The Air Ministry

The Air Ministry, set up in 1919 to oversee the RAF, was represented in Cabinet by the Secretary of State for Air. Although both Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan had held the post, during the 1950s and 1960s the position was occupied by ministers who were not destined for greater things, the office holders being respectively Lord De L’Isle and Dudley, Nigel Birch, George Ward, Julian Amery and Hugh Fraser. The post was abolished in 1964 when the Air Ministry was absorbed into the Ministry of Defence.

There was controversy over the procurement process for what would today be called weapons systems, such as Blue Streak. When the Air Staff had decided on the specification for a new project, they would issue an Operational Requirement (OR). The project would often have come through the DRPC – Blue Streak is a good example. In 1953, the DRPC had been studying missile development and had decided that both a ballistic missile and a defence against a ballistic missile should be investigated. This led to the issuing of the OR for Blue Streak in 1955 (and also one for an anti-ballistic missile defence, but this did not get very far).

The Air Staff might have issued the OR, but it was up to the Ministry of Supply to circulate the requirement to industry, take in the proposals, evaluate them and issue the contract to a particular firm. It would then follow the project through to service entry.