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The planning for the future of the Royal Air Force involves supporting ongoing British military operations,[1] the introduction of new aircraft types,[2], greater focus on network enabled capability and increasing harmonisation with the American Armed Forces.[1]


Future aircraft

Aircraft in development, or soon to be deployed, include the Airbus A400M, of which 25 are to be used to replace the remaining Hercules C-130Ks.[3]

An enhanced version of the Chinook, the HC3, with improved avionics and increased range for special forces missions, was ordered in 1995. Service entry was delayed due to software problems and legal issues. On 1 April 2007, the MoD confirmed the intention of making the eight Chinook HC3 aircraft operational, after downgrading to battlefield support configuration. The Eurofighter Typhoon is entering service and the RAF will be the largest operator of the type. The Typhoon is intended to replace, by 2010, the Tornado F3 interceptor and the Jaguar GR3A ground attack aircraft (retired in 2007). The Hawk 128 will replace the existing Hawks in service; the newer model being more similar in equipment and performance to modern front line aircraft. The ageing aerial refuelling fleet of VC10s and Tristars should be replaced with the Airbus A330 MRTT under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft programme. Problems with contract negotiations have led to unsolicited proposals for the conversion of civil Tristars or DC-10s.

The Joint Combat Aircraft (the British designation for the F-35 Lightning II) will replace the Harrier GR7 and GR9. Studies have begun regarding the long term replacement for the Tornado GR4 (Although the Future Offensive Air System project was cancelled in 2005). The RAF transport helicopter force, the Puma and Sea Kings, are to be replaced by the Support Amphibious and Battlefield Rotorcraft (SABR) project, likely a mix of Merlins and Chinooks. On December 16th the MOD announced that 22 Chinook helicopters would be ordered to the fleet. The Westland Sea Kings would be withdrawn early and the Puma fleet would undergo life extensions to prolong life to 2022. The Chinooks are due to be inservice by 2013, bringing numbers to 70.


In 2006, Colonel Tim Collins, the former Army officer described as a hero during the Iraq War, prompted controversy by calling for the RAF to be disbanded as a separate arm; allowing the Fleet Air Arm and Army Air Corps to absorb aircrew and aircraft dedicated to specific sea and ground roles. The Ministry of Defence responded saying, "There is no question of the RAF being disbanded. The skills and challenges in the air environment are totally different to those faced in maritime or land environments."[4]

Additionally, Nick Cook who edits the aviation section of Jane's Defence Weekly, voiced his disagreement with Tim Collins' idea saying:

"In an era when money is tight there is a lot of introspection about where scant resources should go, but this doesn't make any sense. You can't do without air power. It's totally unrealistic."[4]

See also




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