British Military Aviation in 2003

The Royal Air Force (RAF) retires the Westland Wessex helicopter after
No.84 Squadron at RAF Akrotiri gives up its aircraft to receive the new
Bell Griffin HAR2. The retirement and re-equipment is overseen by Squadron
Leader Nicky Smith, the first woman to command an RAF flying unit.

20 March
Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch over Iraq stand down.

21 March
Operation Telic begins against Iraqi forces. The British part of the larger
United States led Operation Iraqi Freedom, sees approximately 30% of the
Royal Air Force’s available strength deployed to theatre. RAF aircraft
provide about 6% of coalition sorties and releases over 900 weapons, of
which 85% are precision-guided.

The RAF support assets also make important contributions to airspace
control, reconnaissance and transport capabilities. The air tanker fleet
disperses some 19 million pounds of fuel, over 40% of which is given to
United States Navy and Marine Corps aircraft. During hostilities the RAF
fields the following new equipment

  • Goodrich RAPTOR
  • Joint Reconnaissance Pod on Harrier GR7 aircraft
  • MBDA Alarm 2**
  • MBDA Storm Shadow
  • Raytheon Enhanced Paveway
  • Raytheon Maverick

Also this year…
The Ministry of Defence orders two new aircraft carriers for the Royal
Navy. The ships will be designed and built by an alliance of the Ministry
of Defence, BAe Systems and Thales UK and will operate the Lockheed Martin
F35B, or Joint Combat Aircraft as it is known in MoD.

The Airbus A400M military transport is ordered into production. The first
deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2007 with the first example of an
order 25, going to the Royal Air Force in 2009.