In 1909, Frenchman Louis Blériot became the first person to fly across the English Channel. Nine years later, the Royal Air Force was formed. This year it celebrates its 100th birthday — making it the oldest air force in the world.
On 21 June, The Spectator hosted an event, sponsored by BAE Systems, which celebrated the RAF’s centenary. But it also focused on the impact of the military aircraft sector on the UK over the past 100 years, and what the air forces of the future might look like. On page 10, Ross Clark reports on the event, and many of its topics are examined in this supplement. Michael Napier covers the history of the RAF, from 1918 to the present day, Ian Waddell analyses the future of the British aerospace industry, and John Louth looks at the political will needed to enable air power to survive.
The UK has a long history of creating and flying some of the best aircraft in the world. As Sir Roger Carr, the chairman of BAE Systems, says, industry and the military must work together to ensure this sector remains as strong as ever.
Camilla Swift, Editor