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. Below, you'll find the reflections and stories we shared during June.
38/100 - Family ties
Meet the Toppings, the Atkinsons and Eccles, all members of an extended family that has supporting the RAF in its DNA.
This family tree stretches back to the late 1940s with Thomas Crook, who worked for one of our predecessor companies, English Electric, and is the great great grandfather of Sally, the family's latest addition to our workforce.
Sally joined as an apprentice seven years ago and is now part of the team supporting the RAF's Typhoon fleet on the Typhoon Total Availability Enterprise (TyTAN) service. Sally’s father Martin Topping is BAE Systems’ International Product Director. Previously, he spent seven years leading our Typhoon final assembly team, and also worked at RAF Marham supporting the maintenance of Tornado.
Martin's cousin, Neil, is a member of the advanced manufacturing team behind the production of Typhoon, Hawk and F-35, the frontline fleet of today's RAF.
Steven Topping, Martin's father, has even closer links with the RAF having served for 14 years, including four years in Supreme HQ Allied Forces Europe in Belgium, where Martin was born. And
Martin's uncle, George, and aunt, Maureen, also worked for the Company in our stock authorisation team.
These family connections are just one of many you will find across our business with fathers, daughters, mothers, sons and their extended family all working together to support our enduring partnership with the RAF.
37/100 - Celebrating Armed Forces Day
The town of Llandudno in North Wales plays host to this year’s national celebrations of Armed Forces Day.
In the skies across the region the RAF use our Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft to train the next generation of RAF pilots.
Our people work closely with the RAF and industry partners to ensure the RAF's fleet of Hawks are available to act as a classroom in the sky.
Today many members of this team will be joining thousands of others in Llandudno to show their support for the Armed Forces. We are proud to support this important initiative which recognises the service of those who protect us.
36/100 - Whole force
Across the country our people give up their own time to raise money for good causes, including many which support our Armed Forces.
On Royal Air Force bases, our teams of volunteers work alongside their colleagues from the RAF to support charities which share our joint values. In 2017 we donated £4.3m to Armed Forces charities globally.
In 2018, this includes raising money for the Royal British Legion's annual Poppy Appeal, Save The Children, Sport Relief, Alzheimer's Society and most recently the RAF 100 Appeal, a joint venture between the RAF and four of its national charities.
Our people at locations including: RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire - where we support the RAF's Typhoon fleet; RAF Marham, Norfolk - where we are part of the UK's F-35 and Tornado forces; and RAF Valley in North Wales, home of the RAF's Hawk advanced jet trainer, all join forces with their RAF colleagues to support such causes.
35/100 - Opening day buzz
To mark a century of securing the skies of the nation, the Royal Air Force Museum in London has undergone a refurbishment. On Saturday 30 June, at 10am, it will re-open to the public following a five-day transformation, which has seen the creation of three new interactive exhibitions.
The new permanent exhibitions commemorate the past 100 years of the RAF, celebrate the role it plays today, and look forward to the future with a view to inspiring the next generation.
Since its formation 100 years ago we have worked in close partnership with the RAF to deliver technical and operational advantage. We are, therefore, very proud to support the RAF Museum.
It will continue the legacy of RAF 100 - to commemorate, celebrate and inspire.
34/100 - Reserves day
We enjoy a unique relationship with the Armed Forces and at the heart of this relationship are our people.
In the workforce we are continually supporting the Royal Air Force. There are many reservists who form a vital part of the force behind today's RAF - bringing their experiences into their day jobs.
Steve Ravenscroft is an engineering manager with the RAF Reserves as well as a key part of the team in our Air business, which is developing new capabilities for the Eurofighter Typhoon, the multi-role combat aircraft serving on the frontline, securing our skies.
We are committed to supporting people like Steve and his colleagues who serve in the reserve forces for both the Royal Navy and the Army, as well as the RAF, and we were one of the first signatories to the Armed Forces Covenant, a pledge to ensure Armed Forces personnel are not disadvantaged by their service.
We also actively encourage our businesses to work alongside local Reserve units. We host an annual ‘Proud to Support Week’ across our businesses to recognise the important role of the Reserve forces, and to promote the many opportunities being a reservist can offer.
As the country celebrates Reserve Day, a nationwide recognition of the role or reservists, we are proud to continue to lead the way in supporting the men and women who serve our Armed Forces.
33/100 - Life changer
Ex-RAF serviceman, multiple Invictus Games medallist, DNRC ambassador, awareness builder and all-round inspiration to many. Step forward Luke Wigman.
Luke’s life took a dramatic and devastating turn for the worst when he was discharged from service following life-changing injuries. Thanks to the help and support of the RAF Benevolent Fund and his own never say die spirit, Luke was able to rebuild his life.
Now, as an ambassador for the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) – the new world-leading clinical rehabilitation centre for the armed forces - Luke is going above and beyond to help improve the lives of others. In January 2017 he successfully completed seven Marathons in seven days on seven continents to raise money for the DNRC.
We’re proud to be a founder donor to the development of the DNRC, and a major supporter of the RAF Benevolent Fund, but even more proud of Luke and others like him who have been able to change lives for the better.
32/100 - Repairing lives
For servicemen and women injured serving their country, rehabilitation can be the toughest battle they face.
Over the past 30 years, Headley Court in Surrey has provided thousands of people with the support they need as they overcome the challenges faced by injuries sustained in conflict. Yesterday (21 June), the Ministry of Defence officially took over the state-of-the-art Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC), which will provide a 21st Century alternative.
We are proud to be a founder supporter of the DNRC, having donated £5m over five years towards the creation of the centre on the Stanford Hall estate, close to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, which specialises in rehabilitation. The initiative is the legacy of the late Duke of Westminster, a former Army reservist for more than four decades, who died in August 2016 and committed £70m of his own money.
A specialist Performance Maximisation building at the DNRC will be named after our business in recognition of our support for the centre. It includes a specialist gait laboratory, with cardiac rehabilitation facilities and will include the most modern computer assisted simulation devices to analyse and conduct research on patients whilst walking and running.
31/100 - Canopy off
When testing any aircraft ahead of delivery to the Royal Air Force, the top priority for our flight testing team is the safety of the pilots who will fly it in service. This photo illustrates the lengths the team is willing to go to.
In 1988, our test pilot Keith Hartley flew at speeds of up to 500 knots with the canopy of his Tornado aircraft off, to test the emergency escape procedures of the jet.
The RAF’s Tornado fleet will be retired in 2019 after almost four decades of distinguished service but our flight testing team continues to test the safety and performance of every aircraft we build.
Every week, Typhoon jets fly from our aerodrome in Warton, Lancashire, with our test pilots at the controls. We even have a test pilot working with the RAF and Fleet Air Arm to develop the capability of the newest arrival to the UK fleet, the F-35. At home and abroad, we work every day to ensure the RAF can maintain its operational edge.
30/100 - "I wanted to do my bit" by Graham Palmer
Graham Palmer is an employee at our Head Office in Farnborough who volunteers as an instructor with the RAF Air Cadets.
He joined as a reservist four years ago when he realised he wanted to get out of his comfort zone and do something to make a difference.
A desire to "look for new challenges, meet new people and do new things" brought him to the RAF where he began as a member of the HR team.
However, he quickly realised that he still wanted more and asked to be retrained as a weapons instructor. He is undertaking this while training cadets near his home in Hampshire.
Graham says: "The biggest challenge I found converting from civilian life to military life actually sounds quite simple, it was the shoes and trying to get that mirror finish. The shoes are a symbol of pride, dedication and attention to detail, that is key in the RAF and the Cadets."
Graham is just one of thousands of people who give up their own time to volunteer with the Air Cadets and one of hundreds throughout every part of our business who volunteer across the three services.
He is a symbol of another part of our enduring partnership with the RAF over the past 100 years and one we are proud to continue into the next century.
29/100 - The suited test pilot
Today's experimental test pilots climb into the cockpits of modern combat aircraft wearing similar uniforms to those worn by their Royal Air Force counterparts.
But, Wing Commander Roly Falk, the test pilot for the A.V. Roe and Company, was no ordinary test pilot.
During the Second World War, he became Chief Test Pilot at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in 1943. He flew more than 2,000 hours in 300 different aircraft ranging from gliders to jet prototypes, including captured German aircraft, all whilst wearing a lounge suit and tie. For his service he was awarded the Air Force Cross, an honour given for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy." However, despite having a distinguished career serving his nation, it was neither this nor his distinctive dress style that Falk is best known for.
In 1950, he joined Avro as Chief Test Pilot and took over the company's development programme of delta-winged aircraft. In August 1952, he took the controls of the Avro 698 prototype VX770, which would later become known as the Vulcan.
Powered by four Rolls-Royce RA.3 Avon engines, with a temporary fuel tank fitted into the bomb bay and only fitted with the first-pilot's ejection seat, Falk took the aircraft through a number of unconventional manoeuvres before opening the throttle to such a point that it shattered a number of factory windows. A matter of weeks later the then unnamed aircraft appeared at the Farnborough Air Show with a number of names rumoured, including 'Ottawa' in honour of the company's connection with Avro Canada, but the Air Council opted for ‘Vulcan’ in recognition of its role in the RAF’s V-Force. The aircraft was the key part of the UK’s airborne nuclear deterrent up to the late 1960s.
Although typically armed with nuclear weapons, the Vulcan’s ability to also carry conventional weapons was used to full effect on Operation Black Buck during the Falklands War between the UK and Argentina in 1982 - these were to be the only missions ‘flown in anger’ by a Vulcan.
Falk demonstrated the aircraft on several occasions including at the 1955 Farnborough Air Show when he barrel-rolled it at the top of the take-off climb, a spectacular manoeuvre in an aircraft weighing 69 tons and with a 99-foot wingspan.
When he ceased test flying, Falk became a sales representative for Hawker Siddeley, of which the Avro company was then part. He eventually retired from Hawker Siddeley and moved to the Channel Islands where he set up his own aircraft company.
28/100 - "It takes one to train one..."
Throughout every part of our business, we have people who have experienced life in the Royal Air Force.
From the boardroom to the fast jet cockpits manned by our flight testing team right through to those beginning their careers with us, there are examples of people whose lives have been touched by the RAF.
One of these is Colin McGregor, part of our team based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, who was a frontline pilot in the RAF for more than 20 years, notably flying the Tornado GR4.
Today, he uses all these experiences as he helps to train the latest generation of RAF pilots, equipping them with all the skills they need to ensure they are ready for action whenever called upon.
It is at RAF Lossiemouth that our team supports part of the RAF Typhoon fleet which stands ready to respond on Quick Reaction Alert, which stands guard over UK airspace around the clock.
Colin is part of the team which operates our training facility at the station where squadrons can now train in a formation of aircraft known as a "four-ship", a formation which is essential on operations.
This is thanks to the installation of two new flight simulators which bring even greater capability to the RAF whilst also saving it time and money.
You might notice something familiar about Colin. He starred in a recent documentary celebrating the past 100 years of the RAF alongside his brother, Hollywood actor, Ewan.
27/100 - Young, courageous and just 20 years old
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
These famous words from a speech made by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in August 1940 were recognition of the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force, then fighting the pivotal Battle of Britain.
The pilots who fought in the battle have forever been known as 'The Few', and one little known fact about those is the age at which many of them entered the conflict.
The average age of a pilot of the iconic Spitfire, the aircraft produced by Supermarine (which later became part of our business) was just 20 years old. The average age of an RAF pilot during the Second World War only 22 years old.
The courage, skill and bravery of these youngsters is something we commemorate as we look back over the past century of our enduring partnership with the RAF.
26/100 - Nat Makepeace - The Family
Nat Makepeace spent 19 years in the Royal Air Force before joining our team of experimental test pilots working to deliver the capability our customers need.
It was 12 years ago that Nat joined our business and his close working relationship with the RAF still makes him feel part of the family as he did when he flew in the frontline.
Nat recalls a time when he was part of Operation Southern Watch at the end of the first Gulf War when he and his colleagues had to move due to a terrorist incident to one in the middle of the desert.
He remembers: "We lived in a very large tented city and that was quite an experience and one which brought everyone together."
Nat is one of many former RAF servicemen who work in our business today, bringing their experience of the RAF family in to the work we do to support them every day.
25/100 - Passing the torch
The arrival of the latest aircraft in the Royal Air Force's front line, the F-35 Lightning, marks the end of a chapter which has seen RAF Marham developed to be the home of the UK's first fleet.
Today, the jets will touch down at the station in Norfolk where our people have been at the heart of the team behind the construction of state-of-the-art maintenance, training and operational facilities ready for the jets’ arrival.
By this summer, there will be a total of nine F-35s stationed at Marham where our people are working alongside industry partners, including Lockheed Martin, and the RAF to ensure the aircraft is available and its air and ground crews have the skills to operate them when required.
This whole force concept has been something we have achieved at Marham working in partnership with the RAF in support of Tornado, ensuring availability on operations and swifter capability upgrades and maintenance.
We will continue to deliver this support for the RAF until Tornado's out of service date at the end of 2019, as we also open a new chapter of delivery on the F-35.
Together with Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the F-35 programme, we have formed a team of more than 100 skilled technicians at RAF Marham, which will provide engineering and technical expertise, deliver air-crew and ground-crew training, facilitate routine maintenance and help to manage the jets’ global supply chain.
This is just one part of our work in sustaining the global F-35 fleet which includes delivering maintenance, overhaul and upgrade services for avionic and aircraft components of hundreds of jets from across Europe and the South Pacific.
In the United States, we also ensure the readiness of critical electronic warfare systems on the F-35, which are delivered by our BAE Systems Inc business.
Our role at the heart of the F-35 programme and our pedigree of delivering availability servicing for the RAF makes us the perfect partner to open the next chapter in our enduring relationship as the F-35 in the UK moves from a programme to a force.
24/100 - Continuous evolution
Over the past century our business has worked alongside the Royal Air Force to constantly evolve aircraft to meet the needs of the day.
From the early days of our enduring relationship when the Bristol Aircraft Company, produced the Bristol Fighter, the "Biff", a biplane which entered service in 1916 with the Royal Flying Corps - two years before the RAF was founded.
Following the First World War, it was kept in service and modified to make it more adapted for use in the Middle East and the Far East and remain in service until the early 1930s.
Today, we continue to see this evolutionary path still exists on the Eurofighter Typhoon, the RAF's multi-role combat aircraft.
We work hand-in-hand with the RAF to ensure our engineers are delivering the capabilities required now and in the future.
23/100 - Taranis first flight
Named after the Celtic god of Thunder, Taranis is the most advanced military aircraft ever designed and flown by the United Kingdom.
The technology demonstrator is the result one-and-a-half million hours of work by leading scientists, aerodynamicists and systems engineers from 250 UK companies.
However, although Taranis was designed to demonstrate unmanned air systems, during flight it was always under the control of a human operator.
It can undertake sustained surveillance, marking targets, gathering intelligence, deterring adversaries and carrying out strikes in hostile territory.
The Taranis demonstrator aircraft was formally unveiled in July 2010 and underwent ground-based testing, including unmanned pilot training, radar cross-section measurements and ground station integration, before making its first flight in August 2013.
Speaking following the tests, our then-group managing director Nigel Whitehead said: "During its initial sorties – and there were many – Taranis did not just meet our expectations; it surpassed them in every way."
Further flight trials followed and the data, engineering know-how and experience fed back in to Team Taranis, the group of businesses we led to work alongside Ministry of Defence military staff and scientists.
In the same way, the Eurofighter Typhoon flown by today's Royal Air Force pilots was the product of a technology demonstrator, the Experimental Aircraft Programme or EAP, the technologies developed by Taranis are at the heart of our work to develop new capabilities for the RAF of the future.