The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. The RAF has taken a significant role in British military history, playing a large part in the Second World War as well as in more recent conflicts.
The Royal Air Force is one of the most capable and technologically sophisticated air forces in the world; as such it maintains a large and diverse operational fleet. As of January 2012, it had a reported strength of 827 aircraft, making it the largest air force in the European Union, and the second largest in terms of aircraft in NATO (after the USAF). Most of the RAF's aircraft and personnel are based in the UK, with many others serving on operations (principally Afghanistan and the Middle East) or at long-established overseas bases (Ascension Island, Cyprus, Gibraltar, and the Falkland Islands). Although the RAF is the principal British air power arm, the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm and the British Army's Army Air Corps also deliver air power which is integrated into the maritime, littoral and land environments.
The RAF's mission is to support the objectives of the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), which are to "provide the capabilities needed: to ensure the security and defence of the United Kingdom and overseas territories, including against terrorism; to support the Government’s foreign policy objectives particularly in promoting international peace and security."
The RAF's mission statement is "... An agile, adaptable and capable Air Force that, person for person, is second to none, and that makes a decisive air power contribution in support of the UK Defence Mission."}} The mission statement is supported by the RAF's definition of air power, which guides its strategy. Air power is defined as: "The ability to project power from the air and space to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events."