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  1. ITV Report

Key Battle of Britain Fighter Command group to be reformed

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier made the announcement (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Fighter Command’s Number 11 Group, which was key during the Battle of Britain, will be reformed to lead air and space operations, the head of the RAF has said.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said that a “multi-domain operations group” would be created to ensure the service thinks and acts in a networked way.

He said this will include the fusion of air, space and cyber power to “create the best effect”.

“We have tended to see them as three separate pillars and we are trying to fuse them and integrate them,” Air Chief Marshal Hillier told reporters.

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“What we have also tended to see them as is capabilities which sit around the outside of our core capabilities, and what I am trying to make sure is that they are absolutely seen as core as to how we do our business.”

The original Number 11 Group, Fighter Command, was responsible for the protection of London and the South East, and contained the squadrons which bore the brunt of the Battle of Britain action.

With more than 1,733 enemy aircraft destroyed by Fighter Command, No 11 Group has been credited for more than two-thirds of that figure.

Air Chief Marshal Hillier said the Battle of Britain and work of No 11 Group was “in so many ways an early demonstration of the power of multi-domain capability”.

He added: “They fused the aircraft, the command and control, the communications, the decision-makers across the entire network … (to) bring them all together in order to create the best effect.”

Air Chief Marshal Hillier also revealed that in a bid to “keep a proper eye on efficiency and leanness in our command chain”, there will be no increase in the number of senior officers or staff at headquarters as a result of the formation of No 11 Group.

During his speech at the Air Power Conference in London, he announced that 9 squadron – which currently operates Tornados – will be disbanded once the aircraft is taken out of service next year.

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But he said this will eventually be stood back up as a Typhoon squadron to be based at RAF Lossiemouth.

With the Typhoon force set to fill the gap left in the wake of the Tornado drawdown in March 2019, ongoing updates to upgrade them to be able to carry Brimstone and Stormshadow weapons is “firmly on track”, Air Chief Marshal Hillier said.

“The work with Stormshadow should complete next month, ensuring that we can continue to execute the sort of long-range precision strike missions as we did so successfully with our US and French allies against Syria back in April,” he added.

He said 31 squadron, also currently part of the Tornado force, will be reformed once it is disbanded next year, but will stand back up for the RAF’s new unmanned drones, the MQ-9B Skyguardian, which are part of the Protector programme.