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RAF Fighter Command
RAF Fighter Command
was one of the commands of the Royal Air Force. It was formed in 1936 to allow more specialised control of fighter aircraft. It served throughout the Second World War. It earned great fame during the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
in 1940, when the Few held off the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
attack on Britain. The Command continued until 17 November 1943, when it was disbanded and the RAF fighter force was split into two categories; defence and attack. The defensive force became Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) and the offensive force became the RAF Second Tactical Air Force. Air Defence of Great Britain
Air Defence of Great Britain
was renamed back to Fighter Command in October 1944 and continued to provide defensive patrols around Great Britain.[2] It was disbanded for the second time in 1968, when it was subsumed into the new Strike Command.

Contents

1 Origins 2 Second World War

2.1 Battle of France 2.2 Battle of Britain 2.3 1941 air offensive 2.4 1942–45

3 Royal Observer Corps 4 Cold War
Cold War
years 5 Strike Command 6 Air Officer Commanders-in-Chief 1936–68 7 References

7.1 Notes 7.2 Bibliography

Origins[edit] On 20 May 1926, Fighter Command's precursor organisation was established as a group within Inland Area. On 1 June 1926, Fighting Area (as it was then called) was transferred to the Air Defence of Great Britain. Fighting Area was raised to Command status in 1932 and renamed Fighter Command on 1 May 1936. On 23 February 1940, No. 60 Group RAF was established within Fighter Command to control the Chain Home
Chain Home
radar detection and tracking units. Second World War[edit] Battle of France[edit] Main article: Battle of France

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Battle of Britain[edit] Main article: Battle of Britain

Propaganda shot of the fighter pilots of the Polish 303 squadron, 1940. Running low on pilots during the battle of Britain, Fighter Command accepted foreign pilots into its ranks.

Over the next few years, the Command expanded greatly and replaced its obsolete biplane squadrons — generally outfitted with Bristol Bulldog, Gloster Gauntlet
Gloster Gauntlet
and Hawker Fury
Hawker Fury
biplane fighters leading up to, and through the period of its founding — with two of the most famous aircraft ever to fly with the RAF, the Hawker Hurricane
Hawker Hurricane
and the Supermarine Spitfire. The supreme test of Fighter Command came during the summer of 1940 when the German Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
launched an offensive aimed at attaining air superiority over the Channel and the UK as a prerequisite to the launch of a seaborne invasion force (codenamed Operation Sea Lion). Fighter Command was divided into a number of Groups, each controlling a different part of the UK. 11 Group took the brunt of the German attack, as it controlled southeast England and London. It was reinforced by 10 Group, which covered southwest England, 12 Group, which covered the Midlands and East Anglia
East Anglia
and 13 Group which covered the North of England and Scotland. In the end, the Germans failed to attain air superiority, although the RAF had been eating into its reserves during the battle, as had the Luftwaffe. 1941 air offensive[edit] As 1941 began, Fighter Command began the onerous task of winning air superiority over North Western France
France
from the Germans. By May 1941, the Squadrons based at all the main fighter airfields were now to operate together as integral Fighter Wings, under the tactical control of the newly created post of wing Leader, invariably an experienced 1940 veteran of wing commander rank. Various types of short-penetration fighter operations were tried out in a bid to draw the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
into a war of attrition, and keep inordinate numbers of fighters tied down in France, particularly after the German attack on the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
in June 1941. Large numbers of Spitfires were sent out with small groups of medium bombers in often vain attempts to lure the German fighters into combat. Results of these operations through 1941 were decidedly mixed, as the short range of the Spitfire precluded an overly aggressive stance, and with just two experienced Jagdgeschwader units left in Western Europe ( JG 2
JG 2
& JG 26; comprising 180 fighters at most) targets were often few but dangerous. Most of the factors that had allowed Fighter Command to win the Battle of Britain were now reversed. For example, British pilots who were shot down in 1940 and survived would be patched up and sent back to their units as quickly as possible. In 1941, over France, a shot down pilot would, as likely as not, end up a prisoner of war. The year saw RAF Fighter Command
RAF Fighter Command
claim some 711 Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
fighters shot down (although only 236 were lost from all causes, 103 in combat) for losses of approximately 400 RAF fighters lost.[3] As 1941 ended, the appearance of the new Fw 190, with its obvious technical superiority over the current Spitfire
Spitfire
Mark V, would make Fighter Command's job that much harder in 1942. Parallel to the day offensive in 1941 was the ongoing night bomber attacks against the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
in January to May. By this time, until May 1941, the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
effort was aimed against both civilian and industrial targets. Fighter Command's defences, however improved almost daily during the first six months of 1941. The Bristol Beaufighter became the prime nightfighter, equipped with airborne radar, it proved ever more effective against the bombers, with the ground-based organisation that proved so efficient in 1940 now guiding the night fighters to their targets. An increasing number of anti-aircraft guns and searchlights were also radar-controlled, improving accuracy. From the start of 1941, the Luftwaffe's losses mounted (from 28 in January to 124 in May). With the impending invasion of Russia requiring the movement of air power to the East, the Blitz ended in May 1941 with Fighter Command in complete control of the night sky over the UK. 1942–45[edit]

A Spitfire
Spitfire
tipping the wing of a V-1, which disrupted the missile's automatic pilot during Operation Crossbow, 1944.

The difficult task of slowly grinding down the Germans continued into 1942 and 1943. Squadrons also found themselves on tiring defensive patrols as small formations of FW-190s started to fly 'hit and run' nuisance raids all along the South Coast. Fighter Command deployed their new Hawker Typhoon
Hawker Typhoon
units at this time. The most notable offensive battle took place over Dieppe, France
France
when an ill-fated commando-style raid was mounted there in August 1942 (Dieppe Raid). The Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
and RAF clashed in the skies over the French city. Although the RAF succeeded in preventing the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
from interfering with the shipping, which was its primary aim, its perceived success was misleading. Despite claims at the time that more German aircraft than British had been shot down (106 kills were claimed by the RAF) postwar analysis showed Allied aircraft losses amounted to 106, including 88 RAF fighters and 18 bombers. Of the fighter losses 29 were from flak, one ran out of fuel, two collided, and one was a victim of friendly fire.[4] Against this, 48 Luftwaffe aircraft were lost. Included in that total were 28 bombers, half of them Dornier Do 217s from KG 2. One of the two Jagdgeschwader fighter wings, JG 2, lost 14 Fw 190s and eight pilots killed. JG 26
JG 26
lost six Fw 190s with their pilots.[5] Spitfire
Spitfire
losses stood at 70 destroyed and damaged to all causes.[6] The Spitfire
Spitfire
squadrons (42 with Mark Vs, and four with Mark IXs) were tasked with ground-attack, escort and air-superiority missions,[7] so the exact number of Spitfire
Spitfire
losses to the Fw 190 is unknown. The Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
claimed 61 of the 106 RAF machines lost, which included all types ( JG 2
JG 2
claimed 40 and JG 26 claimed 21 kills).[5] 1942 statistics yielded 560 claims (272 German fighters were lost from all causes) for 574 RAF day fighters destroyed.[8] By the autumn of 1942, the arrival of the USAAF 8th Air Force and its daylight bombers would add bomber escort to Fighter Command's tasks. Until American Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
Republic P-47 Thunderbolt
fighter groups were operational in May 1943, the Command's Spitfires performed a vital role in protecting the increasing numbers of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and Consolidated B-24 Liberators operating over Occupied Europe. The Spitfire's chronic lack of operational range — not entirely unlike the Bf 109E's similar dilemma during the Battle of Britain — however meant such protection was limited to the Channel and the European coast. In 1943, the most notable event was a very important administrative one. Fighter Command was split up into the Air Defence of Great Britain and the Second Tactical Air Force. As the name of the former suggests, its primary aim was defence of the UK from attack, with the latter concentrating on supporting ground forces after the eventual invasion of Europe.[9] 1944 saw the greatest effort by the Air Defence of Great Britain
Air Defence of Great Britain
in its history. Operation Overlord, the invasion of France
France
was launched on 6 June 1944. RAF fighters swarmed over the battle area and, along with their American counterparts, suppressed the meagre German opposition. They also directly supported ground forces by strafing enemy positions and transport. Later in the year, the final major test of Fighter Command (renamed back in October 1944)[10] in the war occurred against the V-1 flying bomb
V-1 flying bomb
during Operation Crossbow. RAF fighters also supported the strategic bombing of Operation Crossbow, such as with long-range intruder operations that attacked German airfields and aircraft (e.g., at take-off/landing) at the time the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
fighters would be scrambled against RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
(see Operation Hydra).[11] During 1939–45, RAF Fighter Command
RAF Fighter Command
lost 3,690 killed, 1,215 wounded and 601 POW. 4,790 aircraft were lost.[12] Royal Observer Corps[edit] As a direct result of their efforts during the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
the Observer Corps was granted the title Royal by King George VI
King George VI
and became a uniformed volunteer branch of the RAF from April 1941 for the remainder of its existence, retitled the Royal Observer Corps
Royal Observer Corps
(ROC). The corps would continue as a civilian organisation but wearing a Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
uniform and administered by Fighter Command. With their Headquarters at RAF Bentley Priory
RAF Bentley Priory
the ROC remained administered by Fighter Command until 31 March 1968 when responsibility was handed over to the newly formed RAF Strike Command. The ROC was a defence warning organisation operating in the United Kingdom between 1925 and 31 December 1995 when it was stood down. Initially established for an aircraft recognition and reporting role that lasted through both world wars, the organisation switched to a Cold War
Cold War
nuclear reporting role during the 1950s. The 10,500 ROC volunteers were trained and administered by a small cadre of sixty nine uniformed full-time professional officers under the command of a serving RAF Air Commodore. Cold War
Cold War
years[edit]

The supersonic fighter English Electric Lightning, a mainstay of Fighter Command during the Cold War
Cold War
years.

In the aftermath of World War II, the role of Fighter Command was still to protect the UK from air attack. However, its target changed from Germany to the Soviet Union. The Cold War
Cold War
saw the threat of Soviet bombers attacking the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
loom large. A Canadian fighter wing, No. 1 Wing, arrived at RAF North Luffenham
RAF North Luffenham
in late 1951 to bolster NATO's strength, and was in a position to assist Fighter Command until it relocated to bases in France
France
and West Germany
West Germany
in 1954–55.[13] After 1949, those Soviet bombers could be carrying nuclear weapons, and so intercepting them was crucial if the United Kingdom was to be saved during a war. A long succession of fighter aircraft saw service with Fighter Command during the 1950s and 1960s. Particularly notable types were the Gloster Meteor, Hawker Hunter, Gloster Javelin and the English Electric Lightning. The Lightning was the only purely British supersonic aircraft to enter service. That was due to a disastrous defence review in 1957. During the mid-1950s, the performance of the new surface to air missiles was improving at an enormous rate. Duncan Sandys, the Minister of Defence at the time needed to find cuts in the British defence budget, since the UK was in serious danger of being bankrupted by its defence spending. The rate of improvement of surface to air missiles seemed to indicate that they would soon be able to shoot any manned aircraft out of the sky. Consequently, in an infamous statement in the 1957 Defence White Paper the Sandys review declared that manned aircraft were obsolescent and would soon become obsolete. All programmes for manned aircraft that were not too far along were cancelled. The Lightning was the only one of a number of new supersonic aircraft that was too far along to cancel. That decision, combined with the increasing costs of developing aircraft crippled the British aircraft industry and made Fighter Command and the RAF reliant on foreign or jointly developed aircraft.[citation needed] In 1961, RAF Fighter Command
RAF Fighter Command
was assigned to NATO's air defence system. On 1 May, Air Officer Commanding in Chief, Fighter Command, Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Hector McGregor assumed the additional title of Commander United Kingdom
United Kingdom
Air Defence Region.[14] The ADR itself stretched some hundreds of miles to the north, west and south of the country and almost to the continental coastline in the east.[15] Strike Command[edit] As the 1960s dawned, the RAF continued to shrink. The three functional commands, Fighter Command, Bomber Command, and Coastal Command had all been formed in 1936 to help command an expanding RAF. It was now becoming clear that the RAF was simply becoming too small to justify their continued existence as separate entities. Consequently, in 1968, Fighter Command and Bomber Command were joined together to form Strike Command, both becoming groups within the new command.[16] Coastal Command was disbanded and subsumed into the new Strike Command in November 1969.[17] Air Officer Commanders-in-Chief 1936–68[edit]

Data from[18]

From To Name

14 July 1936 25 November 1940 Air Chief Marshal
Air Chief Marshal
Sir
Sir
Hugh Dowding

25 November 1940 28 November 1942 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Sholto Douglas

28 November 1942 15 November 1943 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Trafford Leigh-Mallory

15 November 1943 14 May 1945 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Roderic Hill

14 May 1945 17 November 1947 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
James Robb

17 November 1947 19 April 1949 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
William Elliot

19 April 1949 7 April 1953 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Basil Embry

7 April 1953 1 January 1956 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Dermot Boyle

1 January 1956 8 August 1956 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Hubert Patch

8 August 1956 30 July 1959 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Thomas Pike

30 July 1959 18 May 1962 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Hector McGregor

18 May 1962 3 March 1966 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Douglas Morris

3 March 1966 30 April 1968 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Sir
Sir
Frederick Rosier

References[edit] Notes[edit]

^ Pine, L.G. (1983). A dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 160. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.  ^ Franks 1998, p. 7. ^ 'The JG 26
JG 26
War Diary' (Volume 1), Caldwell (1996) page 199. ^ Franks 1998, pp. 56–62. ^ a b Weal 1996, p. 26. ^ Franks 1998, p. 56-62. ^ Delve 2007, p. 73. ^ 'The JG 26
JG 26
War Diary' (Volume 1), Caldwell (1996) ^ Dildy, Douglas (2016). "Fighter Command: the Original IADS". RAF Salute 2016. Stamford: Key Publishing: 57. ISBN 9781910415672.  ^ Eden, Paul E (2016). "Fighter Command...Again". RAF Salute. Stamford: Key Publishing: 75. ISBN 9781910415672.  ^ Irving 1964, pp. 214,249. ^ 'Fighter Command' Chaz Bowyer, 1980 ^ Rawlings 1984, p. 204. ^ "British Military Aviation in 1961". Archived from the original on 21 November 2008.  ^ Flight International, UK Air Defence Region, 27 June 1974, p.840 ^ Delve 1994, pp. 98–99. ^ Ashworth, Chris (1992). RAF Coastal Command : 1936–1969 (1 ed.). Yeovil: Patrick Stephens. p. 222. ISBN 1-85260-345-3.  ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 522.

Bibliography[edit]

Austin, A.B. Fighter Command. London: Victor Gollancz, 1941. Bowyer, Chaz. RAF Fighter Command, 1936–1968. BCA/J.M. Dent, 1980. ISBN 0-460-04388-9. Delve, Ken. Fighter Command 1936–1968: An Operational and Historical Record. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2007. ISBN 1-84415-613-3. Delve, Ken. The Source Book of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1994. ISBN 1-85310-451-5. Franks, Norman L.R. RAF Fighter Command, 1936–1968. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 1992. ISBN 1-85260-344-5. Franks, Norman L.R. Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
Losses of the Second World War, Volume 2. Operational Losses: Aircraft and crews, 1942–1943. London: Midland Publishing Limited, 1998. ISBN 1-85780-075-3. Franks, Norman L.R. Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
Losses of the Second World War, Volume 3. Operational Losses: Aircraft and crews, 1944–1945 (Incorporating Air Defence Great Britain and 2nd TAF). London: Midland Publishing Limited, 1998. ISBN 1-85780-093-1. Irving, David (1964). The Mare's Nest. London: William Kimber and Co.  James, T.C.G. and Sebastian Cox. Growth of Fighter Command, 1936–1940: v. 1: Air Defence of Great Britain: v. 1 (Royal Air Force Official Histories). Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-7146-5118-4. Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE, BA, RAF(Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1998 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-84037-141-2. Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (new edition 1976, reprinted 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X. Rawlings, John D.R. The History of the Royal Air Force. Temple Press Aerospace, 1984 Wykeham, Peter. Fighter Command. London: Putnam, 1960.

Air Defence of Great Britain
Air Defence of Great Britain
during the Second World War

Overview

Royal Air Force Royal Canadian Air Force Strategic bombing Night fighter Big Wing
Big Wing
formation

People

RAF

Hugh Dowding Charles Portal Cyril Newall Trafford Leigh-Mallory Keith Park Sholto Douglas

Army

Frederick Pile

Scientists

R. V. Jones Robert Watson-Watt

Organisation

Commands

RAF Fighter Command RAF Balloon Command RAF Coastal Command Anti-Aircraft Command RAF Bomber Command

Groups

No. 9 Group RAF No. 10 Group RAF No. 11 Group RAF No. 12 Group RAF No. 13 Group RAF No. 14 Group RAF

AA Corps

1 AA Corps 2 AA Corps 3 AA Corps

AA Divisions

1 AA Division 2 AA Division 3 AA Division 4 AA Division 5 AA Division 6 AA Division 7 AA Division 8 AA Division 9 AA Division 10 AA Division 11 AA Division 12 AA Division

Other units

Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
airfields Eagle Squadrons Royal Observer Corps Women's Auxiliary Air Force

Campaigns and operations

Battle of Britain The Blitz Baedeker raids Operation Steinbock Operation Crossbow Operation Diver

Aircraft

Beaufighter Defiant Hurricane Meteor Mosquito Spitfire Tempest Typhoon

Technology

Barrage balloon Battle of the Beams Radar
Radar
(Chain Home) German V weapons

Related topics

Air Raid Precautions in the United Kingdom RAF strategic bombing offensive United States Army Air Forces

v t e

RAF strategic bombing during the Second World War

Overviews

Butt Report
Butt Report
(1941) RAF strategic bombing 1942–45 Area Bombing Directive
Area Bombing Directive
(1942) Dehousing
Dehousing
paper (1942) Casablanca directive (1943)

Leaders

Arthur "Bomber" Harris Frederick "Prof" Lindemann Sir
Sir
Charles Portal Sir
Sir
Archibald Sinclair Arthur W. Tedder

Campaigns

Oil targets Area bombing of cities (1942–43) U-boat pens (1943–44) Battle of the Ruhr
Battle of the Ruhr
(1943) Combined Bomber Offensive
Combined Bomber Offensive
(1943–44) Battle of Berlin (1943–44) Hamburg Heilbronn Kassel Pforzheim Dresden

Operations

Bellicose (Friedrichshafen) Chastise ("Dambusters" raid) Hurricane (1944) Hydra (Peenemünde)

Aircraft

Blenheim Boston (Douglas DB-7) Halifax Hampden Lancaster Manchester Mosquito Stirling Ventura Wellington Whitley

Technology

"Window" H2S Gee "Oboe" Gee-H "Monica" Blockbuster bomb Earthquake bomb

Tallboy Grand Slam

Bouncing bomb

Tactics

Area bombardment Bomber stream Firebombing Diversion raids Electronic warfare Intruder operations Master Bomber Pathfinders Shuttle bombing

See also

Aerial defence of the United Kingdom United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Forces
(USAAF) Air operations during the Battle of Europe Defence of the Reich Death by Moonlight: Bomber Command Into the Storm

v t e

Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force

Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
portal

Formations and units

Commands Groups Stations Wings Squadrons Flights Conversion units Operational Training units Schools / Training units Ferry units Glider units Misc units Regiment squadrons

Branches and components

Air Force Board RAF Flying Branch RAF Regiment RAF Chaplains Branch RAF Intelligence RAF Legal Branch RAF Medical Services Princess Mary's RAF Nursing Service RAF Police Search and Rescue Force Mountain Rescue Service RAF Marine Branch RAF Ground Trades

Reserve forces

Royal Auxiliary Air Force RAF Volunteer Reserve

Associated civil organisations

Air Training Corps Royal Air Forces Association RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine RAF Benevolent Fund RAF Football Association Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
Museum

Equipment

List of RAF aircraft List of RAF missiles

Personnel

Officer ranks Other ranks List of personnel

Appointments

Chief of Air Staff Assistant Chief of the Air Staff Air Member for Personnel Air Secretary Air Member for Materiel Commandant-General of the RAF Regiment Chief of the Air Staff's Warrant Officer

Symbols and uniform

Ensign Badge Roundels Uniform Heraldic badges

History Timeline Future

Preceded by Fighting Area, Air Defence of Great Britain Fighter Command 1936–1968 Succeeded 

.