RAF role and structure

The Royal Air Force delivers the UK Defence Vision by:

  • Protecting the UK and her interests 24/7
  • Providing the Nation with choice in times of crisis
  • Maximising the return on public investment

We work together on our core task to produce battle-winning people and equipment. Our people lie at the heart of this capability

The RAF carries out tasks given to it by the Government. Its main job is to help defend the interests of the UK, which consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This may involve service overseas as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Force or any other multi-national deployment. Service personnel may also be deployed on United Nations (UN) operations and used to help in other emergencies. The list below shows how a Service personnel, squadrons and units fits into the RAF and how the RAF is controlled by Government.

  • The Queen
  • The Government
  • Parliament
  • Ministry of Defence (MOD)
  • Secretary of State for Defence and Ministers
  • Chief of the Defence Staff
  • Chief of the Air Staff
  • Air Force Board
  • Air Command
  • Groups
    1 Group  ‘To generate and develop effective Combat Air Power’
    2 Group  ‘To Project, Protect and Support’ Force Elements on Operations and Exercises Worldwide
    22 Group – ‘Recruits RAF personnel and provides trained specialist personnel to the RAF and other two Services.
  • RAF Stations (about 5000 people) Individual Stn websites
  • Wings (about 300 people)
  • Squadrons (about 120 people)
  • Flights (about 30 people)

[There are also 12,500 RAF personnel under Air Command who fall outside this general structure and form the ‘diaspora’.]

Since 1949 the UK has belonged to NATO. NATO aims to provide a common defence for its members in both Europe and further afield. British troops also serve in Germany, Brunei, Cyprus, Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands. In addition the RAF are deployed on operations worldwide, for instance to the Middle East.

Ranks of the Royal Air Force

Commissioned ranks

Here is the rank structure for commissioned ranks of the Royal Air Force.

Ranks are shown in ascending order. In many cases, the Royal Air Force rank will be the junior of the three Services, the Royal Navy having seniority over both the Army and RAF.

Rank insignia for commissioned ranks is worn on the lower arm of dress uniform.

MRAF       Marshal of the Royal Air Force
ACM         Air Chief Marshal
AM           Air Marshal
AVM         Air Vice Marshal
Air Cdr      Air Commodore
Gp Capt    Group Captain
Wg Cdr     Wing Commander
Sqn Ldr     Squadron Leader
Flt Lt         Flight Lieutenant
Fg Off       Flying Officer
Plt Off       Pilot Officer
APO          Acting Pilot Officer

Non-Commissioned ranks

Here is the rank structure for other ranks of the Royal Air Force.

Rank insignia for non-commissioned ranks is, with the exception of Warrant Officer, worn on the upper arm of dress uniform. Warrant Officer badges are worn on the lower arm.

WO     Warrant Officer
FS       Flight Sergeant
CT       Chief Technician
Sgt      Sergeant
Cpl      Corporal
LCpl     Lance Corporal
JT        Junior Technician
SAC      Senior Aircraftman
LAC      Leading Aircraftman

Non-Commissioned aircrew (NC aircrew)

Rank insignia for Non-Commissioned Aircrew ranks is, with the exception of Master Aircrew, worn on the upper arm of dress uniform, Master Aircrew badges are worn on the lower arm.

MACR   Master Aircrew
FS        Flight Sergeant (Aircrew)
Sgt       Sergeant (Aircrew)

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