Past Talks : November 2021

“The Royal Air Force Presentation Team”

The Royal Air Force Presentation Team consisted of Warrant Officer Tommy Docherty, of the RAF Regiment, and Aircraftman Catherine Brady. (It appears that women are still called aircraftman in the RAF, but I apologise to Catherine if that is not the case.) Catherine told us that she had joined the service at a slightly older age than most. She has been selected to study for a degree in computing, with the aim of being promoted to Engineer Officer. Tommy opened with a lively film of types of RAF aircraft. You needed to be quick to identify all the different aircraft, as Typhoon, C17, Puma, unmanned air vehicles, C130 and so on were pictured in quick succession, mixed with shots of firefighting, RAF Regiment activities and the Red Arrows in formation.

Tommy explained that he had served for 33 years. Before joining the RAF, he had been an enthusiastic member of the Air Training Corps (ATC). The main purpose of the RAF Regiment is to protect air Stations at home and abroad and he had served in Northern Ireland, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. As an example of an unusual activity, Tommy showed a photograph of a crashed RAF Dakota of wartime vintage. The crash had occurred in Malaysia and Tommy went as a member of a team to research the crash site. The team had a long walk to the site in a remote area and were helped by Malaysian aboriginals, who had remembered the crash and kept its history alive. The remains of all the crew were found and subsequently repatriated to be buried in a Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery. The team procured a goat, to be butchered to provide a feast for all the villagers, but regrettably the goat was eaten by a tiger before the feast could be arranged.

The RAF is equipped with the full spectrum of air and space resources, providing the Government with the flexibility to project British power wherever needed. In a fast-moving film, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, described recent operations around the world. Typhoon aircraft are currently deployed to Romania in Operation Biloxi; 750 people had been deployed in Covid relief activities; Operation Shader (operations against Daesh in Iraq and Syria) is still ongoing; the service has made air-drops of humanitarian relief to the Yazidi people and the RAFhas been involved in hurricane relief in the Caribbean.

The RAF is enacting the Astra strategy, based on three principles: to focus on people, succeed in operations and build the next generation of people and equipment. The front line is growing in capability, but it faces a state of constant competition and threat. To meet these threats, the RAF relies on the quality and talent of its people. There can be no higher priority he said. The film showed examples of aircrew training in the Hawk aircraft before moving on to the Typhoon. The service relies on widespread support teams, who as well as uniformed people, include contractors and civil servants. There is a high-class Apprenticeship scheme and RAF people have won Apprentice of the Year awards several times.

The RAF is at the forefront of military space operations, and we watched a film of their space operations centre. The service will soon have its own dedicated satellite. In a summary of front line equipment, we saw pictures of the Protector Unmanned Air Vehicle, developed from the Reaper and planned to enter service in 2024. The F35 Lightning is operational and recently conducted missions in the Near East, launched from HMS Queen Elizabeth. There are now eight Poseidon submarine hunter aircraft in service, based at RAF Lossiemouth. Cyber attacks on communications are now a real threat and the RAF is investing significantly in cyber warfare techniques.

This was a spirited presentation to an appreciative live audience, also shared by viewers on Zoom. Many thanks to the presentation team for their enthusiastic delivery.