Photo by SaiKrishna Saketh Yellapragada

Delivering world class Professional Military Education

Find out more about the Portsmouth Military Education Team (PME) and the education packages available to members of the RAF

The Portsmouth Military Education Team delivers Professional Military Education to the Royal Air Force as part of its second successive long-term contract with the RAF to design and deliver education packages.

In 2019, the Portsmouth Military Education Team designed and delivered the country's first blended learning course for phase one training. Today, the course covers a wide spectrum of disciplines and subjects including; international security, military theory, military history, international relations, space security and cyber security.

The course is delivered through a bespoke combination of online material which includes, videos, podcasts and interactive packages which are complimented and enhanced through in-person teaching with a dedicated team of expert tutors.

The Portsmouth Military Education Team delivers courses at two sites for the RAF, principally at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in Lincolnshire and at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire the home of the Airmen’s Command Squadron and the site of training for all RAF non-commissioned officers.

For further information please contact the PME Academic Director Dr Tom Smith on tom.smith@port.ac.uk or tom.smith197@mod.gov.uk

The Portsmouth Military Education team

Tom is a Principal Lecturer in International Relations and PME's Academic Director. He is based at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell delivering professional military education.

Tom specialises in contemporary security and terrorism with particular focus on Asia. He has a law degree and following his MSc in Global Politics at the London School of Economics, Tom worked for the United Nations in Sri Lanka. Before joining the University of Portsmouth he worked at five different UK universities and 2 overseas, including a year as Visiting Lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila whilst completing fieldwork for his PhD studying the jihadist insurgencies of Southern Thailand and the Philippines. 

Tom has published in both of the top two terrorism academic journals - Terrorism and Political Violence and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism and uses a blend of fieldwork research based on communities in conflict with social media research.

In 2016 Tom was commissioned by the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) of the UK Ministry of Defence to examine the role of social media in the Syrian War. This research was later presented to the Joint Forces Intelligence Group at RAF Wyton. 

In 2018, Tom was also invited to give evidence before the All Parliamentary Group on Human Rights on human rights abuses in the Philippines and in 2019 a delegate of the Foreign Office at the governmental summit of Press Freedom. 

In 2020, he was commissioned again by DSTL to examine the Legal, Ethical and Moral Perspectives on Advanced Technology and Weapon System Use in Current and Future Conflicts. He regularly writes about international affairs for outlets and has appeared on numerous international broadcast networks. 

In 2020 Tom also published Exporting Global Jihad, a major two-volume edited book featuring original work from 26 different experts from across the globe on the nexus of global jihadism - and in 2021, he published research on his latest project in the journal Pacific Affairs on the state of election violence in the Philippines.

Nicola has a First Class Honours Degree in Modern Languages and Linguistics (French and German). She subsequently gained a PGCE in Primary Education before entering into teaching, where she worked at various schools around the UK including working with Service children and their families.

She has since transitioned to a career in administration.  Initially, this was supporting financial management for the Air ISTAR team of Defence Equipment and Support before a move into the private sector supporting parts procurement within AAR - Defence Systems & Logistics. She moved into the role of Programme Office Manager within the University at RAF Cranwell in 2018, supporting the delivery of academic support to RAF Phase 1 training. 

She supported the bid and transition to the new Air and Space Power contract as well as assisting in the delivery of the new VLE capability used to support academic development in the student cohort. Her current responsibilities include Contract Monitoring and Reporting and general administrative support to the academic department.  She also conducts working-level liaison with the RAF (both Cranwell and Halton) and looks forward to helping you with any queries relating to contract delivery and support.

Mohamed is an experienced Learning Technology Practitioner with a broad experience spanning more than 20 years.  He has worked for a variety of universities in the UK and now with University of Portsmouth.

His primary focus is in the design and development of effective online and blended learning solutions, across complex and changing organisations.  He has experience of commissioning and developing online courses that are now being used across institutions nationwide, such as Working with the Prevent Duty, Data Protection, Cyber Security and other courses. 

His educational and research interests span various disciplines such as Software Engineering, Multimedia Engineering, Education Practice, Project Management and Workplace Mediation.


Staff at RAF Cranwell 

Andrew is a Senior Lecturer based at RAF Cranwell, as part of the University of Portsmouth academic team. Since 2006, he has contributed to the education of RAF cadets and mid-career officers, primarily in the conceptualisation and contextualisation of air power, with a specific focus on the evolution of the Royal Air Force. He taught previously at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand (1998-2005) and the University of the South Pacific, Fiji (2005-2006). His current research focus is the foundations and employment of multinational air power, in particular the dynamics and influence of military-civilian partnerships. His most recent publication (2020) concerned Anglo-American air cooperation in the Western Desert, and is currently researching a history of the Takoradi air transportation route.

Ben is a Senior Lecturer in Naval History at the University of Portsmouth and is based at the RAF College, Cranwell. He has taught at Cranwell since 2006 on many IOT Courses, the Higher Air Warfare Course and Senior Officers Study Programme and participated in a dozen Staff Rides to Berlin, the Falklands and Normandy. Between 2013-2017 he undertook the roles of IOT Course Manager and Assistant Director (Academic).  He has also lectured to the ICSC (Air) at the Joint Staff College. Ben specialises in naval history and British defence policy. Current research interests include maritime air power, naval logistics during the Second World War and defence policy East of Suez in the post-war period. Dr Jones’s latest book is The Fleet Air Arm in the Second War: Volume II, 1942-1943, the second of the three volumes for the Navy Records Society. He co-authored Air Power in the Maritime Environment: The World Wars with Dr David Gates published in 2016. Since 2013 Ben has been General Editor of the Navy Records Society and was involved in the organisation of the Normandy 75 conference which was held at the University of Portsmouth in 2019.

Matthew joined the team in July 2017. Between 2012 to 2015 he held a number of teaching roles at the University of Birmingham and undertook a PhD at the University of Birmingham, supervised by Air Commodore (ret’d) Dr Peter Gray, focusing on the development of tactical air power in Britain during the Second World War through the study of the RAF’s Army Co-operation Command. Matthew also holds an MA in Intelligence and Security Studies and a BA (Hons) degree both from the University of Salford. His first book, entitled The Development of British Tactical Air Power, 1940-1943: A History of Army Co-operation Command was published in 2016 by Palgrave Macmillan. His research interests are the development of tactical air power in the twentieth century, the relations between the state and the aircraft industry and defence procurement and air power as an instrument of strategy. He has published work in Air and Space Power Review, War in History, The British Journal for Military History and The Journal of the Royal United Services Institute. He is currently researching a book on the relations between the Air Ministry and the RAF in the inter-war period.

Mike joined the RAF in 1976 after completing a BEng in Aeronautical Engineering at Loughborough University.  Trained as a navigator he flew in Canberra, Phantom and Tornado F3 aircraft, mainly in the air defence role and qualified as a NATO TACEVAL airborne evaluator.  Promoted to sqn ldr in 1989, he served in a variety of staff and training appointments, including 2 NATO tours, the Defence Intelligence Staff, OASC and the Air Warfare Centre; where he specialised in air and space power, teaching the Air Battle Staff and Higher Air Warfare courses.  He has served on operations in Germany, the Falkland Islands, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Afghanistan.

On leaving the RAF in 2012, he worked for the UAE armed forces based in Abu Dhabi and he has other experience teaching in the Gulf region; once again, specialising in air and space power. Mike’s educational qualifications include a BA from the Open University, MA (Distinction) in recruitment practice from Middlesex University and MA in Air Power studies from the University of Birmingham. He has been working part-time for the University of Portsmouth since 2013, including support to the RAF Eagle programme.

Harry joined the team in January 2018. Before this, he taught modern history at Keele University for three years. His PhD research – completed in 2019 – analysed how emotions are mobilised and sustained during periods of conflict. In particular, it focused on fears of German espionage during the First World War to examine the connections between popular emotions and national security. He is currently preparing a monograph based on this research, as well as developing another project that examines the use of retired and invalided military officers to monitor local communities and gather intelligence in Britain during the First World War.He has previously published on British SIGINT between 1914-1918. Before this he was awarded an MA in the History of Warfare by King’s College London, and a BA in History by the University of Northampton.


Rob Spalton has been a member of the team since 2015, initially teaching full time, moving to part time employment in autumn 2020. Rob graduated with a BA and subsequent MA in Geography from Oxford University in 1998. He then attended Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Light Infantry in 1999. He served as an Infantry Officer for 16 years of Regular service. During this time he completed operational tours in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan (twice). He served in staff roles at PJHQ (twice) and the Air Warfare School (Cranwell).

After completing Regular service, Rob transferred to the Army Reserve. Having been selected as CO of the 4th Battalion the Mercian Regiment Rob moved to a part time teaching role for the period of his command. As a Teaching Fellow Rob is focussed on Military Thought and Contemporary Operations and is the lead for the Philosophy and Principles of Defence module on MIOT. He also has an interest in modern Naval Aviation.

Clare Stevens joined the team at RAF Cranwell in 2021 as Teaching Fellow in  International Security at the University of Portsmouth. For the four years prior, she taught at the University of Bristol and the University of Gloucestershire on courses ranging from Politics to Theories of International Relations, and from Cybercrime to the Sociology of Culture.

Her research expertise pertains to the contemporary security issues of digital technologies in international security, with a particular focus on cybersecurity politics and American security policy. Her doctoral research was on the strategic use and misuse of cyberspace by state and non-state actors in the United States. By using the idea of “boundary work” as an organizing heuristic for her analysis, her PhD thesis analysed the fraught domestic political processes of defence and security policymaking in the US to show how the ways that state actors talk about cybersecurity and cyber operations are shaping or challenging understandings of “old” strategic concepts, social categories and boundaries. Her current research interests are about the role of government secrecy in cyber operations.

Dafydd is a Teaching Fellow in International Security. He is based at RAF Cranwell where he specialises in cybersecurity policy. He has considerable teaching experience of political history with a particular focus on the United States. Dafydd has a degree in history and a MA in American Studies: History and Politics from University College London. He was awarded his PhD by the University of Reading in 2018.

His doctoral research focused on the influence of public opinion on national security during the 1975 US congressional investigations of the intelligence community. His thesis was the basis of his 2021 publication The Year of Intelligence in the United States: Public Opinion, National Security, and the 1975 Church Committee. He has also had articles published in the Journal of Intelligence History and History. His current research, and focus of his second monograph, focuses on the development of US cybersecurity policy and the role of public – private partnerships in its formulation and delivery. He is currently treasurer of the American Politics Group, which is part of the Political Studies Association.


Staff at RAF Halton

Frank Ledwidge began his career as a criminal barrister in his home city of Liverpool.  He was called up as an RN Reserves officer in 1996 and served several tours as a human intelligence operator in the Balkans and Iraq.   In civilian life he worked eight years with the OSCE as a senior human rights officer in the Balkans and the Former Soviet Union.  Whilst in the Balkans he worked as an investigator for the International Criminal Tribunal.   He was the first Justice Advisor for the UK PRT in Helmand and served as a Stabilisation officer for the British Missions in Benghazi and Tripoli during the Libya War in 2011-12.  He completed his PhD (at KCL) in 2015 and has since worked as senior lecturer  at both Cranwell and Halton. He is the author of several books including the bestselling 'Losing Small Wars' (Yale 2011/2018) and Aerial Warfare (Oxford 2018) both of which were included on the CAS reading lists for the relevant years.  His interests are in contemporary conflict, space and military ethics.

Christopher Morris joined the teaching team in July 2021, having previously worked for the institute of policing at Staffordshire University, where he developed and taught a range of courses. He has additional teaching experience across law, social science and international relations. His research is centred around religious violence and international law. Having completed his PhD examining the ISIS conflict in 2019, Chris has gone on to explore the impact religious ideology has on the use of force.

Veronika joined the team at Cranwell in 2019 as Teaching Fellow at the University of Portsmouth  and is now based at RAF Halton. She previously taught at the University of Nottingham. Before starting her PhD, she worked in project management. Veronika completed a PhD in International Relations at the University of Nottingham. Her doctoral research focused on political violence and civil disobedience in Israel, and looked at how living in ‘counter-culture’ communities leads to radicalisation, and how members of these communities respond to crises of political and religious nature.