Established in 1921, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is the second-oldest independent Air Force in the world.

Early History and World War I

Military aviation came of age during World War I when airships and early aircraft were principally used for reconnaissance. Australia’s eight Australian Flying Corps (AFC) squadrons were part of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and were attached to larger British Royal Flying Corps / Royal Air Force formations.

During World War I, 800 officers and 2,840 men served in the AFC and 175 lost their lives. Many AFC veterans helped to lay the groundwork for the future Royal Australian Air Force and after the war others would enter industry to make significant contributions to civil aviation.

In January 1920, the AFC was replaced by the Australian Air Corps, which in turn became the Australian Air Force on 31 March 1921 with the King’s consent to become the Royal Australian Air Force on 13 August 1921.

World War II

In World War II, Australian air and ground crews fought in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East; over the North Atlantic, the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Mediterranean; India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, Thailand, China, the Netherland East Indies, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Philippines and Borneo. They also fought over Australia, its territories, and its approaches.

In late 1944, the RAAF peaked at over 182,000 personnel and 6,200 aircraft in 61 squadrons. In 1945, Australia had the fourth-largest air force in the world (after the USA, USSR and UK).

Over 215,000 men and women served between 1939-45, and 9,870 RAAF personnel lost their lives. Over 55 per cent of these deaths occurred in the air war against Germany over Europe.

Recent Conflicts and Peacekeeping

Air Force personnel have since served with distinction in Korea, Malaya, the ‘Confrontation’, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are also very proud of our role in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions throughout the world, including Bougainville, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Somalia and the Sudan, in which many hundreds of RAAF personnel have been involved.

Since 1945, over 60 RAAF personnel have lost their lives in conflict or through accidents during operations. Globally, Air Force has between 500 and 700 people on operations each day, contributing to coalition operations, peacekeeping and humanitarian and disaster relief.