the points I made in the OP; we won’t be doing that alone (we simply don’t have the resources), so lets use the international partnerships work and get someone else in, rather than creating a force from scratch ourselves.

1 Like

I dont think the regiment is going to go away, however good discussion points. If theoretically the regiment was disbanded and other units took over the gaps, do you think those units would get the extra resources from goverment or just another cost cut resulting in another capability gap? Regiment don’t only protect airfields but also other RAF assets including aircraft enroute where stop overs need securing yes there could be other options but are the resources available?

The main issue in my opinion is the government struggles with the resource+capability=cost equation, it would be better to substitute 'cost with ‘value’

As for fieldcraft in the RAFAC in my view it is a useful tool amongst others for developing teamwork and leadership, it is not meant for pretraining a teenage infantry unit in preparation for joining the regiment.

Actually chatting to some AAC chaps on a visit c.5 years ago (they put on a very good visit for our RAF section cadets) they confidently expected to be absorbed into the RAF within that timeframe. They were wrong… That was the view from the NCOs - the officers sticking to the party line.

2 posts were merged into an existing topic: What do you think the ATC/CCF(RAF)/RAFAC will be like in the next 50 years? What are your predictions?

“The RAF of the 21st Century does not require Fieldcraft Skill…”

How very true… I spent three overseas deployments in 4* hotels, have communicated by Mobile phones and navigated by modern direction finding technology… and judging by future RAF Aspirations, hiding in bushes and digging in isnt going to be that much use in the depths of space :grinning: :sweat_smile: :rofl:

However as far as the cadet organisation goes this is probably one of the most fun activities that our cadets can still have relatively easy access to and provides a change to some of the more mundane training


If and when the RAF Regt are disbanded, and fieldcraft training within the RAF ceases, that means the RAF essentially becomes an organisation of uniformed civilians in the prime of life protected by detachments of soldiers.

Except they won’t be protected by detachments of soldiers, if the pre-RAF Regt campaigns of 1940 in Norway and France are any guide to a future war with a ‘peer adversary.’ The RAF were the equal of the Luftwaffe in men and machines, but lost enough of them in air assaults upon RAF bases, so air superiority and the battle was lost. The allies had equal land and superior naval forces during those campaigns, but lost them in the air.

In a similar type of conflict, the army will have enough on their plate without the worry of looking after the air force as well by using army air defence assets. Decisions made to use the army to do the RAF Regt’s job are made on a purely political basis, such as the use of the Royal Marines to defend the RAF’s Support Helicopter Force in northern Iraq during Op Safe Haven in 1991, after the Gulf War ceasefire. The marines took no part in the ground campaign of that war, Options for Change i.e. severe defence cuts were planned, so they wangled that gig in order that they wouldn’t lose out.The UK Governments’ continual and ongoing defence cuts since then have always brought out the worst aspects of inter-service rivalry.

The RAF Regt had protected the SH Force in the desert during Desert Storm, and Op Safe Haven would have been a continuation of that mission: it wasn’t a littoral operation, which is the RM’s speciality as marine infantry, but totally land-based.

So decisions made which have reduced the strength and capabilities of not just the RAF Regt also weaken and reduce the RAF as a whole: decisions made primarily to keep army units in being. Half of all RAF Regt NCOs are employed on training duties, including at the RAF’s basic and trade training establishments. The RAF would have to re-establish the Admin Branch trade to cover these posts, unless they want them filled by army NCOs.

Also, if the RAF loses its Corps of Infantry soldiers and associated fieldcraft training (RAF personnel doing armed station guard duties went long ago with the introduction of the MPGS), then it is becoming civilianised. In which case, civilianisation of the rest of the RAF who do not face the enemy (i.e. all except aircrew trades) is a real threat.

It used to be that if one’s job in the RAF wasn’t in a deployable role, it was civilianised. In the future this might happen to deployable ones on the 5-star hotel detachments in the first instance. :thinking:

1 Like