BALKAN AIR FORCE (B.A.F)
The establishment of the B.A.F. was the direct result of a signal from H.Q. Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (M.A.A.F.) sent to the Air Staff at Air Ministry on 22nd May, 1944. This signal detailed the urgent need for a new subordinate Air H.Q. to be established, to co-ordinate all air activities in the Balkan area, which was currently divided between Desert Air Force, No. 242 Group, and the Tactical and Coastal Command of M.A.A.F The new A. H.Q. would exercise both administrative and operational control of all units operating over, and later in, the Balkan operational area - particularly Yugoslavia, and would co-ordinate both U.S. and Italian air activities in this area.
Air Ministry approval was received in mid-June, with an official start-up date retroactive to 1st June. The units involved operated between 22nd May and 15th June as "G" force, commanded by Air Vice Marshal W. Elliot, who the became B.A.F.'s first Air Officer Commanding. He was later succeeded by Air Vice Marshal G. Mills, who continued in command until the force was disbanded.
In its first full month of operations, 2,370 sorties were flown, for the loss of 21 aircraft. In August sorties were increased to 2,822 for the loss of 54 aircraft, and in September 4,500 sorties were flown and 50 aircraft lost. The relatively high loss rate was due, in main, to the many low level attacks carried out and pressed home to the absolute limit. During the remaining seven months of the war. a further 28,300 sorties were flown, for the loss of another 255 aircraft, the last on May 9th, making a grand total for the force, of 38,089 in ten and a half months of operations. The overall loss rate was therefore just over 1%.
At its peak, B.A.F. had a total of 30 Squadrons, representing six different countries:
7 Light and medium bomber squadrons.
18 Fighter squadron (single and multi-seat)
5 Transport squadrons
and these units were operating from bases in three countries simultaneously, Italy, Greece and Yugoslavia, as well as being able to call on aircraft from:
No. 205 Group, R.A.F. - heavy bombers
15th Air Force, U.S.A.A.F. - long range fighters and heavy bombers
Desert Air Force RAF....Fighters, light & medium bombers
60th Troop Carrier Group U.S.A.A.F-transports
Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force-transports
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