RAF Intelligence: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

RAF Intelligence
Former RAF Intelligence School Crest 1942 to 1969

Royal Air Force Intelligence is formed by Officers of the Royal Air Force Operations Support (Intelligence) Branch and Airmen from the Intelligence Analyst Trade and Intelligence Analyst (Voice) Trade. Intelligence officers and airmen of the branch and trade are involved in many duties including:

  • Operational Intelligence (OPINTEL)
  • Air Intelligence Analysis
  • Imagery Analysis
  • Signals Analysis
  • Human Intelligence
  • Open Source Analysis
  • Tactical Mission Support to Air Operations
  • Briefing: aircrew, politicians and commanders
  • Targeting

The RAF has around 1200 personnel of all ranks and members are posted throughout the operational stations and headquarters of the British Armed Forces, both in the United Kingdom and overseas.



Air intelligence training is carried out at the Defence School of Intelligence (DSI) at the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre(DISC) Chicksands, in Shefford, Bedfordshire. Air Intelligence Wing delivers the Joint Air Intelligence Course (JAIC), which lasts 22 weeks and qualifies students as Air Intelligence Officers. Other ranks start by completing the 15 week long Operational Air Intelligence Course (OpAIC) before specialising in either Imagery or Signals Analysis after their first tour. A further 4 months at DISC Chicksands, at the IMINT Wing (formally Joint School of Photographic Interpretation), qualifies those specialising in Imagery Intelligence. A course at SIGINT Wing qualifies the Intelligence Analysts specialising in Signals Intelligence.


The RAF Intelligence Branch (professional cadre of Intelligence specialists) dates back to 1939 following the outbreak of World War II, however personnel have been employed in intelligence duties since the formation of the RAF in 1918. At the time, officers of the General Duties (GD) Branch (mainly pilots on a ground tour or who could no longer fly due to medical reasons) performed the duty of Squadron Intelligence Officer, or aircrew on ground tours in the Air Ministry Intelligence Department. By the late 1939 there was a dedicated Intelligence Branch (Administrative and Special Duties Branch (for Intelligence duties)). Additionally, in 1939, the Secret Intelligence Service established a dedicated Air Intelligence Section under the command of Group Captain F W Winterbottom (Chief of Air Intelligence, MI-6). During World War II, the Intelligence Branch became larger to encompass the Signals Intelligence staff at Bletchley Park and the Imagery Intelligence staff at Medmenham.

At the outbreak of WW2, there Air Ministry recocnised the requirement for formalised Intelligence training and established a number of courses to teach Volunteer Reserve Officers in the art of Intelligence analysis. Much of this early training was very simplistic and did little more than introduce those to be employed in intelligence duties on the structure of the secretive organisation and where sources came from. The first series of courses were held at Hibbert Road in Harrow starting on 20 Nov 1939. These were short courses of 7 days duration, giving broad picture of intelligence in Commands, Groups and Stations. After 5 of these courses had run, the training was moved to 14 Ryder Street, St James, London. By September 1940 saw another move, back to Harrow to Fisher Road School, Wealdsden. Incorporated into the syllabus was the Advanced Intelligence Course (Designed for Senior RAF Intelligence Officers from operational commands, also certain Naval and Army Intelligence Officers. The first of these courses started on 28 Oct 1940 and was 3 weeks in duration. This series continued without interruption and in 1942 developed into the RAF Intelligence School.

In September 1942, the training school moved to Caen Wood Towers (Caenwood Towers), Highgate (this building was later renamed Athlone House). By this time it was clear to the Air Staff that Intelligence was a positive and vital element affecting Air Ministry policy, strategy and planning so the RAF Intelligence School was Officially constituted and given a proper home at Caen Wood Towers. The site was set up as Royal Air Force Station Highgate around grounds and outbuildings of the Caen Wood estate. This included accommodation, messing, equipment stores and a madical centre. Due to the sensitivity of Intelligence and covert operations during the war, the site was not made fully public and it operated under the guise of an RAF Convalescence Hospital, disguising its true role. A number of different courses were run lasting between 3 weeks and 5 days, teaching Air Intelligence, Escape and Evasion and Basic Intelligence Analysis for direct entrants to Intelligence work. The majority of the instruction was given by visiting specialists (from Air Ministry, MI-6, MI-9, Central Interpretation Unit Medmenham and Station-X at Bletchley Park.)

The unit was soon awarded a badge (crest) as a proof of the high official regard for the value of the school. The badge consisted of a Sphinx, denoting wisdom, backed by a sun in splendour, depicting elucidation, with the motto 'Praemonitus Praemunitus' which translates as 'Forewarned is Forearmed'. In 1943 the Unit was transferred for administrative purposes to No. 28 Group RAF under RAF Technical Training Command. Additional courses were added for Security, Air Intelligence for RAF Bomber Command, a Far East Course and Air Intelligence for Senior Officers. During the period from Nov 1939 to Sep 1945, 7,086 Officers of the British Services (including dominion and Allied Forces attached to the RAF) attended over 372 courses. In late 1944, the school was hit twice by German V-1 Flying Bombs causing damage to the builings and injuring a number of staff.

Following the end of WW2, training continued at RAF Highgate until 1948 when the Air Ministry decided that the School should move to the Air Ministry builing as they were de-requisitioning the propery. Caen Wood Towers was handed over to the Ministry of Health and was part of the NHS estate until 2004 when it was sold to a private developer.

Following the end of WW2, the Branch was split up into Administrative and Special Duties Branch (Photography) and Administrative and Special Duties Branch (Signals), with no dedicated Air Intelligence specialisation.

Training at the RAF Intelligence School continued until 1969, teaching non-specialist Officers (GD and Administrators) the basics of Intelligence. The role of Squadron or Station Intelligence Officer was filled by members of the Admin Branch as a sub-specialisation. On 2 Aug 1969, the RAF Intelligence School was officially closed and Intelligence training was transferred to the Joint Service Intelligence Division (JSID) at Ashford, Kent. In the 1950s the Photographic Interpretation (PI) Branch was formed for commissioned officers to be employed at the reconnaissance intelligence centres attached to aircraft units, and also to work at the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (JARIC) at RAF Brampton. By the start of the 1990s, the RAF could see the benefit of an independent Intelligence Branch, creating the GD (Intelligence) Branch. They required more information and warning on the potential enemies around the world in order to maintain the diminishing RAF's ability to react. In 1997 GD (INT) became the Operations Support (Intelligence) Specialisation that is in existence today.

However, training for Officers focused on Imagery Analysis with general intelligence being taught at Ashford on a 3 week course at the Defence Intelligence and Security School (DISS), the successor to JSID. The first professional Air Intelligence course (RAF Intelligence Course - RAFIC) was run in the Air Intelligence Wing of DISS in 2000, following the School's move to Chicksands in Bedfordshire. After the first 2 courses, the Royal Navy were invited to send Officers to attend and the course was renamed the Joint Air Intelligence Course (JAIC). In 2005 DISS became part of the Defence College of Intelligence and the Air Intellienge Wing was renamed Horus Training Delivery Wing. Following a re-organisation in 2007, the structrure was changed again and the Defence School of Intelligence (DSI) was set up with Air Intelligence Wing as a sub-orginaistion as the Phase 2 training unit(professional specialist training) for all RAF Intelligence Analyst Airmen, RAF Intelligence Officers, plus as a Phase 3 training unit(Continuation Specialist Training) for RAF Intelligence Analyst NCOs and Royal Navy & British Army Officers employed in air intelligence duties.


Historical Sources

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5][6]

Staff roles and trades

The RAF Intelligence trades currently consist of Intelligence Analysts who are initially trained as air intelligence analysts, later gaining specialist qualifications in imagery analysis and/or communications (signals) analysis. Individuals can specialise in one or more fields as well as generalist intelligence duties. A separate trade (Int An(Voice)) encompasses the linguistics analysis and foreign language translation duties.

Officer roles

  • Station Intelligence Officer - Air Command flying stations
  • HQ Intelligence Staff - J2/A2 (PJHQ, JFACHQ, NATO, Army)
  • Targeteer - Targets Staff (DTIO, PJHQ, JFHQ, JFACHQ)
  • Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Operator - Defence Humint Unit
  • Squadron Intelligence Officer (SQINTO) - attached to each flying squadron
  • Air Warfare Centre Intelligence Staff
  • Defence Intelligence Staff
  • Flight/Squadron Commander - Intelligence Units (Joint and RAF)
  • Information Operations
  • Special Forces Air Intelligence
  • Instructor - Recruit Training, Intelligence Training, Specialist Training

Airmen/Non-Commissioned Officer trades

  • Strategic Imagery Analysis - JARIC
  • Tactical Imagery Analysis - TIW
  • Signals Analysis
  • Translation/Transcription - Int An (Voice)
  • Air Warfare Centre
  • Squadron Intelligence
  • Station Intelligence
  • Instructor Duties
  • HQ Intelligence Staff

Notable current members of RAF Intelligence

Notable former members of RAF Intelligence

Notable members of RAF Intelligence in Fiction

See also

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address