The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's air force, the oldest independent air force in the world. Formed on 1 April 1918, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history ever since, playing a large part in World War II and in more recent conflicts.
The RAF operates 1,112 aircraft (2010) and, as of late 2009, had a total man power strength of 44,300 regular, and 2,500 Volunteers. The RAF is the the largest air force in the European Union, the second largest in NATO and fifth largest in the world. The majority of the RAF's aircraft and personnel are based in the UK with many others serving on operations (principally Afghanistan, the Middle East and the Balkans) or at long-established overseas bases (Ascension Island, Canada, Cyprus, Diego Garcia, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Germany).