RAF Twilight War
Order of Battle - November 1996
RAF Germany had been in place in Germany since the end of World War 2, and by 1996 was a potent force in the ground attack role. The Harrier Wing had gained an extra squadron bringing its strength up to 54 aircraft, all of which were the all weather capable GR.7. The Harrier Wing had long refined its dispersed operations capability and was highly skilled at operating away from its fixed airfields. The Tornados had similarly nearly finished re-equipping with the upgraded GR.4, which would increase its capabilities in the interdiction role.
RAF Germany also had its transportation elements in its three helicopter squadrons. Its greatest weakness, its obsolete air defence fighters, had just been rectified by the complete equipment of these squadrons with F-16 (known as Falcon F.1 in RAF service) leased from the US. The political outcry caused by this move had given added impetus to the EFA (Spitfire FGR.1) project.
RAF Germany was dedicated in its entirety to the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, along with 4 ATAF the major air power units of NATO on the central front. However 2 ATAF had been substantially disrupted even before it entered the war. German air units nominally under 2 ATAF had done their own thing and been badly mauled as the West invaded the East. Belgian units had refused outright to fight, and Dutch units would only undertake defensive tasks. However 2 ATAF received more US units than originally envisioned and would remain an mainly Anglo-American force through its existence.
Strike Command contained all of the UK based operational elements of the Royal Air Force.
No.1 Group contained an odd batch of aircraft including UK based strike aircraft, transport aircraft, transport helicopters, refuellers and the training units to support these. However during the initial stages of the war No.1 Group dispersed to several different tasks as all its elements split between reinforcing air units fighting on the North Flank and Central Front.
No.11 Group was primarily responsible for the Air Defence of the United Kingdom and was the direct equivalent of WW2's Fighter Command. To this end it was equipped with Tornado F.3 interceptors for long ranged interdiction tasks. These would operate with the AWACS aircraft of No.8 Squadron, now well integrated into the system of UK ground based radar and giving much enhanced operational flexibility. The tankers of No.1 Group would increase the range of all these aircraft.
Closer to the shores of the UK No.11 Group would rely upon an mixture of surface to air missiles and versatile Hawk aircraft. The ageing Bloodhound SAM had long been retired from British service without an adequate replacement being acquired. However US concerns about the state of UK Air Defences had led to the provision of Patriot SAM systems manned by RAF crewmen. Behind the Patriot belt would be patrols of Hawk trainer aircraft armed with Sidewinder missiles and a 30mm gun pod. Although some questioned the usefulness of the Hawk in this role it did add in an extra factor into any attackers plans. Lastly over the airfields would be the excellent Rapier point defence missiles and even a scattering of 30mm guns (mostly Falklands War booty).
It should be noted however that No.11 Group could also call upon a number of American units based in the UK, of which the 'Aggressors' of the 527th TFS were the most famous. Any ships and carrier aircraft within the ADUK boundaries could also be integrated into the system. During wartime No.11 Group would be commanded from a series of bunkers scattered around the UK, all of which were linked by numerous communications networks.
No.18 Group controlled the RAF's dedicated maritime assets that would give sterling support to NATO naval operations during the war. The groups prime asset was its fleet of Nimrod aircraft. The Nimrod was an excellent maritime patrol aircraft, being able to locate and destroy submarine and surface targets independently, although the best results were always obtained operating in concert with naval units.
The strike element of the group was stronger than it had been for many years. The long serving Buccaneers had been retained and supplemented by two squadrons of maritime attack Tornado GR.1B aircraft. The group also contained the RAF's helicopter Search and Rescue assets. Although lacking the sophistication of the dedicated ASW Sea King's of the RN, the RAF fleet would give excellent support to naval units operating close to shore.
18 Group also controlled several more specialist assets. No.51 Squadron operated specially equipped Nimrod aircraft dedicated to ELINT tasks, and 1 PRU had photo reconnaissance Canberra which would increase in importance as the number of satellite resources dwindled. Lastly 360 Squadron had a previously un-advertised EW capacity which was used in support of the fleet.
The direct reporting units included all of those RAF units deployed outside of the main western European theatre. The most significant being the Jaguar squadrons of the 'Desert Cats' deployed to Oman in support of the Middle East Field Force, which operated alongside the Jaguars of the Omani Airforce. Another force of note was the multi-national 618 Squadron formed to test the European Fighter Aircraft in Canada, and the forming 58 Squadron.
Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF)
The Royal Auxiliary Air Force had played a key role at the start of World War 2 providing 20 fighter squadrons by 1940. They were part-time squadrons of pilots who were the equivalent to the Territorial Army, but were manned by officers and gentlemen. However by 1995 it had long fallen into abeyance as a flying unit, manning HQ and ground units.
When the war broke out HMG requisitioned several transport aircraft from British Airways and other carriers to move men and supplies to Germany. In addition much of the large North Sea helicopter fleet was brought under the command of the MoD, freeing up much of No.1 Group's helicopter fleet for the continent. Although this was originally seen as a temporary move by January of 1997 legislation was passed in parliament to bring these resources under the control of the RAF permanently. Their air and ground crews were offered positions in the RAF and most accepted. The Royal Auxiliary Air Force was flying again.
The helicopters and short haul aircraft were organised into squadrons in the 600 series with regular RAF commanders (these squadrons were usually given regional titles, some of which reflected there original operating bases). The short haul aircraft were mainly STOL types built by Shorts Brothers or British Aerospace, and used for internal communications and some resupply in Europe. The long haul aircraft were integrated into the cargo fleet normally based at Brize Norton, although a squadron of eight Boeing 747 was given its own number (610 (Heathrow and Gatwick) Squadron).
HISTORY - AIRCRAFT- SQUADRONS - RAF REGIMENT