Vampire F3, a type flown at RAF Odiham
Raised to acting group captain on 24 July 1945, Rawlinson remained in command of No. 78 Wing until his RAAF commission was terminated on 19 December 1946. "The peace-time RAAF was not to his liking", according to McAulay. On 21 March 1947, Rawlinson was granted a commission in the RAF as a substantive squadron leader (seniority from 1 June 1944) and temporary wing commander (seniority from 1 August 1943 until 1 November 1947). His initial posting in Britain was at Headquarters Fighter Command (HQFC). Between June and October 1949 he was commanding officer of No. 54 Squadron, which operated de Havilland Vampire jet fighters at RAF Odiham in Hampshire. He then served as wing commander (flying) for the Odiham Wing, comprising three Vampire squadrons including No. 54, until May 1952. Recalling training for Cold War operations, he said: "The introduction of jet fighters meant, roughly, that speeds were doubled and endurances halved. Precision was the name of the game. ... The aim was to achieve, as close as possible, the maximum effort with day operations in all-weather conditions against the nuclear threat..." Reduced flying hours owing to "budgetary limitations" meant that "as much as possible of the HQFC syllabus was crammed into each sortie".
On 26 May 1951, Rawlinson led the Odiham Wing and three formations of Gloster Meteors in a flypast over Hyde Park, London, to mark the presentation of the King's Colour to the RAF. Rawlinson was awarded the Air Force Cross on 5 June 1952, and promoted to substantive wing commander on 1 July. His next command posting was RAF Filton in Bristol, where he controlled a Vampire wing consisting of two Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons, No. 501 (City of Gloucester) at Filton and No. 614 (County of Glamorgan) at RAF Llandow in Wales. In late 1953 he became the inaugural commanding officer of the RAF Guided Weapons Trials Unit, responsible for testing beam-riding missiles for the Meteor NF.11; his duties took him from Wales to Woomera in South Australia, where he flew test aircraft in attacks against target drones including unmanned Fairey Fireflies and the GAF Jindivik. Rawlinson's next posting, to command RAF Patrington in Yorkshire, was announced on 3 February 1958. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours promulgated on 12 June. On 22 February 1960, he was raised to acting group captain and placed in charge of RAF Buchan, a Fighter Command sector station in Scotland.