List of Royal Air Force aircraft squadrons

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No. 1 Squadron badge

Squadrons are the main form of flying unit of the Royal Air Force (RAF). These include Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) squadrons incorporated into the RAF when it was formed on 1 April 1918, during the First World War. Other squadrons of the RAF include those from Commonwealth air forces which have served within the RAF structure and squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm before it transferred to the Royal Navy in 1939.

Some squadrons have an individual tradition of presenting their squadron number in Roman numerals or using a suffix to their squadron number (such as "(F)" for "Fighter", "(B)" for "Bomber" or "(AC)" for "Army Co-operation") to indicate a past or present role. An example would be No. 18 (Bomber) Squadron RAF which currently actually operates the heavy-lift Chinook helicopter. However, these practices have, at least in the past, been deprecated at higher levels and generally only apply to certain squadrons with long traditions, especially those numbered from 1-20.[1]

Flying training units are generally (Reserve) squadrons, although they are regular active-duty units; exceptions to this include the Operational Conversion Units as they provide aircrew training on front line aircraft. Some Squadron names include the location they were originally formed.

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 1–299)

Squadrons in Bold Type are currently active

Numbers 51–100

Numbers 101–150

Numbers 151–200

Numbers 201–250

The first squadrons to carry numbers above 200 were former RNAS squadrons that were renumbered upon amalgamation with 200 added to their RNAS squadron number. Independent flights of the RNAS were grouped together in squadrons and given numbers in the 200 series.

Numbers 251–299

Allied Manned Squadrons (300–352)

American Manned

Polish Manned (300–309)

See also Squadrons Nos. 315–318, 663 and Polish Fighting Team (under Other)

Czechoslovak Manned (310–313)

Note: the RAF never had a No. 314 Squadron, although they did use the number as No. 314 Technical Services Unit. A proposed 314 Squadron was allocated squadron codes UY for the period April to September 1939.[3]

Polish Manned (315–318)

See also Squadrons Nos. 300–309, 663 and Polish Fighting Team (under Other)

Note: the RAF never had a No. 319 Squadron; the "Polish Fighting Team" was attached to No. 145 Fighter Squadron. A proposed 319 Squadron was allocated squadron codes VE for the period April to September 1939.[3] There was also 663 Artillery Observation Squadron; No. 138 Special Duty Squadron Polish Flight "C" and No. 1586 Polish Special Duty Flight.

Dutch Manned (320–325)

Note: Nos. 323 to 325 Squadrons were not formed, but allocated Squadron Codes GN, PQ and EA respectively for the period April to September 1939.[3] However these numbers were used for post-war Royal Netherlands Air Force squadrons.

French Manned (326–329)

See also Nos. 340–347 Squadron

Norwegian Manned (330–334)

Greek Manned (335–339)

Note: Nos: 337–339 never formed,[4] but were allocated Squadron Codes OK, ML and KN respectively for the period April to September 1939.[3] The Royal Hellenic Air Force 13th Light Bomber Squadron was also under RAF command in World War II.

French Manned (340–347)

See also Nos. 326–329 Squadron

Note: No. 348 Squadron was not formed,[5] but Squadron codes letters FR were allocated for the period April to September 1939.[3]

Belgian Manned (349–350)

Yugoslav Manned (351–352)

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 353–361)

Note: Nos. 362–399 Squadrons were not formed.[6]

Article XV squadrons of World War II (Nos. 400–490)

Under Article XV of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the air forces of Australia, Canada and New Zealand formed squadrons for service under RAF operational control. Most were new formations, however some had already existed prior to the creation of Article XV and had already been operational during the war, including combat operations.

Royal Canadian Air Force (400–443)

Note: Although squadron numbers 444 to 449 were also reserved for the RCAF, it did not use them during the Second World War.

Royal Australian Air Force (450–467)

Note: Although squadron numbers 465 and 468 to 479 were also reserved for the RAAF during the Second World War, it did not use them.

Royal New Zealand Air Force (485–490)

Note: Although the squadron numbers 491 to 499 were reserved for RNZAF units during the Second World War, no such squadrons were formed.

Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons (Nos. 500–509)

Formed as "Special Reserve" squadrons but absorbed into the Royal Auxiliary Air Force

Note: No. 505, 506, 507, 508 and 509 Squadrons allocated Squadron codes YF, FS, GX, DY and BQ respectively for the period April to September 1939, but were never formed.[3]

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 510–598)

Note: No No. 599 Squadron seems to have been formed.[6] There were to have been Reserve squadrons using numbers 551–566 which would have been created by adding 500 to existing Operational Training Unit designations.[7] In the event the plan was never put into effect, although there was some desultory use of some of the numbers by some of the OTUs for a short period. Despite their lack of formal activation, this block of numbers has never been re-allocated for use by other units.

Advanced Training Squadrons (550–565)

In the event of a German Invasion the Operational Training Units would have been re-formed into the Squadrons below, under plans as part of Operation Saracen, formulated in Spring 1942, which were later revised as Operation Banquet. Some reserve Squadron numbers were used by their respective OTU's during operational tasks until at least May 1944.[3]

Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons (600–616)

Note: No. 606 Squadron RAF was allocated Squadron codes BG for the period April to September 1939, but was not formed.[3] A non-flying No. 606 Helicopter Support Squadron of the RAuxAF was later formed in 1999.[8]

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 617–650)

Note: Nos. 629, 632–634, 636–638, 641–643 and 645–649 were never formed,[9] but some were allocated Squadron codes for the period April to September 1939 – 629 (LQ), 632 (LO), 636 (VZ), 637 (UK), 638 (PZ), 641 (EV), 645 (KF), 646 (YG), 647 (ZS), 648 (YT) and 649 (HA).[3] However a fictitious "633 Squadron" was featured in the eponymous novel and film. In addition, a fictitious 641 Squadron featured in the film "Mosquito Squadron". Also, RAF Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (formerly Volunteer Gliding Schools until 2005) have been numbered in the range 611 to 671 since 1955.

Air Observation Post squadrons

These squadrons were formed during the Second World War to perform artillery spotting and liaison roles, in co-operation with Army units. Most AOP squadron aircrew were provided by the Army. Nos. 661–664 and 666 Squadron were re-formed as Royal Auxiliary Air Force units in 1949. Nos. 651, 652 and 656 Squadron were transferred to the Army Air Corps in 1957.[10]

Regular RAF squadrons (Nos. 667–695)

Note: Nos. 693–694 and 696–699 Squadrons were never formed.[9]

Fleet Air Arm squadrons

While still under the control of the RAF, flights of the Fleet Air Arm were organized into squadrons with numbers in the 700 and 800 range. The range 700 to 750 had been previously used for Fleet Air Arm Catapult Flight numbers.[11]

These squadrons were transferred to the Royal Navy in 1939, becoming Naval Air Squadrons (NAS).[12] The 700 and 800 range of squadron numbers continued to be used by the Royal Navy for newly formed Naval Air Squadrons.

Training Depot Stations

Training Depot Stations (TDS) were still in use after the formation of the RAF in 1918.[13]

University Air Squadrons

The majority of Universities in the United Kingdom are, or have been, represented by University Air Squadrons where under-graduates can sample the Royal Air Force and learn to fly, as well as take advantage of scholarship schemes. They operate the Tutor T.1.

Volunteer Gliding Squadrons

Initially formed as Volunteer Gliding Schools, these squadrons retained their gliding school numbers when reformed as squadrons. Conflicts with the main Squadron numbers resolved by the VGS suffix. Conventional Squadrons operate the Viking TX.1 glider and powered Squadrons fly the Vigilant T.1 motor glider.

Independent Flights

The RAF maintains a number of independent flights, some on a permanent basis, others on an ad-hoc basis as required. For a full list, see List of Royal Air Force aircraft independent flights.

Air Experience Flights

These units are co-located with UAS units (or regular Air Force units) to pool resources and share aircraft. Air Experience Flights provide flying experience to Air Cadets and CCF cadets.

Other Squadrons

The Royal Air force and Royal flying corps has always comprised a certain number of non-numbered Squadrons to fulfil special duties, experimental or one-off tasks.

Communication Squadrons

To allow rapid transport of Air Officers, staff and other important people many units and Headquarters operated communication Sections, Flights, Squadrons or wings.

Barrage Balloon Squadrons of the Auxiliary Air Force


Squadron codes

Most units of the Royal Air Force are identified by alphabetical (or similar) characters, known as a "squadron code", that is painted on all aircraft belonging to that unit. When individual units are assigned unusually large numbers of aircraft, multiple squadron codes have been used.

Other air forces, especially those from other Commonwealth countries, have often used similar systems of identification. During the Second World War, when units from other air forces were attached to the RAF – such as the Article XV squadrons (also known as "400 series squadrons") – their squadron codes were often changed, to avoid confusion with RAF units.

Historically, the codes have usually been two letters of the alphabet, painted on the rear fuselage next to the RAF roundel. These formed a suffix or prefix to the call sign of each aircraft (on the other side of the roundel) which was usually a single letter (e. g. "G for George"). In general, when an aircraft is lost or withdrawn from use, its call sign has been applied to its replacement or another aircraft.

See also



  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, C.G. RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Lake, Alan. "Flying Units of the RAF".Airlife Publishing. Shrewsbury. 1999. ISBN 1-84037-086-6

External links