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The RAF during the Cold War; RAF Fairford, July 15 & 16, 2018

RAF 100th Anniversary, part 3; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Shortly after the Second World War, there a turbulent period took place for Europe and therefore also for the RAF. Europe was slowly rebuilt and the geopolitical situations were shifted in the world. Eventually, the RAF, as NATO ally with the Western European countries, would enter the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

After the victory in the Second World War, the RAF had to be reorganized further to be ready for the future. Technological progress was continued with the arrival of jet fighters and jet bombers. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, after the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, the state of Israel was founded on May 14, 1948. Egyptian forces entered the Israeli territory as part of a broader military coalition of the Arab League. The Royal Egyptian Air Force supplied both light bombers and Spitfire's during this campaign. On May 22, the Egyptians attacked RAF Ramat David in the belief that the base had already been taken over by the Israeli forces. Two Egyptian Spitfire's shot at British Spitfire from the No. 32 Squadron and No. 208 Squadron on the ground. Shortly after, the British left with their Spitfire's to fly a patrol. Three Egyptian Spitfire's attacked again, two of which were shot by the British. Later the RAF airmen shot down another two Spitfire's from the Egyptians. Because of the confusing circumstances during this conflict in the Middle East, the RAF turned against the Jewish militias and later against the rising Israeli Air Force in 1948. The RAF airports in the region were attacked by both parties and reconnaissance aircraft were shot down. On January 7, 1949, a British pilot who participated in the action against the Egyptians was shot down by Israeli Spitfire's. The British explored the aftermath of an air strike on an Israeli column by Egyptian planes.

Despite the fact that Britain had not stationed squadrons in Korea during the Korean War, the Independent reported that 41 RAF officers were seconded to serve in the United States Air Force. Several RAF airmen came into action during exchange with the USAF on the F-86 Saber. The British managed to win seven air victories in this conflict. This was the first active British contribution to the Cold War. Other RAF pilots flew Meteors in squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force during ground attacks. Three RAF squadrons also operated airplanes based in Singapore and on a rotating

base in Japan. Here the units flew maritime and meteorological reconnaissance missions in the Yellow Sea and the Tushima Strait. The construction of nuclear weapons was difficult in Great Britain in the first years of the Cold War. For this reason, the RAF and also other Western allies were provided with American nuclear weapons during project E as an emergency solution in 1958. The UK had produced less than 50 of the 200 atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs which it needed at that stage. The RAF V-Force bomber squadrons took full responsibility for carrying the nuclear deterrent of the country until the development of the submarines of the Royal Navy Polaris class. After the introduction of Polaris in 1968, the strategic nuclear role of the RAF was reduced to a tactical role using WE177 gravity bombs. This tactical role was continued by the V-Force bombers in the 1980s. Later this role was taken over by the Tornado GR1s until 1998.

The primary role of the RAF during the Cold War years was the defense of Western Europe against a possible attack by the Soviet Union. For this task, the RAF had many squadrons stationed in West Germany at airfields such as RAF Bruggen, RAF Laarbruch, RAF Wildenrath and RAF Gutersloh. With the decline of the British Empire, global operations were scaled back and the RAF Far East Air Force was disbanded on October 31, 1971. Despite this, the RAF fought in many wars and conflicts during the Cold War period. In June 1948, the RAF operation Firedog began against Malaysian terrorists during the Malaysian Emergency. The operations continued for 12 years until 1960. Airplanes flew from RAF Tengah and RAF Butterworth. From 1953 to 1956, the RAF carried out anti-Mau-Mau operations in Kenya with various Avro Lincoln squadrons using the airbase RAF Eastleigh. During the Suez crisis in 1956, the RAF operated with many aircraft from Cyprus. These planes were based there at the airfields RAF Akrotiri and RAF Nicosia. Aircraft were also deployed during the Operation Musketeer from RAF Luqa and RAF Hal Far on Malta. The confrontation against Indonesia in the early 1960s caused many British aircraft to leave for the island. Through a combination of agile diplomacy and selective ignoring of certain events by both parties, the conflict never developed into a real war.

The most famous conflict that the British would encounter during the Cold War period was the Falklands War in 1982. The Falklands War was mainly fought by the navy and the army due to the large distance from the battlefield to the friendly airfields. However, RAF aircraft were deployed in the middle of the Atlantic at RAF Ascension Island and onboard of the aircraft carriers of the navy together with the aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm. A detachment of No. 1 Squadron was deployed to the British fleet during the war, operating from HMS Hermes where it flew missions against the ground targets of the Argentine troops. The aircraft which the RAF deployed from the ships were of the type Harrier GR3. RAF pilots also flew Royal Navy Sea Harriers in the air defense role and four RAF pilots shot down five Argentine aircraft in total. The most famous RAF missions in this conflict were the Black Buck attacks with Avro Vulcans flying from Ascension Island. Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol planes scanning the South Atlantic and a tanker and transport fleet were helping in the enormous logistical effort required for the war. After the war, the RAF remained in the South Atlantic to provide air defense to the Falkland Islands. The mid-Atlantic airbase on Ascension Island remained in use as an intermediate station for the air bridge between Great Britain and the Falkland Islands. In 1984, RAF Mount Pleasant was built to station fighter jets and transport aircraft on the island. Several radar locations were set up and a detachment of the RAF Regiment provided anti-aircraft support until that role was transferred to the Royal Artillery of the Royal Army.




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