AFC World War I flying aces include the following pilots:
With British manufacturing targeted by the Luftwaffe, the Australian government created the Department of Aircraft Production (DAP; later known as the Government Aircraft Factory) to supply Commonwealth air forces and the RAAF was eventually provided with large numbers of locally-built versions of British designs like the DAP Beaufort torpedo bomber.
In the European Theatre of World War II, RAAF personnel were especially notable in RAF Bomber Command: they represented two percent of all RAAF personnel during the war, but accounted for 23% of the total number killed in action. This statistic is further illustrated by the fact that No. 460 Squadron RAAF, mostly flying Avro Lancasters, had an official establishment of about 200 aircrew and yet had 1,018 combat deaths. The squadron was therefore effectively wiped out five times over.
The beginning of the Pacific War — and the rapid advance of Japanese forces — threatened the Australian mainland for the first time. The RAAF was quite unprepared for the emergency, and initially had negligible forces available for service in the Pacific.
In 1941 and early 1942, many RAAF airmen, including 21 and 453 Squadrons, saw action with the RAF Far East Command in the Malayan, Singapore and Dutch East Indies campaigns. Allied fighter pilots, in particular, performed well in the campaign, despite being outnumbered and the fact that many were allocated sub-standard examples of the Brewster Buffalo.
The devastating air raids on Darwin on 19 February 1942 drove the point home. Some RAAF squadrons were transferred from the northern hemisphere — although a substantial number remained there until the end of the war. Shortages of fighter and ground attack planes led to the acquisition of US-built P-40 Kittyhawks and the rapid design and manufacture of the first Australian fighter, the CAC Boomerang. RAAF Kittyhawks came to play a crucial role in the New Guinea and Solomon Islands campaigns, especially in operations like the Battle of Milne Bay. As a response to a possible Japanese chemical warfare threat the RAAF imported hundreds of thousands of chemical weapons into Australia.
In the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, imported Bristol Beaufighters proved to be highly effective ground attack and maritime strike aircraft. Beaufighters were later made locally by the DAP. Although it was much bigger than Japanese fighters, the Beaufighter had the speed to outrun them.
The RAAF's heavy bomber force was predominantly comprised of 287 B-24 Liberators, which could bomb Japanese targets as far away as Borneo and the Philippines from airfields in Australia and New Guinea.
By late 1945, the RAAF had received or ordered about 500 P-51 Mustangs, for fighter/ground attack purposes. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation initially assembled US-made Mustangs, but later manufactured most of those used. The RAAF's main operational formation, the First Tactical Air Force, comprised more than 18,000 personnel and 20 squadrons; it had taken part in the Philippines and Borneo campaigns and was scheduled to participate in the invasion of the Japanese mainland, Operation Downfall. So too were the RAAF bomber squadrons in Europe, as part of the proposed Tiger Force. However, the war was brought to a sudden end by the US nuclear attacks on Japan. As a result of the Empire Air Training Scheme, about 20,000 Australian personnel had served with other Commonwealth air forces in Europe during World War II. A total of 216,900 men and women served in the RAAF, of whom 11,061 were killed in action.
In the Korean War, Mustangs from No. 77 Squadron (77 Sqn), stationed in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, were among the first United Nations aircraft to be deployed, in ground support, combat air patrol, and escort missions. When the UN planes were confronted by MiG-15 jet fighters, 77 Sqn acquired Gloster Meteors, which enabled some success against the Soviet pilots flying for North Korea. However the MiGs were superior aircraft and the Meteors were relegated to ground support missions, as the North Koreans gained experience. The air force also operated transport aircraft during the conflict.
During the Vietnam War, from 1966-72, the RAAF contributed squadrons of Caribou STOL transport aircraft (No. 35 Squadron), UH-1 Iroquois helicopters (No. 9 Squadron) and English Electric Canberra bombers (No. 2 Squadron). The Canberras flew a large number of bombing sorties, and two were lost. One went missing during a bombing raid, and neither the crew nor the aircraft has ever been located. The other was shot down by a surface to air missile, although both crew were rescued. RAAF transport aircraft also supported anti-communist ground forces. The UH-1 helicopters were used in many roles including Dustoff (medical evacuation) and Bushranger Gunships for armed support.
Military airlifts were conducted for a number of purposes in the intervening decades, such as the peacekeeping operations in East Timor from 1999. Australia's combat aircraft were not used again in combat until the Iraq War in 2003, when F/A-18s from No. 75 Squadron operated in the escort and ground attack roles.
Unlike their British, Canadian and New Zealand counterparts, they do not wear a blue-grey uniform. AUSTRALIA on slip-on rank epaulettes or otherwise known as (SRI) 'Soft Rank Insignia' and are worn on the shoulders of the service dress uniform. When not in the service dress or "Ceremonial" uniform, RAAF personnel wear the Auscam DPCU, which has replaced the old working dress.
Originally, the Air Force used the existing red, white and blue Roundel of the Royal Air Force. However, during World War II, the inner red circle was removed after a No. 11 Squadron Catalina was mistaken for a Japanese aircraft by a US Navy Wildcat in the Pacific Theatre.
After the war, a range of options were proposed, including the Southern Cross, a boomerang, a sprig of wattle and the red kangaroo.
As of 2007, the following aircraft are operated by the RAAF:
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Aircraft
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Origin
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Type
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Versions
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|In service
! style="text-align: left; background: #aacccc;"|Notes
| BAE Systems Hawk
| Lead-in fighter trainer
| Hawk 127
| fighter jet conversion trainer.
| Beechcraft Super King Air
| Navigational trainer
| Boeing Business Jet
| VIP transport
| 737-700 BBJ
| Long term lease, transport for the Prime Minister, Queen and Distinguished Guests.
| Boeing C-17 Globemaster III
| All aircraft were delivered by January 2008.
| Bombardier Challenger 600
| VIP transport
| CL 604
| de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou
| The DHC-4 will be retired in 2009.
| General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark
| F-111 total
RF-111C | 21
4 | Mixture of the original long-range F-111C type, RF-111C reconnaissance variants, and ex-USAF F-111A (upgraded to most of the C specifications) and F-111G attrition replacements. These aircraft are due to be retired in 2010. The F/A-18F has been selected as an interim replacement. All F-111G Aircraft were retired in September 2007. |----- | Lockheed C-130 Hercules | | Transport | C-130 total
C-130J-30 | 20
12 | |----- | Lockheed P-3 Orion | | Maritime patrol/strike | P-3 total
AP-3C | 21
18 | All aircraft to withdrawn by 2018. Will probably be replaced by Boeing P-8 Poseidon |----- | McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet |
| Fighter/attack | F/A-18 total
F/A-18B | 71
17 | Built in Australia under licence from McDonnell Douglas. The F/A-18 fleet has been the subject of various upgrades since it entered service in the 1980s and remains capable, but fatigue issues mean that it may not remain a viable front-line air defence option until the planned retirement date of 2015, although this is being mitigated through a centre barrel replacement program. They are expected to be replaced by 100 F-35 Lightning II. |----- | Pilatus PC-9 |
| Advanced trainer | PC-9 | 65 | Produced under licence in Australia by de Havilland Australia. |----- | | |Total |Fighters/ Attack Aircraft
However, the Howard government ruled out purchase of the F-22, on the grounds that it is unlikely to be released for export, and does not have sufficient ground/maritime strike capacity. This assessment was supported by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a non-partisan, government-funded think-tank, which claimed that the F-22 "has insufficient multi-role capability at too high a price."
The US Congress upheld the ban on F-22 Raptor foreign sales during a joint conference on 27 September 2006. After talks in Washington in December 2006, the US DoD reported the F-22 would not be available for foreign sale.
Following the victory of the Australian Labor Party in the 2007 national election, the new government ordered a review of plans to procure the F-35 and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. This review will include an evaluation of the F-22's suitability for Australia; moreover, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has stated: "I intend to pursue American politicians for access to the Raptor". In February 2008, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he had no objection to sale of the Raptor to Australia, but Congress would have to change the law.
In August 2008 reports in the press indicated that the RAAF is now also considering the purchase of the E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft to compliment the new F model purchase. Up to 6 Growlers are being considered.