Title: Sustaining Air Power
Author: Trevor Stone
Publisher: Fonthill Media
Another new hardback book from Fonthill Media and this one is well timed as it comes out at the time of the RAF 100th anniversary, while covering the Logistics story up to 2014, so 96% of the story to the present day. The story of the RAF is interesting in itself and we are used to seeing books about particular squadrons, aircraft or operations, it makes a change to have a book which covers such a key element of operations for the front line air force. The service has been through changes in names, from Stores, to Equipment, Supply and most recently, Logistics. The book is packed with lots of detailed information which tells the story of RAF logistics over the years. What I think might come as an eye opener for many readers is just the extent of what comes under the umbrella of the Logistics arm. Not just aircraft parts (for which there can be thousands for each aircraft type) but everything else from multiple fuel and oil grades, bombs, missiles and ammunition to accommodation, furniture, catering, and uniforms, boots, belts and so on.
Events also produce situations that the organisation has to change and cope with to meet. For example, at the end of both World Wars there was suddenly lots of excess equipment and spares that needed to be disposed of in order to recover some of the huge costs involved. It is also important to remember that until the 1960's there was no computer systems to help, it was all done on paper and index cards. Only in the later half of the story did computers really make a difference. There was the rundown of overseas operations and withdrawal from east of Suez and another sudden change with the end of the Cold War. The question of politics, saving money in peacetime yet maintaining a readiness to meet any threat that may arise and open to criticism if they were not. Unexpected events, such as the Falklands in 1982, the Gulf War in 1991, caught the service a bit by surprise but despite having to work things out thanks to good team work, they worked out solutions.
The book is split into two main parts, plus a short third part which holds the Conclusions. Part 1 effectively provides the chronological history of RAF Logistics over the years from 1918 to 2014 (the withdrawal from Afghanistan) while Part 2 provides chapters on some detailed individual topics. These include the likes of Movements, Post War management of POL and Compressed Gases, Information and Technology among others.
The author has the authority of experience, having spent a 35 year career in RAF Logistics and for me, having been involved with civilian logistics operations for a large supermarket for my working life but with a lifelong interest in the RAF, I found it a complex yet fascinating story to read. An excellent contribution to the 100 year history of the RAF.
Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.