British Military Aviation in 1961

The tri-Service and Royal Air Force (RAF) commands in the Middle East
and Arabian Peninsula are renamed:

  • Middle East Command is renamed Near East Command, with the Middle
    East Air Force becoming the Near East Air Force.
  • British Forces Arabian Peninsula is renamed Middle East Command, with
    Air Forces Arabian Peninsula becoming Air Forces Middle East.

Aircraft of RAF Transport Command and Air Forces Middle East drop food
to famine-stricken civilians in Kenya.

The responsibility for training RAF Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic
Missile crews is transferred from the United States Air Force (USAF) to
RAF Bomber Command.

1 May
RAF Fighter Command is assigned to the North Atlantic Treaties Organisation
(NATO) air defence system. Air Officer Commanding in Chief, Fighter Command,
Air Marshal Sir Hector McGregor assumed the additional title of Commander
United Kingdom Air Defence Region.

A Deputy Director of Operational Requirements Space is appointed under
the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Operations). The first incumbent
of this post was Group Captain A.H. Hewitt.

20-21 June
The first non-stop flight between the United Kingdom and Australia is
made by an Avro Vulcan of No.617 Squadron, captained by Squadron Leader
M.G. Beavis. The aircraft covered a distance of 11,500 miles in 20 hours
3 minutes, achieving an average speed of 573mph. It was refuelled in the
air over Cyprus, Karachi and Singapore.

1 July
Operation Vantage: following Iraqi claims on its oil-rich neighbour Kuwait,
the threat of invasion prompts the ruler of Kuwait to request British
military support. Between 1 and 6 July, 7,000 men and 720 tons of material
were flown into the Persian Gulf area from airfields in the United Kingdom,
Cyprus, Aden and Kenya. Two squadrons of RAF Hawker Hunter ground-attack
aircraft were also despatched to Kuwait, English Electric Canberra squadrons
from RAF Germany were concentrated in the Persian Gulf, and aircraft from
the ‘V-force’ were held at readiness in Malta. The operation successfully
deterred any aggression, and British forces were gradually withdrawn.

1 October
Operation Tana Flood: aircraft of RAF Transport Command and Air Forces
Middle East begin dropping food to communities isolated by floods in Kenya.
Large-scale operations, which were later extended to Somalia, continued
until January 1962. In total, approximately 6,000,000 pounds of food was

14 October
Aircraft from the ‘V-force’, four Avro Vulcans of No.27 Squadron and four
Vulcans of No.83 Squadron, participated in a United States national air
defence exercise (Exercise Skyshield) for the first time.

2 November
Operation Sky Help: following the devastation of much of British Honduras
by Hurricane ‘Hattie’, RAF Transport Command begins to ferry supplies
to Kingston in Jamaica, for onward transmission to British Honduras. Transport
Command and Coastal Command aircraft introduced a shuttle service between
Kingston and Belize.

5 December
RAF Bomber Command holds its first Micky Finn Command-wide no-notice readiness
and dispersal exercise. During the course of the exercise, the V-force
was required to disperse to its designated wartime dispersal airfields
and assume a war posture. Micky Finn exercises were conducted annually
throughout the 1960s.