RIAT RAF Fairford 2018: Preview
13th - 15th July 2018
The F-35 is already lined up to be included in the flying displays
Reputed to be the biggest military airshow in the world, RIAT features modern military and classic aircraft, static and flying, from many continents.
The 2018 Air Tattoo will reflect the 100th anniversary of the RAF with a commemoration and celebration of a century of service to the UK and its allies. Features of RIAT18 will include a display by an RAF F-35B Lightning ll and music from one of the RAF's bands.
RIAT usually has two full days of flying on the Saturday and Sunday, with an abbreviated programme on the Friday. However, for 2018 the organisers have promised a full flying programme on the Friday as well as the weekend days. The Friday opening day will also feature a Royal Review and a mass flypast of RAF aircraft.
The first flying display to be announced was the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Team. The team included RIAT when their schedule was released on 4th December and the booking was confirmed by RIAT on 13th. The theme of the Demo Team for 2018 is the 60th anniversary of NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command).
The organisers have published a showground map on their web site.
OPTIONS SOLD OUT
- FRIAT packages, Machs 1, 2 & 3;
- all Super Earlybird tickets
- Saturday Earlybird tickets
- Saturday: ALL enclosures
- Friday: Lightning Club
The Swiss Air Force will have two flying displays. One is the PC-7 Team, flying a nine-ship formation of Swiss-built Pilatus PC-7 Turbotrainers and the other is the F/A-18C Hornet solo fast jet display. The F/A-18 Hornet multi-role is also the type flown in their day jobs by the pilots in the PC-7 team.
In 2017 the Finnish Defence Forces had an NH90 on static display. For 2018 Finland does even better with a Finnish Army NH90 TTH helicopter in the flying display as well as one on static in the type's 10th anniversary in Finnish Army service, whilst the Finnish Air Force is flying an F-18C.
At RIAT 2017 the Czech Air Force displayed their Gripen and a two-ship L-159. In 2018 the JAS-39 Gripen will be back but this time the L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) display will be a solo.
The Hellenic Air Force's F-16 demo team, known as 'Zeus', will return to RIAT for their third UK appearance, having displayed previously at RIATs 2015 and 2016. The display is again being provided by 115 Combat Wing based at Souda, Crete and is flown this year by Maj Georgios Papadakis.
Going back further, to the formative years of the RAF, the Great War Display Team will re-enact the exploits of the First World War's pioneering military aviators. Exactly which of their ten aircraft will be included in the displays has not yet been confirmed but there is likely to be a mixture of British and German aircraft and a demonstration dogfight.
All confirmed displays are listed on the RIAT web site under 'confirmed aircraft'.
Other air arms and operators invited to the show are on the RIAT web site under 'Latest updates'.
The Air Tattoo announcements caution that, because of an increased amount of space required for static displays, more of the parking may have to be off-site on grass or concrete.
|Due to fly (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
|National aerobatic teams|
|Red Arrows (all three days)|
|Frecce Tricolori (not yet confirmed by RIAT)|
|Royal Jordanian Falcons (4 x Extra 300LX)|
|PC-7 Team (Swiss National Team)|
|Patrulla Aguila (Spanish National Team)|
|Fighters / Attack|
|Eurofighter Typhoon (RAF)|
|JAS-39C 'Gripen' (Swedish Air Force)|
|JAS-39 'Gripen' (Czech Air Force)|
|Aero L-159 Alca (Czech Air Force)|
|F16C Demo Team 'Zeus' (Hellenic Air Force)|
|F-16 (Danish Air Force) (Listed by operator, not confirmed by RIAT)|
|F-16C Demo Team 'Soloturk' (Turkish Air Force) (Now confirmed by RIAT)|
|F-16C (Polish Air Force) |
|F/A-18C Hornet (Swiss Air Force)|
|Rafale M pair (tactical demo)(French Navy)|
|F-18C (Finnish Air Force)|
|Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane, Dakota (BBMF)|
|F-35A / P-51D Mustang Heritage Flight (USAF & civilian)|
|Great War Display Team|
|Vampires FB.52 & T.55 (NAFHS)|
|Grob Tutor (RAF) (Sat 14th only)|
|NH90 TTH (Finnish Army)|
|RAF Falcons (all 3 days)|
|Additionally there will be a substantial static display including the following|
Auster Mk 5 (Private owner)|
Bulldog T1 (Private Owner)
C-17 Globemaster (NATO)
CC-177 Globemaster (Canadian Air Force)
C-27J Spartan (Slovakian Air Force)
CC-130 Hercules (Canadian Air Force)
C-130J Hercules (Royal Air Force of Oman)
CH-146 Griffon (Royal Canadian Air Force)
CP-140 Aurora (Royal Canadian Air Force)
E-7A Wedgetail (Royal Australian Air Force)
EV-97 Microlight (Halton Microlight Club)
Hawker Hunter Mk 58 (Hawker Hunter Aviation)
Jet Provost T3 (Classic Jet Preservation Group)
Jet Provost T3A (Newcastle Jet Provost Group)
Jet Provost Mk 5 XW324 (J Bell)
JAS-39D 'Gripen' (Swedish Air Force)
KC-10 Extender (USAF)
Miles Magister (Private Owner)
NH90 (Finnish Army)
Su-22 Fitter (Polish Air Force)
Tecnam light aircraft (RAF Flying Club)
Embraer KC-390 tanker
|All appearances are subject to technical, weather and other constraints|
Air Tattoo's Beginning
The Air Tattoo's links with the US Air Force stretch back to 1972 when the Americans permitted the airshow to be staged at RAF Greenham Common, near Newbury. When the Air Tattoo had to find a new home in the 1980s, the US Air Force offered RAF Fairford and the first Air Tattoo was staged in the Cotswolds in 1985.
Airshows at RAF Fairford
RAF Fairford was built in 1944, towards the end of the second world war, mainly to provide an airfield for British and American troop carriers and gliders for the D-day landings. After the war it was one of four airfields chosen as a base for the USAF Strategic Air Command and in the 'cold war' era served as a USAF strategic bomber base.
The airfield played a role in several foreign military interventions, such as Libya in 1986, the Gulf war in 1991 and the Iraq war in 2003, but by 2010 all military personnel had been withdrawn. It nevertheless retains its status as a designated standby airfield, capable of reactivation within 48 hours.
Fairford's runway is over 3,000M long and has an unrestricted load capacity, so it can take any kind of aircraft. It served for eight years as a test centre for the Concorde and was also the only UK abort landing site for the American space shuttle.
RIAT invariably features displays that will not be seen anywhere else in the UK, including prestige solo and formation displays by air forces from Europe, Scandinavia and the Middle-East. In 2015 RIAT had 247 aircraft from 19 different nations. In 2016 there were over 230 aircraft, from 24 countries. In 2016 the Croatian air force became the 56th nation to participate since the Air Tattoo was first held in 1971, cementing the reputation of RIAT airshow as truly international.
As well as flying displays there are more static displays than anywhere else. The 2003 RIAT was recognised by the Guinness Book of World records as the largest military air show ever, when 535 aircraft attended.
RIAT RAF Fairford 2017
Highlights spanning the ages
Flypast by a Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit Stealth Bomber was an unlisted late addition on Sunday
The operational theme of the 2017 Air Tattoo was a celebration of 21st Century Partnerships throughout the defence and aviation community but the main theme was the 70th anniversary of the US Air Force (USAF70). The show's highlights spanned those 70 years.
The Thompson Formation of Lancaster, Hurricane and 3 Spitfires, whose individual ages almost match that of the USAF, displayed on all three days and provided one of the few opportunities to see this BBMF combination anywhere in the UK. The formation is named after Wg Cdr Peter Thompson who was Station Commander at Biggin Hill and was primarily responsible for what we now know as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. This was not the first outing for the Lancaster after its long sojourn whilst undergoing deep maintenance and repaint, but it will have been a welcome a first sight for many of the rejuvenated 'Leader' ( ex- 'Thumper'). It will have been an emotional return for many, too, in a formation that also included two of the original BBMF aircraft. The display provided a generous series of flypasts by the quintet, followed by formation and tailchase displays by the fighters before the Lancaster performed her solo.
Towards the more modern end of the 70 years, an unlisted flypast by a Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit Stealth Bomber direct from the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri accentuated the USAF anniversary theme. The B-2A was flanked by a pair of F-15s and flew fairly level from east to west, turned and flew back along the same path but this time making a topside pass, showing another aspect of this rarely-seen bomber. Only 21 B2s were ever built and following an accident that destroyed one of them only 20 remain. At a reported cost of $2billion each, including development, it is one of the costliest as well as scarcest aircraft. Happily, the whole of the huge cost of the trip from the USA to the Tattoo did not have to be met by the show as the journey was arranged as part of a transatlantic 'Global Power' training exercise.
We do have one little gripe. The arrival of the B2 was well known to anyone who uses social media. Yet the commentators treated it as a 'surprise' saying only that visitors may wish to look up at the appointed time. Anticipation is part of the excitement and the expected arrival of the B2 generated a great deal of buzz around the show. What a shame that anyone not linked to social media, or out of tune with the general show chatter, was unable to enjoy the anticipation of one of the undoubted highlights of the Tattoo. Please, if you know what's coming, just tell everyone. OK, gripe over.
BBMF Thompson Formation
Thunderbirds and Red Arrows
Thunderbirds 5 and 6
As well as the B-2A with its brace of F-15s, and a Red Arrows / Thunderbirds combo, a third flypast to impress was from United States Air Force Europe. The special 70th Anniversary flypast, on all three days, featured a C-130J from 37th Airlift Squadron based at Ramstein, Germany; a KC-135R air-to-air refuelling tanker from 351st Air Refuelling Squadron, RAF Mildenhall, which flew through with refuelling probe extended ; an F-15C combat aircraft operated by the 493rd Fighter Squadron from RAF Lakenheath; two F-15E combat aircraft and two F-16C, flown by the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem, Germany.
In advance of the show, and before the B-2A or Thompson formation became the focus, the most promoted display was by the USAF Thunderbirds. As part of the airshow's tribute to mark the US Air Force's 70th anniversary, the six F-16 Fighting Falcons of the USAF Thunderbirds made a rare trip across the Atlantic to display on all three days - their only UK appearance in 2017 and their first at RIAT since 2007. On Friday the Thunderbirds also flew in Paris to mark Bastille Day and the opportunity was taken on their return to form up with the Red Arrows for a joint pass over RIAT: for many, that flypast was a greater highlight than the Thunderbirds' actual displays.
On Friday, the four formation Thunderbirds flew but Thunderbird 6, one of the two soloists, had a technical fault that prevented him flying with the others. The loss of Thunderbird 6, who joins Thunderbird 5 for pairs formations, reduced the impact of the opposition and synchronised manoeuvres somewhat. On both weekend days the full six aircraft took part. The display comprised a number of formations, mostly four-ship variations on a diamond, interspersed with basic solo aerobatics and a few pairs synchronised and opposition passes. There were some nice mirror and echelon passes but it would be difficult for any team to match up to the rather ebullient 'cheerleader' build-up by their commentator. They were, nevertheless, presented with RAFCTE Chief Executive Andy Armstrong's special 'RIAT CEO Award' for an outstanding contribution to the show.
Other national teams at RIAT were the Red Arrows; the Midnight Hawks from Finland, the Royal Jordanian Falcons and the Patrouille Suisse, the aerobatic team of the Swiss Air Force, with their six F-5E Tiger IIs. The Midnight Hawks have to be applauded for displaying in close formation in some of the worst of the weather and the Patrouille Swiss were every bit as masterly as the Thunderbirds: without the razzmatazz. Overall, though, we can be proud of the Red Arrows. The display may not have the novelty of the others for regular airshow goers but the variety, competence and excitement of the formation and dynamic elements of the display were undoubtedly supreme amongst the national aerobatic teams. At the end of Sunday's display, Mike Ling, Red Ten, confirmed that it would be his last commentary at RIAT as he will be handing over the reigns at the end of the 2017 season after a record spell as the Manager of the Red Arrows. We wish Lingy good luck in whatever the RAF have lined up for him next.
Whilst the highlights of the show were the various formation passes and the highest profile was reserved for the national aerobatic teams, it was the jets that took most of the plaudits.
A very late addition to the Tattoo was one of the most famous of all combat jets, the Sukhoi Su-27P1M, which has the NATO codename 'Flanker'. The Ukrainian Air Force sent one each for the flying and the static displays. The energetic flying display, on all three days of RIAT, impressed with its almost constant afterburner. The Friends of the Royal International Air Tattoo certainly were, awarding the Su-27 display pilot Col Oleksander Oksanchenko the 'As The Crow Flies' trophy for the best overall flying demonstration.
The Su-27, a heavy air superiority fighter, was designed during the Cold War as a Soviet counter to potential Western opponents such as the US Air Force's F-15 Eagle. It first flew in 1977 and in the course of its development phase one of the prototypes set several time-to-altitude records. Service entry began during 1985. It appeared at Western air displays starting at Paris in 1989 and its first western airshow was at RIAT in 1996. The last time it was a flying display at RIAT was in 1999, although it was on the static park in 2011.
In the post-Soviet era, the original Su-27 series has continued to equip the Russian armed forces and carried on serving with the Ukrainian Air Force as well as other former Soviet states and several export customers. The design has continued to be developed for both the Russian and overseas markets, some of the latest derivatives incorporating thrust vectoring for even greater agility.
The Ukrainian Su-27s at RIAT 2017 are from the 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade, based at Myrhorod in central Ukraine. Also in the static park was the support aircraft for the 'Flankers', an Ilyushin Il-76 four-jet transport.
The UK's own Typhoon pilot Flt Lt Ryan Lawton was a winner too, being awarded the Steedman Display Sword for the best flying demonstration by a UK participant but the King Hussein Memorial Sword for the best overall flying demonstration went to Capitaine Jean-Guillaume 'Marty' Martinez, the French Air Force Dassault Rafale C solo display pilot. The judges called his "a faultless, flowing and dynamic flying display". Few would dispute that.
Lockheed Martin's F-22A Raptor flew as part of the USAF70 theme. The Raptor entered service with the USAF in December 2005 but did not perform its first UK flying demo until 2010. For the second year running its pilot, Maj Dan 'Rock' Dickinson, won an award at RIAT. This year he won the Paul Bowen Trophy for the best jet demonstration. The judges said the Raptor's performance was a "consistently accurate, powerful and superbly executed solo jet demonstration".
|Flying Displays (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
|National aerobatic teams|
|USAF Thunderbirds (US Air Combat Command)|
||Patrouille Suisse (Swiss Air Force)|
||Midnight Hawks (4 x BAe Hawks) (Finnish Air Force)|
||Red Arrows (All days) (RAF)|
|Royal Jordanian Falcons|
|Fighters / Attack|
||Typhoon FGR.4 (RAF)|
| ||EF-18AM Hornet (Spanish Air Force)|
|Sukhoi Su-27 'Flanker' (Ukrainian Air Force) (Sat & Sun)|
||F-16AM (Belgian Air Force)|
|F-22 Raptor (USAF)|
||Couteau Delta: Mirage 2000D pair (French Air Force)|
||Rafale Solo (French Air Force)|
|Saab JAS-39 Gripen (Czech Air Force)|
||Saab JAS-39 Gripen (Swedish Air Force)|
||Tornado A-200 (Italian Air Force)|
||Aero L-159 Alca x2 (Czech Air Force)|
|WAH-64D Apache (AHDT)|
||Westland Sea King Mk48 (Belgian Air Force SAR demo)|
||BBMF Lancaster (BBMF)|
| x4||BBMF Spitfire x4|
||P-51D Mustang 'Tall in the Saddle' (Hangar 11)|
|P-51D Mustang (Comanche Fighters). Due to fly with F-22. Replaced by 'Berlin Express' before the latter was damaged. Frenesi reinstated but didn't fly Friday.|
|P-51B Mustang 'Berlin Express' flying with F-22 CANCELLED (damaged at Duxford) |
||P-40 Kittyhawk 'Lulu Belle' (Hangar 11) CANCELLED (sold)|
|Sally B (Sat & Sun) |
|Airbus A400M (displayed by Airbus)|
||C-27J Spartan (Italian Air Force)|
|CV-22B Osprey (US Air Force)|
||M-346 Master (Italian Air Force)|
|Pilatus PC-9M (Slovenian Air Force)|
|Saab J105Öe (Austrian Air Force)|
|The show's own list is here|
|USAF 70th Anniversary Flypast (all three days)|
F-15E Strike Eagle x2
F-16C Fighting Falcon x2
|Additionally the following were on static display|
|U-2 'Dragon Lady' (Sat & Sun)|
|B1-B Lancer Heavy Bomber (USAF)|
|B-52 Stratofortress Heavy Bomber (USAF)|
|Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patroller (German Navy) CANCELLED|
|A-4N Skyhawk (Discovery Air Defence, Wittmund, Germany) (Sat & Sun) CANCELLED|
|A109E Power (QinetiQ)|
|A400M (German Air Force)|
|Alpha Jet x2 (French Air Force)|
|Alpha Jet (QinetiQ)|
|Airbus EC-135 P2+ training helicopter (German Navy)|
|Apache WAH-64D (Army Air Corps)|
|Beaver AL.1 (AAC Historic Aircraft Flight)|
|Scout AH Mk 1 (AAC Historic Aircraft Flight)|
|Sukhoi Su-27 ' Flanker' (Ukrainian Air Force)|
| Ilyushin Il-76 Transport (Supporting Su-27)|
|Westland Sea Lynx utility helicopter (German Navy)|
|Wildcat AH.1 (Army Air Corps)|
|Wildcat HMA.2 (Royal Navy)|
|Sea King Mk 41 (German Navy)|
|F-4E Phantom (Hellenic Air Force)|
|C-130 (Israeli Air Force)|
|C-130H Hercules (Belgian Air Force)|
|C-130H (Royal Jordanian Air Force)|
|C-130H-30 (Royal Netherlands Air Force)|
|C-130E Hercules (Pakistan Air Force)|
|C-130J-30 Hercules (Qatar Emiri Air Force)|
|Defender 4000 (Army Air Corps)|
|Do-228 (Royal Netherlands Air Force)|
|F-16AM (Belgian Air Force)|
|E-3A (NATO) CANCELLED|
|EC-1135P (Irish Air Corps)|
|H135 Juno HT.1 (RAF)|
|H145 Jupiter (RAF)|
|KDC-10 Tanker (Royal Netherlands Air Force) CANCELLED|
|PC-9M (Irish Air Corps)|
|PC-9M (Slovenian Air Force)|
|Puma HC.2 (RAF)|
|Aero L-159 Alca (Czech Air Force)|
|Eurofighter EF2000/T x2 (German Air Force)|
|Tornado PA2000 (German Air Force)|
|Transall C-160D (German Air Force)|
|Tucano T.1 (RAF)|
|Saab J105Öe (Austrian Air Force)|
|NHIndustries NH90 TTH (Finnish Army)|
|Let 410 (Slovenian Air Force)|
|CL-604 (Royal Danish Air Force)|
|Viking TX.1 (RAF)|
|Vigilant T.1 (RAF)|
|Voyager KC2/3 (Royal Air Force)|
|C-17A (US Air Force)|
|CV-22B Osprey (US Air Force)|
|MC-130J Commando II (US Air Force)|
|F-15C Eagle x2 (USAF Europe)|
|F-15E Strike Eagle (USAF Europe)|
|F-16C (US Air Force)|
|F-16AM/BM x2 (Royal Netherlands Air Force) |
|HH-60G Pave Hawk (USAF Europe)|
|P-8A Poseidon (US Navy)|
|KC-767J (Japan Air Self Defence Force)|
|KC-135R (USAF Europe)|
|Bronco OV-10 and Skyvan (Bronco Demo Team)|
|Jet Provost JP.5 (Jet Aerobatics)|
|Saab JAS-39D Gripen (Swedish Air Force)|
|Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen (Hungarian Air Force)|
|C-27J Spartan Transport (Lithuanian Air Force) CANCELLED|
|Antonov AN-28B1R Maritime Surveillance (Polish Navy)|
|A400M Atlas C.1 (RAF)|
|C-17A Globemaster lll (RAF) CANCELLED|
|C-21A (USAF Europe)|
|Tornado GR4 (RAF)|
|Typhoon FGR.4 x2 (RAF)|
|Hawk T.1 (Royal Navy)|
|Hawk T.1A (RAF)|
|Hawk T.2 (RAF)|
|King Air 200/350 (RAF)|
|King Air / Avenger T.1 (Royal Navy)|
|Merlin HC3/3A (Royal Navy)|
|Merlin HM.2 (Royal Navy)|
|Sea King ASaC.7 (Royal Navy)|
|Squirrel HT.1 (RAF)|
|Griffin HT.1 (RAF)|
|E-7A Wedgetail (Royal Australian Air Force)|
|CC-177 Globemaster (Royal Canadian Air Force)|
|CH-147F Chinook (Royal Canadian Air Force)|
|Beech 18S (Carlo Ferrari)|
|BN-2T Islander (Britten Norman)|
|C42a x2 (AirBourne Aviation)|
|DA-42 Twin Star (Airways Aviation)|
|DA-42 Twin Star (Bruno Stoker)|
|DA-40 Diamond Star (Bruno Stoker)|
|DH-9 Bomber (Aero Vintage)|
|EV-97 Eurostar SL (RAF Halton)|
|EV-97 Team Eurostar (RAF Halton)|
|Gladiator Mk 1 (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|Global 6000 (Bombardier)|
|Grand Caravan EX (Textron)|
|P2002-JF Sierra (RAF Halton)|
|P2008JC x2 (RAFFCA)|
|Piper Cub (Andrew Blackford) CANCELLED|
|Provost T.1 (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|RANS S6 Coyote|
|TB20 Trinidad (Bruno Stoker)|
As if the emphasise the skills of the pilots, the Raptor also teamed up for a 'heritage flight' with a Mustang. Originally it was to be P-51D 'Frenesi' until this was changed to P-51B Mustang 'Berlin Express'. However, when 'Berlin Express' was damaged at Duxford on 8th July, Frenesi was reinstated. It, too, was unable to fly on Friday for technical reasons so there was no heritage flight on that day and on Saturday the cloud base was too low for the Raptor. The Heritage Flight did display on Sunday when aircraft of such diverse ages, design and capability were able to maintain harmony, not just for a single pass, but for an enduring display.
Other jet winners were the Czech Air Force Saab JAS 39C Gripen whose pilot, Capt. Ivo Kardoš, was awarded the RAFCTE Trophy for the best flying demonstration by an overseas participant, displaying what the judges said was a "consistently well flown and accurate fast jet demonstration" and the Italian Air Force Panavia A-200A Tornado, which was awarded the prize for best livery, voted for by FRIAT members.
Unusually there were no prizes this year for two of the most popular jets on the airshow circuit: the Belgian and Turkish F-16s. The Belgian Air Component's F-16 Fighting Falcons are among the oldest still in service, but thanks to major upgrades they remain very capable fighters. Belgium's Air Component operates 54 single seat F-16AMs and twin seat F-16Ms. Their F-16AM was flown in typically flamboyant style by Cdt Tom 'Gizmo' De Moortel, in his third and final display season.
As well as the award-winning Czech example, there was a second Saab Gripen fighter from the Swedish Air Force, which displayed a solo Saab JAS-39C Gripen, their primary fighter. The Swedish Air Force is the largest operator of the Gripen; a relatively small, lightweight machine by modern standards which is able to operate from shorter runways than many otherwise similar fighters.
The jets were not the only aircraft to impress. The Czech Air Force were one of only a few displays to use pyrotechnics when they displayed their pair of L-159 ALCAs and the Italians had three varied items for the flying display. As well as their Tornado, their contribution included an M-346 Master jet trainer and the amazingly manoeuvrable Leonardo C-27J Spartan military transport. Another Military transport aircraft, the Airbus A400M, was displayed not by the RAF but by Airbus itself. The A400M, known as the 'Atlas' in RAF service, impressed with its short take-off and landing, steep climb and 120 degree wingover as well as its size-defying extreme manoeuvrability.
The strength of rotary action was in quality rather than quantity. The UK Apache was displayed by the Army Air Corps: their usual end-of-show flaming finale presenting a grand photo-moment following their tactical demo and the RAF's Chinook team were back with their show-stopping display of strength with agility, accompanied by a commentary that appeared to borrow some of the ebullience of the USA commentators. The Belgian Sea King featured in a search and rescue demonstration. Much missed in the UK, this will also be one of the last occasions on which such a display will be seen at a British event as the Sea King is being phased out by other nations, too.
Possibly the most impressive of the rotary action was the unique CV-22B Osprey from the USAF. The live demonstration of its tiltrotor system that gives it the ability to take off like a helicopter and fly like a conventional fixed-wing aircraft illustrated amply the commentary which explained how this is put to use in emergency transport and evacuation situations.
For a show with so many aircraft, there were relatively few cancellations. One disappointment was the non-appearance of an A-4N Skyhawk from Discovery Air Defence, based at Wittmund. This would have been the first A-4 to visit Air Tattoo since 1977 but unfortunately it was cancelled at the last minute.
Away from the aircraft there was plenty to entertain everyone. One of the most popular was the Techno Zone, where companies displayed, and visitors played with, all nature of gizmos and gadgets. In the Vintage Village visitors were able to enjoy a sequence of vintage entertainment, mostly song and dance of the wartime era and take tea, but a huge proportion was little more than a vintage market in a marquee. The Autodrome was a promotion for a limited range of motor prestige vehicles plus the 'wall of death' and the Activity Zone offered fairground and other adventures for children of all ages, some to watch and some to take part in.
The Air Tattoo is the biggest military airshow in the world and takes a massive amount of organisation, both in the year leading up to it and especially when the show is ongoing. There will be moans about delays getting into and out of the show car parks and there will be those who were upset to have missed one or both of the unannounced special flypasts. There were also a few cancellations on the day, some due to the weather and some because of technical glitches. But weather and technical glitches will happen and when 50,000 people are moving to and from the show there will be delays.
Overall, we think it is reasonable to marvel at how few issues there were. Over 150,000 people admired aircraft from 26 nations. Most of the planned displays took place, despite some awful weather, especially early on Saturday and late on Sunday: the B-2 arrived in good time all the way from Missouri and after a little bit of hanging around waiting for its slot, passed along the display line bang on time. Around 250 aircraft made it to the show - and all had to be garnered in and dispersed again in a meticulous operation.
We think it was one of the best Air Tattoos for quite some time. Next year the show will celebrate 100 years of the RAF. The RAF Charitable Trust have set the bar very high with this year's show. We look forward to seeing how they can top it in 2018.
US Navy Statics
The United States Navy showcased the world's most capable maritime patrol aircraft, the Boeing P-8A Poseidon on the ground at Fairford. The aircraft is on order for the Royal Air Force, who will take delivery of their first example from 2019, based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.
In another coup for the show this year, the US Air Force displayed two of its largest and most formidable aircraft. The aircraft, a B-52 Stratofortress and a B-1B Lancer were both on static display and joining them on the static park on Saturday and Sunday was a U-2 Reconnaissance Aircraft.
A long range strategic bomber, the B-52 entered service with the US military in the 1950s and became a frequent sight in the Cotswolds' skies during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, Operation Allied Force in 1999 and Operation Desert Storm in 1991 when they operated out of RAF Fairford. The first operational B-1B flew with the US Air Force in 1986 and provided the air arm with a long range bomber that was both fast and manoeuvrable. It was last seen at the Air Tattoo in 2009. The B-52H came from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and the B-1B from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.
More USAF Statics
The USAF's forces stationed in the UK were further represented in the static line-up by two F-15C Eagle fighters and an F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk. These potent aircraft have maintained a front-line USAF presence on British shores since the 1990s, and taken part in many overseas combat operations. Also from Lakenheath, there was a rare airshow appearance by an HH-60G Pave Hawk combat rescue helicopter, operated by the 56th Rescue Squadron.
RAF Mildenhall added to the static park a KC-135R Stratotanker air-to-air refuelling aircraft from the 351st Air Refuelling Squadron. The Boeing KC-135 has formed the backbone of the USAF's air-to-air refuelling force since the 1950s and was once a familiar sight at RAF Fairford when they were based at the Gloucestershire airfield on deployment. Joining them from the USAF 76th Airlift Squadron, part of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein, Germany, was a C-21A twin-turbofan transport.
As well as the flying display example, the US Air Force also sent to the static display a CV-22B Osprey, a unique tiltrotor machine capable of flying like both a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft, which has made it successful as a Special Forces transport. Also from the USAF on static display were two F-16C fighter jets; the MC-130J Commando II tactical transport and tanker aircraft, used to support Special Operations alongside the 'Osprey' and a C-17A Globemaster.
The F-35 made its international show debut at RIAT 2016
The 2016 Air Tattoo took a look into the future under the main theme "The Next Generation: Inspiring Innovation". Like the show at RAF Cosford, there was a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related initiatives, with participation from organisations involved in STEM as well as in air arms, aircraft operators, aerospace and technology companies. Another theme shared with the airshow at RAF Cosford was the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Air Cadet Organisation.
The full list of nations invited to participate was published very early in the 2016 season. RIAT was originally the only UK show to get the USAF F-22 Raptor until it became a very late addition to the Flying Legends airshow at Duxford. The F-22, which entered service in 2005, was last at RIAT in 2010. This year it was flown by Major Daniel 'Rock' Dickinson of the F-22 Demo Team.
|Flying Schedule (tap / hover over icon for more detail)|
|Airbus A400M (Airbus Defence & Space) (8th, 9th & 10th)|
| ||AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar (Italian Air Force) CANCELLED|
|Apache: (AAC Attack Helicopter Display Team)|
|Apache Demo Team (Royal Netherlands Air Force)|
|BAC Strikemaster Mk82A (NWMAS - Mark Petrie) (8th only)|
|BBMF Spitfire, Hurricane (8th, 9th & 10th)|
|Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey (USAF SOS) (8th, 9th, 10th)|
|Black Cats (Wildcat HMA.2 x2) (RN) (8th, 9th & 10th)|
|Bölkow Bo105P (German Army Aviation)|
|Dassault Rafale C (French Air Force)|
|Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 (RAF) (8th, 9th & 10th)|
|Eurofighter Typhoon F-2000 (Italian Air Force)|
||Eurofighter Typhoon (BAe Systems) (8th, 9th & 10th)|
||Eurofighter Typhoon F-2000 (Spanish Air Force) (9th & 10th)|
||Extra 330SC (Breitling SA) (9th & 10th)|
||F-16C Soloturk (Turkish Air Force) |
||F-16, Zeus Demo Team (Hellenic Air Force)
||F-16A MLU (Belgian Air Component)|
||F-16C 'Tiger' (Polish Air Force)|
||F/A-18 Super Hornet (US Navy) (9th & 10th)|
||F-22A Raptor (USAF)|
||F-35A (x2): Lockheed Martin F-35A (x2) (USAF)|
||F-35B (x2): Lockheed Martin F-35B (x2) (US Marine Corps)|
||F-35: Lockheed Martin F-35 (UK) (not yet confirmed by RIAT)|
||Frecce Tricolori (AT-339A x10) (Italian Air Force)|
||Hercules: Lockheed Martin KC-130J Hercules refueller (US Marines)|
||King Air Display Team (RAF) CANCELLED|
||MiG-29A (Polish Air Force)|
||MiG-29AS (Slovakian Air Force) CANCELLED|
||Orlik Team: PZL-130TC-2 Orlik x 8|
||P-51D Mustang (Heritage Flight) (8th, 9th & 10th)|
||Patrouille Swiss (F-5E Tiger II x6) (Swiss Air Force)
||Ramex Delta Team (AMD Mirage 2000N) (French Air Force)|
||Red Arrows (Hawk T1 x9) (RAF) (8th, 9th & 10th)|
||Royal Jordanian Falcons (Extra 300L x4)|
||Saab JAS 39C Gripen (Swedish Air Force Historic Flight)|
||Wings of Storm (6 Pilatus PC-9M) (Croatian Air Force)|
||Wingwalkers (9th & 10th) (3 flying. 4th static)|
|AgustaWestland AH-64D Apache (US Army)|
|Airbus A310 MRTT (German Air Force) CANCELLED|
|Airbus A330 Voyager tanker (RAF)|
|Airbus A400M (German Air Force)|
|Airbus (Eurocopter) EC-135P2 helicopter (German Navy)|
|Airbus KC-30A Tanker (Royal Australian Air Force)|
|Airbus Squirrel helicopter (RAF)|
|Antonov AN-26 (Hungarian Air Force) CANCELLED|
|Antonov AN-28B1R / M28 Bryza (Polish Navy)|
|Apache (Army Air Corps)|
|Avro Anson C.19 (BAE Systems)|
|Beech 18S (Carlo Ferrari)|
|Beechcraft King Air Avenger T1 (750 Naval Air Squadron)|
|Beechcraft King Air 350 SM (Textron Aviation)|
|Beechcraft AT-6B (Textron Aviation)|
|Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey |
|Blackburn B-2 (BAE Systems)|
|Boeing 757-22QC (Royal New Zealand Air Force)|
|Boeing Stearman (Breitling Wingwalkers) (1 static, 3 flying)|
|Bölkow Bo105P (German Army Aviation)|
|Bristol Scout (David Bremner)|
|Cessna 208 Grand Caravan (Textron Aviation)|
|Chinook CH-47 (RNAF)|
|C-130H Hercules (RNAF) CANCELLED|
|C-130J Hercules (RAF)|
|C-130H Hercules (Royal Jordanian Air Force)|
|C-130H Hercules (Belgian Air Component)|
|C-130E Hercules (Pakistan Air Force)|
|C-27J Spartan (Lithuanian Air Force)|
|C-295M (Royal Air Force of Oman)|
|CN235-100 Maritime Patrol (Irish Air Corps)|
|CP-140 Aurora (Royal Canadian Air Force)|
|Cessna 172N (Professional Flight Training)|
|De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk x8 (civilian)|
|De Havilland DH-60 Cirrus Moth (BAE Systems)|
|Dornier Do228 (German Navy)|
|Dornier Do228 (R Netherlands Coastguard)|
|Dassault Falcon DA20 ECM (Royal Norwegian Air Force)|
|Eurofighter Typhoon EF2000/T x3 (German Air Force)|
|Eurofighter Typhoon F2000 (Italian Air Force)|
|Eurofighter Typhoon EF2000 (Spanish Air Force)|
|Evektor-Aerotechnik C-42B Ikarus (microlight)(RAF Halton Flying Club)|
|Evektor-Aerotechnik EV97 Eurostar (RAF Halton Flying Club)|
|F-4E Phantom (x2) (Hellenic Air Force)|
|F-15C Eagle (US Air Forces Europe)|
|F-15E Eagle (US Air Forces Europe)|
|F-16AM (Belgian Air Force)|
|Falcon DA20 ECM (Royal Norwegian Air Force)|
|Grob Tutor (RAF)|
|Gulfstream G550 (Civilian VIP Transport)|
|Hawk T.1 (736 Naval Air Squadron)|
|Hawk T.1 (RAF)|
|Hawk T.2 (RAF)|
|Hawker Hunter F.58A (Hawker Hunter Aviation)|
|Hawker Sea Hurricane 1B (Shuttleworth Collection)|
|Jet Provost T5 XW324 (Jeff Bell / Jet Aerobatics)|
|KC -135R (US Air Force Special Operations)|
|KC-767J Tanker (Japan Air Self Defence Force)|
|KDC-10 (RNAF) CANCELLED|
|Lockheed P-3C Orion (German Navy)|
|MiG-29AS (Slovakian Air Force) CANCELLED|
|MiG-29AS/UBS (Slovakian Air Force) CANCELLED|
|Mil Mi-171 (Croatian Air Force)|
|North American OV-10B Bronco (Tony de Bruyn / Eureka Aviation)|
|P-8 Poseidon (US Navy)|
|Piper L-21B Super Cub (Belgian Air Component) CANCELLED|
|Saab JAS-39C/D Gripen (Hungarian Air Force) CANCELLED|
|Saab JAS-39D Gripen (Swedish Air Force)|
|Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1 (High G Ltd)|
|Shorts SC-7 Skyvan (Tony de Bruyn / Eureka Aviation)|
|Socata TB20 Trinidad (Bruno Stocker)|
|Supermarine Spitfire TR.9 (Boultbee Academy)|
|Textron AirLand Scorpion (Textron Aviation)|
|Tornado PA200 IDS/ECR x2 (German Air Force)|
|Tornado GR.4 x2 (RAF)|
|Transall C-160D (German Air Force)|
|Typhoon FGR.4 x2(RAF)|
|Vintage gliders (see text)|
As well as the Raptor, five F-35s from the USAF and US Marine Corps were at the show, one of only two airshows to get the F-35 in 2016, the other being the Farnborough International Airshow. Two USMC F-35Bs and one RAF F-35B were in the main F-35 flying display. The USAF also featured a Heritage Flight formation flypast comprising F-35A, F-22 and Mustang 'Miss Helen'. There was also a F-35 Lightning II on static in the southside operational area at some times over the three-day weekend.
The US Marine Corps added a great spectacle to the international début of the F-35B by demonstrating the new fighter's ability to refuel in mid-air. The Marines flew one of their KC-130J Hercules tankers in close formation with the F-35 to perform an air-to-air refuelling simulation during the F-35B's display.
The United States enhanced that already significant presence at this year's Air Tattoo by reprising the Bell-Boeing CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor provided by the 352nd Special Operations Wing based at RAF Mildenhall, following its flying debut in last year's show. The aircraft has the unique capability of being able to take-off vertically like a helicopter but fly at forward speeds associated with fixed-wing aircraft. One of the Ospreys was also in the static display, allowing visitors to get up close to these impressive aircraft.
The Swedish Air Force provided a Saab JAS 39C Gripen to the flying display and a 39D Gripen to the static park although the Hungarian Gripen, once scheduled, was cancelled. The Hellenic Air Force F-16C 'Zeus' demo team was another of the flying displays. Stars of the show, especially flying in and out either side of show days, were the Hellenic Air Force's pair of jets from the 1960s, McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantoms, which spent show days in the static display. This was Greece's biggest contingent of aircraft since 1998.
This was the only UK airshow where the Swiss Air Force Patrouille Suisse flew.
The RAF contingent included the Red Arrows, the Chinook and the Eurofighter Typhoon, all of which flew on all three days. The RAF static display had some trainers: a Squirrel helicopter and Hawks T1 and T2; front-line aircraft: two Tornado GR.4 ground attack aircraft, two Typhoon FGR.4 multirole fighter/bomber and the C-130J Hercules C.5 and a Voyager tanker. The RAF's newest type, the A400M Atlas, featured in the RAF Village and helped to showcase the modern Royal Air Force to the public. The Royal Navy was represented by the Black Cats helicopter display team.
The Dutch sent a large contingent of aircraft to the static display. A Royal Netherlands Air Force Boeing CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter and C-130 Hercules airlifter were joined by a Dornier 228 twin-turboprop patrol aircraft, which is flown in the colours of the Netherlands Coast Guard by air force and navy pilots. The distinctive three-engined KDC-10 transport/tanker jet had also been scheduled for the static line-up but has been withdrawn.
The French Air Force contributed two of the most spectacular fast jet displays in Europe, the solo Dassault Rafale C multi-role fighter and Ramex Delta team, comprising two Dassault Mirage 2000N strike aircraft. Seen for the first time in Britain at RIAT 2015, Ramex Delta presented a dynamic role demonstration of the delta-winged Mirage, consisting of various tactical manoeuvres representative of those used in combat.
The Dassault Rafale swing-role combat jet has been at the Tattoo several times. The display aircraft was a single-seat Rafale C stationed at Base Aérienne 113 Saint-Dizier. At the controls for the first time this year was a new display pilot, Capitaine 'Marty' Martinez.
The Italian Air Force provided the highlight for many in the close formations, solo exhibitions and smoke-flag streaming of the ten Aermacchi AT-339A (previously known as MB339 PAN) of the Frecce Tricolori. This is one of the last seasons for the AT-339A, which is due to be replaced as the Frecce's mount by the Aermacchi M-345 HET.
The Italian Air Force also introduced the AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar helicopter for its UK debut. The 'Caesar' is essentially the Italian's Merlin and is versatile enough to be configured for a variety of roles including combat search & rescue, special forces, medical evacuation and slow-moving intercept. The Italian's flying line-up was completed with a Eurofighter F-2000A Typhoon and a second was amongst the statics. The Spanish Air Force also sent a Typhoon for the static and flying displays.
Croatia was the 56th nation to display at RIAT when their Krila Oluje aerobatic team made its UK debut. The Krila Oluje (meaning 'Wings of Storm, celebrating a major Croatian military operation named 'Oluje', during the country's war of independence from the former Yugoslavia) fly six PC-9M in dynamic close-formation, opposition and solo elements. The team's support aircraft, a Mil Mi-171 transport helicopter, was on static display.
The Air Force from another east European country, Poland, was also represented in flying displays, displaying the MiG-29A and joining the Polish F-16C Tiger Demo Team and Team Orlik. The Slovakian Air Force was also to display a MiG-29AS, joined in the static park by a MiG-29AS/UBS and with a Slovakian Let L410 transporter in support, but their involvement in RIAT was cancelled.
The Belgian Air Component's long-time demonstration pilot Cdt Tom 'Gizmo' De Moortel displayed the extremely popular F-16 at the weekend. Belgium's fleet of 54 F-16s has benefited from 'Mid Life Upgrades', nevertheless their agility and popularity belie their 40 year pedigree. The extravagant 'Blizzard' paint scheme adds to its popularity, as witnessed by several trophy wins at previous Air Tattoos.
Belgium also sent a C-130H Hercules transport for the static display joined, for the first time at RIAT, by a veteran Piper L-21B Super Cub used as a glider tug to support the country's Air Cadets.
As part of official celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the Air Training Corps, the Royal International Air Tattoo 2016 featured a static display of vintage gliders used by the Air Cadet Organisation over the years. The oldest of them on show were the Slingsby Kirby Cadet, Slingsby Grasshopper and Slingsby Sedbergh, all employed by the ATC during the early post-war years. A later example is the Slingsby Venture, the first powered glider to be employed by the Air Cadets and current equipment was represented by examples of the Grob Viking glider and Grob Vigilant motorglider.