The Royal Air Force Regiment (RAF Regt) is a specialist airfield defence Corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. After a 29 week training course, its members are responsible for defending airfields, and training Royal Air Force personnel in military skills. Members of the Regiment are known within the RAF as 'the Regiment', 'Rock Apes' or 'Rocks'.
The Regiment has a museum at RAF Honington near Bury St Edmunds. The RAF Regiment frequently mounts the King's Guard/Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace, St James's Palace, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, with the first occasion being on 1 April 1943.
During World War II, the RAF Regiment grew to a force of 66,000 men in 280 Squadrons of 185 men each (each squadron including five officers). Each squadron consisted of a Headquarters Flight, three Rifle Flights, an Air-Defence Flight, and an Armoured-Car Flight. The flights were grouped together into Wings as needed. It also operated six Armoured Car Squadrons to provide an area response capability to several RAF stations. Light Armoured Squadrons, equipped with FV101 Scorpion and FV107 Scimitar light tanks, continued to be operated into the 1980s.
Formerly the RAF's firefighters were also members of the RAF Regiment, although they are now independent of it.
The RAF Regiment comes under command of 2 Group, Air Command. Its members are organised into ten regular squadrons. The Regiment has nine field squadrons including three Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) squadrons, responsible for defending airfields against ground attack.
Members of the RAF Regiment are trained, equipped and manned to deal with the requirements of protecting high-value air assets during operations across the spectrum of conflict. They are particularly equipped with a range of direct and indirect fire systems and specialist surveillance and night vision equipment. Each member of a field squadron is required to master a wide range of skills that include covert observation and target acquisition, and dismounted close combat. The unique nature of air operations is such that RAF Regiment personnel must have a specific understanding of its requirements in order to ensure that the tactics, techniques and procedures employed do not disrupt those operations. Additionally, because air bases are fixed and supporting elements are unable to redeploy quickly, field squadrons must engage an attacking adversary at the earliest opportunity to prevent air operations from being disrupted.
Field Squadrons employ a variety of tactics to defend airfields, often operating up to 30km from the airfield or air asset in mobile long range patrols. Field Squadrons are divided into Flights, which are the equivalent of an army platoon. Each squadron contains several Rifle Flights, whose task is to engage the enemy at very close range, and a Support Weapons Flight, which provides fire support to the Rifle Flights by using machine guns, mortars, portable anti-tank weapons, and snipers.
The field squadrons are 166 strong (increasing soon to 171 strong) making them considerably larger than an infantry company in the army. All RAF Regiment personnel are male, in line with the British Government policy that women cannot serve in combat units. There are approximately 2,000 regular airmen (i.e. Other Ranks), 300 regular officers, and 500 reservists.
Since 1990, the RAF Regiment has supported air operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone. Furthermore, RAF Regiment officers and Senior Non Commissioned Officers have been seconded to the Army as instructors and more recently, as Forward Air Control
The RAF Regiment's basic training has recently increased to incorporate the field gunners course and currently stands at 29 weeks.
However, as part of the same re-organisation, it was announced that a single Flight from the RAF Regiment would make up part of the new unit called the Special Forces Support Group designed to support the Special Forces. The RAF Regiment provides 40 personnel to support B Company, one of the three strike Companies provided to SFSG by the British Army, the fourth is a Royal Marines Company. In addition, a large number of personnel from the disbanding squadrons will be employed on other specialist tasks. The Special Forces Support Group was declared operational in April 2006.
As a result of the deletions of the GB Air Defence squadrons, No 3 Squadron and No 63 (QCS) Squadron will each receive an additional 40 personnel, in order to match their operational capabilities with the four other field squadrons, while another two Force Protection Wing HQs have been formed (No 5 FP Wing at Lossiemouth and No 6 FP Wing at Leuchars). In addition, No 1 Squadron has moved from RAF St Mawgan to RAF Honington, which has resulted in No 2625 Squadron, RAuxAF Regt being disbanded.
In 2008, following the disbandment of the last two GBAD squadrons, it was announced that a new field squadron, to be given the numberplate of No. 15 Squadron would be formed through the amalgamation of the previous 15 Squadron and 26 Squadron to be based at RAF Honington. In addition, a further FP Wing, No 7 FP Wing HQ, was also formed at RAF Coningsby.