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Putting innovation at the heart of the RAF

A 34,000-strong organisation with an operating budget of more than £6 billion, the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is the oldest and one of the most respected independent air forces in the world.

Over the last 20 years the RAF has been subject to a two thirds reduction in manpower while maintaining operational commitments globally. To date, the Service has mitigated the impact of this change by focusing on developing its world-class tactical thinking and experienced talent pool to support these operations. However, this has left little room to generate and implement innovative ideas across the organisation – ideas which are critical to maintaining the RAF’s strategic edge over future opponents.

PA was engaged to help the RAF understand how it could unlock the full potential of its intellectual capital and ensure innovation remains at the heart of its culture. To provide this insight, we conducted a thorough assessment to determine the quality of air power thinking across the RAF: this included interviews and focus groups with high-potential future leaders and the first ever career profiling of over 100 of the RAF’s most senior officers.

Based on this research we helped to design a transformation programme – Thinking to Win – that defines the actions senior leaders need to take to embed the conceptual component of fighting power at the heart of the RAF of 2020. Described by the Chief of the Air Staff as “the start of the Royal Air Force’s next journey”*, the programme is already improving the RAF’s ability to innovate at all levels and – ultimately – ensuring the Service remains one of the best in the world.

"The support PA gave us has been invaluable. Your insight, drive and energy got us to a position that we simply couldn’t have achieved on our own."

Air Vice-Marshal Richard Knighton
Assistant Chief of the Air Staff,
UK Ministry of Defence

* Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, source:

. @PA_Consulting helped put #innovation at the heart of the @RoyalAirForce with a plan to unlock potential

Contact the defence and security team