Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsEMMETT SULLIVAN: Welcome back to the RAF in the Cold War. And this week we want to deal with an aspect of the RAF which will be very familiar to you, something that we might see as their primary role in defending Great Britain and the territories it's responsible for. Now, in the context of the post-Second World War period, many of our attitudes are very heavily informed by the Battle of Britain and the idea that we managed to hold off the Luftwaffe and then ultimately a German invasion through the efforts of our fighter force. Well, what we have behind me is a Victor tanker, and then further behind me is a Sabre interceptor.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsWhat we see in the period after 1945 is a continuing development of that responsibility for the RAF. The Victor tanker was designed to help keep aircraft aloft, so we have inflight refuelling, and the Sabre was bought from North America in the late '40s, early '50s so that the RAF could have a good body of reasonably modern aircraft to defend British territory against the threat of Soviet bombers.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 secondsNow, one of the things we're going to develop as a theme as we go through this week is to actually look at what the responsibility of defending British territory meant, because you will remember that although we have the development of the V - Force, the strategic bomber force, they are always intended to be a retaliatory force. There was never any intention of this country having a first strike capability. That meant a lot of effort was put into defending the airfields from which the V - Force would actually take off from.

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 secondsSo if we're looking at the Soviet bomber force in the 1950s and the 1960s, one of the major roles of the RAF in defending our airspace was actually defending its own assets that could strike back against the Soviet Union. Now, that's at slight variance to what we might have expected in terms of, if you like, a projection from the Battle of Britain. We're going to deal with some of the technological change as ever, but we're also going to be looking at issues about whether it is better to have manned aircraft as interceptors or to rely on missile defence to shoot down far off bombers.

Skip to 2 minutes and 45 secondsWe're also going to be thinking about the changing role in tactics of the aircraft that led to the defence of the British airspace. So while we have dealt with the development of Britain's nuclear deterrent, now we are looking at, if you like, the defensive role and what might be seen as a very positive part of the RAF's responsibility, and how that was executed as threat and counterthreat developed in the post-'45 period. Thank you very much. We're going to move on to the first segment of the course.


Defending the skies.

This week we examine:

  1. The threat of nuclear bombers from the Soviet Union
  2. The responses of the RAF
  3. The changes we see with changing technology.

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This video is from the free online course:

From World War to White Heat: the RAF in the Cold War

Royal Holloway, University of London