End of independent RAF 'a mistake'
A Battle of Britain pilot has warned that it would be a "dreadful mistake" to get rid of an independent Royal Air Force.
The Government's planned spending cuts for defence have led some to call for the RAF to be disbanded and subsumed into the Army and the Navy.
But Hurricane pilot Squadron Leader Tony Pickering, who was shot down during the Battle of Britain, said: "I think it would be a dreadful mistake. This is done for financial reasons.
"They should keep a nucleus of the Royal Air Force which would enable us to maintain our position as a sovereign country with a Commonwealth, something we should all be proud of."
Asked if disbanding the RAF would be a threat to the country's security, the 90-year-old, from Rugby in Warwickshire, said: "I think it would. We should still have an independent Royal Air Force, definitely."
Mr Pickering started his career in the RAF volunteer reserves, flying during the Battle of Britain as a Sergeant Pilot and ending his career as a Squadron Leader.
He said he felt sorry for today's Armed Forces fighting in Afghanistan.
He said: "I feel sorry for them out there. I don't think they are as well equipped as we were. They're probably getting as good equipment as the country can allow them at the moment. But we were well equipped."
Mr Pickering paid tribute to Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park, who commanded the squadrons that defended London and the South East in the summer of 1940.
A bronze statue to Sir Keith was being unveiled in London's Waterloo Place to mark Battle Of Britain Day.