The Royal Air Force College (RAFC) is the Royal Air Force training and education academy which provides initial training to all RAF personnel who are preparing to be commissioned officers. The College also provides initial training to aircrew cadets and is responsible for all RAF recruiting along with officer and aircrew selection.
The Royal Air Force College is based at RAF Cranwell near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, and is sometimes titled as the Royal Air Force College Cranwell.
Cranwell was first established in 1916 as the Navy air training centre and airships were operational there until the end of World War I. Following the foundation of the RAF in April 1918 and the cessation of hostilities in November 1918, the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard felt determined to maintain the Air Force as an independent service rather than let the Army and Royal Navy control air operations again. The establishment of an air academy, which would provide basic flying training, provide intellectual education and give a sense of purpose to the future leaders of the Service was therefore a priority. Trenchard chose Cranwell as the College's location because, as he told his biographer:
"Marooned in the wilderness, cut off from pastimes they could not organise for themselves, the cadets would find life cheaper, healthier and more wholesome."
The Royal Air Force College was formed on 1 November 1919 as the RAF (Cadet) College. On 5 February 1920 the College was raised to command status. It is the oldest military air academy in the world.
On 20 June 1929, an aeroplane piloted by Flight Cadet C J Giles crashed on landing at the College and burst into flames. A fellow flight cadet, William McKechnie pulled Giles, who was incapable of moving himself, from the burning wreckage. McKechnie was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal for his actions.
In 1966 the Royal Air Force Technical College at RAF Henlow, which provided initial officer training for the technical branches, was merged with the College at Cranwell. Today, the Royal Air Force College Cranwell is the RAF's only initial officers training establishment.
In front of the Hall there is a roughly circular grass area with orange gravel paths leading around it from the front gates towards the parade ground known to those at Cranwell as "The Orange".
The College is the RAF equivalent of the British Army's Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the Royal Navy's Britannia Royal Naval College. At present, most RAF officer cadets complete a 32-week course within the College's Officer and Aircrew Cadet Training Unit (OACTU), commanded since May 2008 by Group Captain Martin Killen, before they are commissioned. Within OACTU the officer cadets undertake transformational leadership tuition, academic air power studies (including ethics and strategic thinking), military skills, essential service knowledge, drill and physical training. OACTU also provides Special Entrant and Re-entrant (SERE) courses for medical and dental officers, chaplains, legal officers and nursing officers, and for officers rejoining the Service or transferring from the sister services. There are also a small number of short induction courses for Warrant Officers selected for commissioning, university cadets, bursars and Volunteer Reserve officers. In addition, OACTU delivers a 2 week Reserve Officer Initial Training course for Full Time Reservists, Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF), Mobile Meteorological Unit and Aviation Officers. Reflecting the growing importance of university-level education for its cadets, in April 2007 the College appointed air power scholar Dr. Joel Hayward, head of its Air Power Studies academic department, as Dean of the Royal Air Force College.