Washington, D.C. --
2018 marks the centennial of Britain’s Royal Air Force. To commemorate this centennial anniversary, The Central Band of the Royal Air Force and The United States Air Force Band will be joining forces for a series of outreach events, including concerts, aerial demonstrations and honor guard performances honoring the great history of the RAF and its profound partnership with the United States Air Force.
The goal of the RAF Centennial Celebration is threefold:
1) To commemorate 100 years of extraordinary success, achievement and sacrifice.
2) To celebrate the professionalism and dedication of today’s RAF.
3) To inspire future generations by telling their unique story.
We hope you will consider joining us in honoring the profound legacy of the Royal Air Force and the deep connection it has had with the United States Air Force.
Schedule of RAF 100 EVENTS in Washington, D.C.
Sunday, April 15: Open house at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Va. The event will include guest speakers and performances from The Central Band of the RAF. Please check our website for details regarding this concert.
Monday, April 16, 7:30 p.m.: Wind Band Concert at DAR Constitution Hall with the combined forces of The Central Band of the RAF and The USAF Band.
Wednesday, April 18, 7:30 p.m.: Big Band Concert at The Music Center at Strathmore with the combined forces of The Central Band of the RAF and The USAF Band’s Airmen of Note.
RAF’s Historic Legacy
The role the Royal Air Force has played in history is monumental. Had it not developed out of the ashes of the first “Great War,” world history could have taken a dramatically different turn.
The airplane was still in the early stages of development at the outbreak of World War I. Just 11 years earlier on December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright had conducted the very first successful flight of a self-propelled, gasoline propeller-driven biplane near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. That first flight lasted just 12 seconds and covered only 120 feet. Six years later in 1909, Louis Blériot completed the first successful flight crossing of the English Channel. (1) (2)
In the first years of WWI, more pilots died in training than in combat. Pilots were still using paper maps for navigation and the first in-flight combat missions were fought by pilots firing hand-held pistols at one another. (2)
However, as the war raged on, a dramatic increase in the pace of development of the airplane came about after recognition of what a pivotal weapon it could be. The trench warfare of the era had ground to a stalemate on the disputed borders of France and Germany. Hence, the domination of the battlefields became determined by the domination of the skies. (3)
This development was spearheaded by the RAF; and, the foundation of a burgeoning relationship between British and United States air power also began to take root.
Following the outbreak of WWII, the RAF underwent a rapid expansion, enabling it to take on, and ultimately defeat, the powerful German Luftwaffe. In 1940 the two forces engaged in the first major military campaign fought entirely by air power, the Battle of Britain. It was arguably the longest and most complex air campaign in history. (4)
The RAF defeat of the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain contributed to the cancellation of Germany’s plans to initiate a ground invasion of the United Kingdom, saving countless lives on both sides. In response to the courageous actions of the RAF, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said "never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." (5)
The RAF was a critical ally to the United States Air Force during the Cold War. From June 1948 to September 1949, The RAF assisted in the historic Berlin Airlift, in which the United States, Great Britain and France transported 2.3 million tons of supplies to Soviet-blockaded West Berlin. (6)
Less than a year later, when the Korean War began, the RAF sent pilots to serve alongside the United States Air Force. During the Vietnam War, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson initially resisted giving material support to the United States. However, after a 1967 bombing of a Saigon nightclub in which four British citizens were killed, British air power and ground troops were deployed. (7)
During the Gulf War, starting in January 1991, the RAF assisted the United States Air Force by staging bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and contributing over 100 aircraft. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, the RAF contributed to Operation Deny Flight in 1993 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and again in Operation Allied Force in 1999 in Kosovo. (8)
War on Terror
When the United States entered Afghanistan in October 2001, the RAF operated air-to-air refueling tankers and reconnaissance aircraft and provided its bases as staging points. Additional RAF units based in Kandahar, Afghanistan, provided close air support.
In 2003, the RAF again came to the aid of the United States in the second Gulf War in Iraq. There it provided assistance with strike aircraft, staging bases for U.S. B-52 Bombers and deploying forces to the Iraqi city of Basra.
The British Royal Air Force has been, and continues to be, a staunch ally of the United States Air Force, from its inception during WWI right up through today.