Heritage Flight - F-22A Raptor & P-51D Mustang
Royal International Air Tattoo 2017 Review
The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford attracted around 160,000 people over three days, with the airshow taking place on Friday 14th to Sunday 16th July 2017. Around 246 aircraft took part in the Air Tattoo, from 32 air arms, representing 26 nations.
This is a ticket-only event with the main flying displays on Saturday and Sunday which took place from 10am to around 6pm, and a smaller display on Friday which had a flying display from 11am to around 3pm.
There were plenty of activities on the ground including the Techno Zone
, RAF Village
, Vintage Village
and Activity Zone
. Three 'Service Stations' in the Red, Blue and Green Zones provided many amenities such as visitor information points, food & drink, cash points, toilets, free wifi as well as seating and shelter. There were also plenty of stalls selling a huge selection of gifts and souvenirs.
The main theme was the 70th anniversary of the US Air Force
as well as celebrating the 21st Century Partnerships that exist throughout the defence and aviation community.
Although the weather was good on Friday, it did deteriorate on Saturday, and as a result some of the flying displays were cancelled. Sunday's weather was mostly dry but the cloud was high enough for everything to display.
The 'US Air Force 70th Anniversary' was well represented with flypasts from the KC-135R Stratotanker
, C-130J-30 Hercules
, F-15C Eagles & F-15E Strike Eagles
and F-16C Fighting Falcons
. There were displays by the F-22A Raptor
which also took part in the Heritage Flight
with P-51D Mustang 'Frenesi'
, as well as a display by the B-17G Flying Fortress 'Sally B'
and P-51D Mustang 'Tall in the Saddle'
The F-22A Raptor pilot was Major Dan 'Rock' Dickinson of the US Air Force's 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia who 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'.
In the static park were a CV-22B Osprey
, B-52H Stratofortress
, C-17A Globemaster III
, KC-135R Stratotanker
, Lockheed U-2
, B-1B Lancer
, HH-60G Pave Hawk
as well as many other USAF aircraft such as F-15s and F-16s.
A surprise item on Sunday was the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
stealth bomber which was escorted by two USAF F-15C Eagles. The B-2 had been taking part in an epic 23-hour transatlantic 'Global Power' training flight from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Whiteman Air Force Base is the only permanent base for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and can launch combat sorties directly from Missouri to any part of the globe, engaging adversaries with nuclear or conventional weapon payloads.
There was also a welcome return by the US Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, The Thunderbirds
, in their distinctive F-16C Fighting Falcons. On Friday the Thunderbirds did a flypast in formation with the Red Arrows. The US Air Force Thunderbirds deployed across the Atlantic especially to appear in the 2017 event's USAF 70th anniversary tribute and they received the 'RIAT CEO Award' for an outstanding contribution to the show.
Several Display Teams took part in the flying display and apart from the Thunderbirds
in their six F-16C Fighting Falcons there were the Swiss Air Force Patrouille Suisse
with their six Northdrop F-5E Tiger IIs, the Finnish Air Force Midnight Hawks
with four BAe Hawk Mk51/51As, the Royal Jordanian Falcons
in their four Extra EA300Ls and the Red Arrows
in their nine BAe Hawk T1/T1As.
The USAF Thunderbirds last displayed at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in 2007, while the Patrouille Suisse displayed here last year. The Finnish Air Force Midnight Hawks get their name because of the Finnish Air Force Training Air Wings annual Midnight Summer Airshow which starts at around 7pm and lasts until midnight, when the sun is still up. The Midnight Hawks last appeared at RIAT in 2004. The Royal Jordanian Falcons regularly display at RIAT every year. In 1982, after the death of Douglas Bader, the legendary WW2 ace, the role of Air Tattoo Patron passed to King Hussein of Jordan. Following the death of King Hussein, in 1999, the role of Air Tattoo Patron passed to his son, HRH Prince Feisal.
The Red Arrows are global ambassadors who promote the best of British overseas. They are led by Red 1, Squadron Leader David Montenegro who is in his third and final year with the team. The Red Arrows made history last year when they performed a public display in China for the first time. This was part of the Red Arrows Asia-Pacific and Middle East Tour which supported UK interests across innovation, industry and business.
The air display featured plenty of fighter aircraft including the Turkish Air Force Soloturk
F-16C Fighting Falcon, Swedish Air Force Jas 39C Gripen
, Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4
, Italian Air Force A-200A Tornado
, French Air Force Couteau Delta
which included two Mirage 2000Ns, French Air Force Rafale C
, Czech Air Force Jas 39C Gripen
, Belgian Air Component F-16A MLU
Fighting Falcon, Spanish Air Force EF-18M Hornet
and the Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker
Capitaine Jean-Guillaume 'Marty' Martinez, the French Air Force Dassault Rafale C solo display pilot from Escadron de Transformation Rafale 3/4 'Aquitaine' at Saint-Dizier won the 'King Hussein Memorial Sword' for the best overall flying demonstration. The judges said it was 'a faultless, flowing and dynamic flying display'.
The RAF Typhoon FGR4 pilot, Flt Lt Ryan Lawton from No 29 (Reserve) Squadron at RAF Coningsby won the 'Steedman Display Sword' for the best flying demonstration by a UK participant.
The Czech Air Force Saab JAS 39C Gripen, flown by Capt Ivo Kardos from the 211th Tactical Squadron at Caslav won the 'RAFCTE Trophy' for the best flying demonstration by an overseas participant. It was judged to be a 'consistently well flown and accurate fast jet demonstration'.
The best overall flying demonstration as judged by members of the Friends of the Royal International Air Tattoo (FRIAT) was the Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker which was flown by Colonel Oleksander Oksanchenko of the 831st Guards Tactical Aviation Brigade, Ukrainian Air Force, from Myrhorod air base. He was awarded the 'As The Crow Flies trophy'. FRIAT members also voted for the 'best livery' which was awarded to the Italian Air Force Panavia A-200A Tornado of the air arm's Reparto Sperimentale Volo flight test centre.
The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight
(BBMF) are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. They were formed on the 11th July 1957 and their mission is 'To maintain the priceless artefacts of our national heritage in airworthy condition in order to commemorate those who have fallen in the service of this country, to promote the modern day Air Force and to inspire the future generations'.
The BBMF currently consists of six Spitfires, two Hurricane Mk 2Cs, a Lancaster as well as a C47 Dakota and two Chipmunk aircraft (used for training). At RIAT 2017 they displayed their Lancaster
(PA474) with a Hurricane
(LF363) and three Spitfires
(P7350, PS915 & TE311).
The Lancaster is one of only two remaining airworthy Lancasters in the World with the other one in Canada with the 'Canadian Wartime Heritage' at Hamilton in Ontario. The BBMF Lancaster has recently completed a major service and has been painted in a new scheme by the 'Aircraft Restoration Company' based at Duxford.
The port side represents Lancaster BIII W5005 'AR-L' "Leader" of 460 (Royal Australian Air Force) Squadron, with its nose art of a kangaroo in wellington boots playing bagpipes reflecting the mixed nationalities of the crew. The starboard side of PA474 wears the 50 Squadron code letters 'VN-T' representing Lancaster LL922 in which Flying Officer 'Dougy' Millikin (grandfather of the current OC BBMF, Andy 'Milli' Millikin) and his wireless operator John Tait flew 33 operations together.
Helicopters in the flying display included the Belgian Air Component Sea King Mk48
, Army Air Corps Apache AH1
and Royal Air Force Chinook HC4
The colourful Belgian Sea King is based at Koksijde Air Base and is dedicated to search and rescue operations. The AAC Apache AH1 display featured pyrotechnics which added much more to its display and finished with a huge wall of fire and smoke behind the hovering helicopter which made for a great photograph for those at crowd-centre. The RAF Chinook put on its usual impressive display which was accompanied by some enthusiastic commentary.
On Friday and Saturday, the Bell Boeing CV-22B Osprey
displayed. This is a multi-mission, tiltrotor military aircraft with both vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities. This United States Air Force aircraft is based at RAF Mildenhall with the 7th Special Operations Squadron (SOS). It combines the take-off and landing ability of a helicopter but also the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.
There were two military transport aircraft in the flying display and these were the Airbus A400M
and the Italian Air Force Leonardo C-27J Spartan
The A400M is a multi-national, four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed as a tactical airlifter with strategic capabilities to replace older transport aircraft, such as the Transall C-160 and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. In Royal Air Force service it is called the 'Atlas'. The C-27J Spartan military transport aircraft has two engines and is equipped with the engines and various other systems which are used on the larger Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules.
Trainer aircraft in the flying display included the Austrian Air Force Saab 105OE
, the Slovenian Air Force Pilatus PC-9M
, Italian Air Force Leonardo T-346A Master
and two Czech Air Force Aero L-159 ALCAs
The Saab 105 is a Swedish high-wing, twin-engine trainer aircraft developed in the early sixties. The 105O variant was delivered from 1970-72 and replaced the de Havilland Vampire and Saab 29 Tunnan. The Pilatus PC-9M is a single-engine, low-wing tandem-seat turboprop training aircraft manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. Slovenian operates nine PC-9M which were obtained in 1995 & 1998 and have been upgraded by RADOM Aviation in Israel. The T-346A master is an Italian military twin-engine transonic trainer aircraft and the L-159 ALCA is a light subsonic attack jet and advanced trainer produced in the Czech Republic by Aero Vodochody.
The Slovenian Air Force Pilatus PC-9M was flown by 1st Lt Andrej Fiorelli of the 152nd Fixed-Wing Squadron at Cerkjle ob Krki who was awarded the 'Sir Douglas Bader Trophy' for best individual flying display.
There was a good selection of interesting aircraft in the static display including the Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail
, Royal Canadian Air Force CH-147F Chinook
, Hellenic Air Force F-4E Phantoms
, Pakistan Air Force C-130E Hercules
, Ukranian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76MD
, Israeli Air Force C-130J Hercules
and Japanese Air Self Defense Force Boeing KC-767J
to name just a few.
The Royal Air Force are receiving a new training aircraft fleet and five of the new aircraft type were on the static display at RIAT. These included the Grob G120TP Prefect
, the Embraer 100 Phenom
the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II
, and two helicopters - Airbus H135 Juno
and H145 Jupiter
. It was the first time all five aircraft have appeared together in public.
The Royal International Air Tattoo is held in support of the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust which has had a significant and positive impact on the lives of many people. The money raised is used to support Royal Air Force personnel, both regular and reservists, and also to encourage young people to develop an interest in aviation and aerospace.
Thanks to the organisers for putting on such an excellent display this year, and the dates for next year's Royal International Air Tattoo are the 13th-15th July 2018
at RAF Fairford. Next year's RIAT theme will be the 'Celebration of the RAF's Centenary'.
Article and photographs by Dave Key - www.military-airshows.co.uk