A Warwickshire pilot who fought in the Battle of Britain has warned 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 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, said: "I think it would. We should still have an independent Royal Air Force, definitely."
Mr Pickering 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.
Mr Pickering said: "As a 19-year-old youth I was most enthusiastic. I don't think we were capable of realising what we were involved in, we were so young. But nevertheless we soon learnt."
He joined 501 Squadron and was based at Kenley in Surrey, and two months into the aerial dogfighting he was shot down.
He said: "I remember attacking the bombers one day and having my sump shot away. I lost all my oil. I switched my ignition off immediately. I hoped I wouldn't catch fire.
"I came down from 18,000ft to 3,000ft with smoke pouring out. Fortunately no German followed me down. I think they thought 'he's had it'. Suddenly the aircraft went into flames. I was ready for it. I got my canopy open and all I had to do was take a pin out, raise myself up and the airflow pulled me out like a cork out of a bottle.
"I pulled my cord and landed by parachute. I didn't panic because I had time to think about it coming down from 18,000ft. Although it was completely covered in smoke, the aircraft was under my control. It got a few bullet holes in it but all it needed was a new engine.
"But I had to get out so it went straight into the ground."
He escaped without a scratch and was back in action within 24 hours.