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Centenary of the Royal Air Force
1 April 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force. In its Centenary Year, the RAF will invite the Nation and its international partners to join them in commemorating with respect, celebrating with pride and inspiring future generations. All anniversary celebrations will be brought together under the umbrella of RAF100.

100 stories and reflections


In support of RAF100, BAE Systems is communicating 100 unique and compelling stories and reflections from 1st April to mid-October.  Together these insights support the RAF and demonstrate our support for RAF100 in particular.

These are key facts around the technological edge we have provided the RAF over the last 100 years (and will continue to in the future), as well as the instances where our colleagues past and present have gone beyond to provide the kind of imagination, invention, service and support the RAF needs in order to carry out their own role.


9/100 - The Wooden Wonder


The Mosquito



The Mosquito was arguably the greatest contribution made by De Havilland to the success of the Royal Air Force in the Second World War. A hugely versatile and high performance aircraft it was originally conceived as a high-flying, unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, it saw service in a huge range of roles during the conflict.

For De Havilland, a company which is today part of our company heritage, the Mosquito is a success story built on a bold and ingenious design built predominantly from wood.

Its wood composite structure - which came years before the principles of carbon fibre used in today's combat aircraft - meant the ‘Mossie’ was light and able to fly at high altitudes and high speeds, thanks to its twin Merlin engines. The use of these non-strategic materials meant raw material was in good supply and there was an available workforce including many furniture makers.

Read more about "The Wooden Wonder" here:


8/100 - Above and beyond for 100 years 


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To mark the RAF’s Centenary, the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers, the Honourable Company of Air Pilots and the Worshipful Company of Engineer will host a 4 day event at the Guildhall in the City of London on 19th – 22nd April.  Assembled in the Guildhall Courtyard will be a display of aircraft and engines representing British aviation engineering achievements of the past 100 years.  BAE Systems is a major sponsor of this event.  The display will be open to schools and cadets for STEM study purposes and includes our Typhoon Full Scale Replica together with our Exhibition trailer containing a number of exciting interactive engineering & technology exhibits.


7/100 - Apres moi le deluge


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It was 75 years ago this year that the Royal Air Force founded 617 Squadron, The Dambusters, specifically to carry out the daring precision raid over enemy territory during the Second World War.

Using the iconic Lancaster bomber, designed and built by engineers from A.V. Roe and Company which today makes up part of our business, that Operation Chastise, the raid to destroy dams in the Ruhr Valley, Germany, became a pivotal moment in the conflict.

The squadron were using specialist weapons such as the Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs developed by Barnes Wallis for attacking high value and hardened targets.

After the success of the raid, the squadron was given the nickname ‘The Dambuster’ and their motto apres moi le deluge – which translates as “after me, the flood.”

At the end of the war, 617 Squadron replaced its  Lancasters with its successor, the Avro Lincoln, a heavy bomber out of the same company based in Greater Manchester.

In 1952, the English Electric Canberra, the bomber built by our legacy business in Lancashire, became the aircraft operated by the squadron until it was disbanded three years later following a four-month deployment in Malaya.

When 617 Squadron was reformed again in May 1958, it was as part of RAF Bomber Command's V-Bomber force maintaining the UK's strategic nuclear deterrent, equipped with the Avro Vulcan B1, another aircraft designed and built by the men and women who served in our business.

The relationship between the squadron and the iconic Vulcan, which served almost 30 years for the RAF, continued until the end of 1981.

It would be another two years before the squadron was reformed again on New Year's Day 1983 at RAF Marham, Norfolk, this time flying the Tornado GR1 aircraft, designed and built by the three-nation industrial partnership, Panavia, whose founding members included the British Aircraft Corporation.

It was with  Tornado that 617 Squadron took part in Operation Granby, the military operation as part of the Gulf War which began in 1991, and was also part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In December 1994, the squadron achieved another piece of history when the RAF's first female Tornado pilot, Flight Lieutenant Jo Salter, became combat ready.

In 2013, it was announced that 617 Squadron would become the first UK squadron to receive the F-35 Lightning II, the next generation stealth aircraft built, and it was disbanded as a Tornado squadron the following year.

Later this year, the arrival of the first of the UK's F-35 jets will arrive in the country and open yet another chapter in the enduring partnership between our business and this famous squadron.

As part of our role as a key partner on the F-35 programme, alongside prime contractor Lockheed Martin, we are responsible for contributing 15 per cent of every aircraft.

From delivering the rear section of every jet and the electronic warfare technology behind the fifth generation fighter through to playing a key role in the team supporting the UK fleet as it enters service at RAF Marham this year, we are proud to continue our partnership with 'The Dambusters'.

6/100 - "The easiest plane I've ever flown" by Nat Makepeace


The Typhoon jets flown by the Royal Air Force's pilots today are a technology light-year away from the aircraft operated when it was founded a century ago.
And, that is because the job required of a pilot today, has dramatically changed from those taking to the cockpit back then, according to one of our own elite pilots.
Nat Makepeace, an experimental test pilot, is part of our flight operations team, which is working alongside the RAF to develop the capability of the aircraft at the frontline of defending the UK and its allies.
He said: "The job of a pilot is no longer about the pure skill of flying, it is about the technical skill of operating and absorbing large amounts of data whilst making time critical decisions."

Listen to Nat talk about how Typhoon compares too many of the other leading frontline aircraft which operate across the globe.

The easiest plane I've ev...

Nat Makepeace

5/100 - Outstanding Steve Lee

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A glance at any military fast jet and you will see the name of the pilot which fly the aircraft written on the cockpit, but this honour is rarely awarded to the men and women who operate outside the cockpit.
However, on rare occasions, the Royal Air Force will honour members of ground-crew by painting their names on the undercarriage of the jets they work on.
Steve Lee, a member of our ground crew based at RAF Lossiemouth in the north of Scotland, is one of the exclusive club which has had this honour bestowed upon them for their unique role in supporting the Typhoon fleet.
Squadron Leader Sam Wright, Senior Engineering Officer at the station, nominated Steve for this prestigious honour.
In his nomination, he said: “Steve is a highly-valued and integral part of the squadron team and his contribution epitomises the strong relationship between the RAF and industry as part of the Whole Typhoon Force.”
Steve is part of the BAE Systems team which is delivering 24/7 at the sharp end of the RAF’s operation of Typhoon at RAF Lossiemouth, one of the UK’s two Quick Reaction Alert stations along with RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
At both these stations, our teams work hand-in-hand with the RAF to ensure their Typhoon squadrons are ready to respond whenever called upon in defence of UK airspace.

4/100 - The original Typhoon

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Affectionately known as the 'Tiffie', the Hawker Typhoon was intended as a high-speed, high-altitude interceptor fighter for the Royal Air Force to replace one of the heroes of the Battle of Britain, the Hawker Hurricane.
The Typhoon was designed by Hawker Aircraft to accommodate newer designs of engine principally the powerful 'H-block' Napier Sabre 24-cylinder sleeve-valve engine.
It made its first flight in February 1940 but, with the war still raging in Europe, it was demanded that all manufacturing be concentrated on five RAF aircraft, the Hurricane and Spitfire fighters and the Whitley, Wellington and Blenheim bombers.
That meant development work on Typhoon was postponed until 1941 when production was transferred from Hawker Aircraft, which built 15 production versions of Typhoon, to Gloster Aircraft, which built more than 3,000 aircraft.
It was here in Gloucestershire that aircraft manufacture saw many women working alongside men to produce the aircraft required for the war effort, a scene replicated on shop floors across the country.
The 'Typhoon Ladies' of yesteryear are the inspiration behind our team of female engineers and manufacturers who work alongside their male counterparts on today's Eurofighter Typhoon, the RAF's front-line fighter which defends the UK around-the-clock.
To this day, the 'Tiffie' is forever associated with the ground attack role it carried out during the liberation of Europe in the Second World War.

3/100 - "I wanted to make flying safer" by James Johnston

On any given day,  BAE Systems has more than 2,000 apprentices in training with hundreds in our Air business working to support the Royal Air Force.

Whether they have graduated from our Academy for Skills & Knowledge, a world-class training centre based in Samlesbury, Lancashire, as an engineer, a manufacturer or as a business management or project management apprentice, their support is vital to ensuring we deliver for one of our most important customers.

To mark the centenary of the RAF which began on April 1, we met technical apprentice, James Johnston, who told us about how an experience in the air made him want to become an engineer and improve aircraft safety.
James Johnston




2/100 - Supersonic 'Bee'

Supersonic 'Bee' Beamont
When Roland "Bee" Beamont entered the English Electric offices in Preston, Lancashire, on his first day as the company's Chief Test Pilot in 1947, he walked past a full scale wooden model of an aircraft.
The design he saw modelled turned into the Canberra, a jet bomber which remains one of the most successful military aircraft of all time and a ground-breaking piece of engineering.
Beamont arrived having recently left the Royal Air Force as a much-decorated pilot having flown more than 500 sorties during the Second World War, including in the Battle of Britain, and played crucial role in developing the Hawker Typhoon to be the Allies most potent ground attack aircraft.
He had also played a key role in the campaign against the Nazi V-1 flying bomb, or “doodlebug”, during the conflict and was reputedly one of the first to undertake “wing tipping” of a V-1.
Beamont took Canberra on its first flight in May 1949 and he could not have realised the remarkable aircraft would continue in service with the RAF until 2006, five years after his death.
Three years after its first flight, Beamont piloted the Canberra on the first one-day double crossing of the Atlantic in just over 10 hours, and this would be one of a long list of high points in a remarkable career.
A year after his arrival at English Electric, he became the first British aviator to reach the speed of sound, albeit in an American XP-86, and in 1954 he achieved the first truly supersonic British flight in the P1.A, which would go on to become the Lightning.
Beamont's admiration for the P1.A was unrivalled. He described it as "a brilliant thing, an aircraft which flew through the sound barrier as if it wasn't there."
On April 4, 1957, he took the P1.B to twice the speed of sound, another British first, and fewer than two years later, the Lightning entered service with the RAF.
He tested TSR.2, the Cold War strike and reconnaissance aircraft developed by the British Aircraft Corporation, of which English Electric had become part, before the project was cancelled by the Government in 1965.
When Beamont retired from test flying in 1968, more than two decades after his career began, Beamont had flown 167 different types of aircraft during more than 5,000 hours of flying and 8,000 flights, of which more than 1,000 were supersonic.
In 1971, he became director of flight operations for Panavia, the joint venture set up between the UK, Germany and Italy to develop the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA), which was subsequently named Tornado, and retired eight years later following the maiden flight of the first production Tornado.
Following his retirement from aviation, Beamont went on to write numerous books on the subject which he had played such a major role in shaping.
Beamont died in November 2001 aged 81.


1/100 - Thank you

1/100 - Thank you

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