RAF structure

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.

Commissioned ranks


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

Airmen and Airwomen

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)

Non-Commissioned ranks with flying roles

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

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