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The Reinforcement of RAF Germany – Part II

Ross Mahoney interviews Seb Cox on the post-1968 reinforcement of the RAF on the NATO central front.
ROSS MAHONEY: In both this section of the course, and in previous weeks, both Emmett and I have discussed the RAF’s changing role through the 1960s, as it handed over the strategic nuclear deterrence to the Royal Navy, and began a shift towards a focus on Germany and NATO. With me, here, is Seb Cox, the head of the RAF’s historical project. Seb, what is the significance to the RAF of the shift to RAF Germany in the 1970s?
SEBASTIAN COX: Well, of course, again, as so often partly the background is in terms of the overall defence policy and strategy, and there has been a NATO shift away from nuclear deterrence, per se, towards a more graduated response, flexible response, et cetera. That requires, of course, a build-up in conventional forces. The RAF has lost its nuclear role– that’s now being handled by the Navy’s nuclear deterrent.
But, if you are going to build up conventional force levels, and in particular, you’re going to concentrate more on a capability of that level, you will need air power, and particularly tactical air power, and to some extent, strike– in other words, tactical nuclear weapon delivery, aimed at the Soviet forces in Europe, if they’re going to start a war. So you see a resurgence in RAF Germany– it had previously been wound down to some extent. You see that resurgence, you see an introduction of new aircraft– particularly, later in the decade, you see Tornado, a significant element of the RAF in Germany is wings of Tornado fighter bombers, with a nuclear strike capability, as well with conventional weapons.
You also, of course, you have the development of Harrier wing at Gutersloh, directly supporting the British army of the Rhine in any conventional operations that are going to take place in that theatre, along with some reconnaissance capability, as well. So the focus is switched back, in many ways, from a more strategically orientated RAF, back to a more tactically, or operationally oriented RAF. And that’s reflected both in the weapons and the aircraft that they’re going to use.
ROSS MAHONEY: Some interesting thoughts about how the RAF changes, how it seeks to cope with the changes that come about after the loss of the nuclear deterrent role, and how the RAF adapted to continue operating in Germany during the 1970s and into the 1980s.

Seb Cox

In this short video, Seb Cox adds his considerable knowledge and perspective to the issue of how the RAF concentrated on the NATO central front post-1968.

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

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