The Royal Air Force Regiment (RAF Regt) is a specialist airfield defence Corps founded by Royal Warrant in 1942. It is responsible for seizing, securing and defending airfields, and training Royal Air Force personnel in military skills. Members of the Regiment are known within the RAF as ’Rock Apes’ or ’Rocks’.
The genesis of the RAF Regiment was with the creation of No. 1 Armoured Car Company RAF in 1921 for operations in Iraq, followed shortly afterwards by Nos II and 3 companies. These were equipped with Rolls-Royce Armoured Cars and were highly successful in ground combat operations throughout the Middle East in the 1920s and 1930s. The RAF Regiment came into existence, in name, on 5 February 1942. From the start it had both field squadrons and light anti-aircraft squadrons, the latter originally armed with Hispano 20mm cannon and then the Bofors 40 mm gun anti aircraft gun. Its role was to seize, secure and defend airfields to enable air operations to take place. Several parachute squadrons were formed to assist in the seizing of airfields and No II Squadron retains this capability. 284 Field Squadron was the first RAF unit to arrive in West Berlin in 1945, to secure RAF Gatow.
The RAF Regiment comes under command of 2 Group, Air Command. Its members are organised into ten regular squadrons. The RAF Regt. has nine Field squadrons including three Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) squadrons, responsible for defending airfields against ground attack.
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 have been seconded to the Army as instructors and more recently, as Forward Air Controllers.
, it was announced by Geoff Hoon that the RAF Regiment will relinquish the Ground-Based Air Defence role, which will now be handed over to the Royal Artillery. Three RAF Regiment Rapier squadrons will be disbanded by 1 April 2008. The fourth squadron is to re-role to field operations:
* 15 Squadron (Re-roling March 2008)
* 16 Squadron (March 2007)
* 26 Squadron (March 2008)
* 37 Squadron (March 2006)
However, as part of the same re-organisation, it was announced that 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 this unit. 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.