Text & Pictures : Alexander Vandenbohede  -  © sbap 2012  

Iconic aircraft such as the B-2 Stealth bomber and MV22 helicopter-aircraft chameleon, crowd-pleasers such as the Vulcan and Red Arrows, a number of fast jet displays and the anticipated European debut of Korean’s Golden Eagle and UAE’s Al Fursan display teams created great expectations for this year’s edition.  The venue truly lived up to it and the 2012 Royal International Air Tattoo can be considered as one of the best of recent years. 39 air arms from 25 nations were represented at the event, resulting in 268 aircraft filling the almost 3 km long static park and the 8 hour flying display. Colombia, Japan and South Korea colored the Tattoo for the first time. Your SBAP reporter was present on the Gloucestershire airfield on Sunday and on Monday for the departures, spending an entertaining two days.


Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Skylift were the two main themes for the show. Obviously, RIAT was not able to get around the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II.  Center piece of the theme were 27 hawks repeating the spectacular EIIR flypast that flew over Windsor Castle in May. Other attractions included aircraft appropriately adorned or with a special Royal connection.


“Fighters make movies, transport and support aircraft keep operations running” summarizes the Skylift theme. Whether deployed tactically or strategically, the role of giant military transporters and heavy-lift helicopters in delivering troops and equipment quickly and safely is key to the success of combat, peace-keeping and humanitarian campaigns around the world.   A short, but impressive flypast of RAF skylifters and equivalents from a number of nations in the static park illustrated this very well.


Belgian Wings over Fairford

Belgian Air Component was well represented by its F-16 solo display, A-109 demo team and a number of static aircraft.

Mount of Cpt “Grat” Thys was not the usual demo-bird FA-84 but FA-121, recently decorated with a special tail to commemorate the 90th birthday of 1 Sqn. On Sunday however, FA-121 got a technical problem and the demo was flown with the spare, FA-83.  Although less colorful, the display was spirited as ever.
Both F-16s left on Monday heading back to Florennes.  
F-16s of Kleine Brogel were represented in the static park by tigerbird FA-87 and FA-86
Second Belgian demo was provided by the A-109 display team of Beauvechain. They flew their nicely decorated H-24.
H-44 acted as spare while H-33 was in the static park.  
15 Wing of Melsbroek was represented by C-130H Hercules CH-12
in the static park next to a number of other C-130s
OV-10B Bronco of Tony De Bruyn, based at Wevelgem, was part of the Cold War static park. Unfortunately, the Bronco crashed only days after the show, on Tuesday 10, at Cotswold. Pilot survived the crash although he became severely wounded. The aircraft was badly damaged
Fighters at RIAT
A number of excellent fighter displays made their mark in the Gloucestershire sky.
French solo display on Rafale came from ETR 02.092 ‘Acquitaine’ and was flown by Capt Michael Brocard.
Besides the Belgian Air Component, also the Royal Netherlands Air Force provided an F-16 solo display
It is a Farnborough year, so an F/A-18F Super Hornet should come over. The example is from VFA-122.
Saab brought over its multi-role Gripen jet fighter. Display was flown by Saab test pilot Fredrik Muchler.
MiG-29’s have become a rare sight in Europe so very happy to see a Polish example from 41 ELT based at Malbork.
Sheer power of its engines combined with one of the best-looking airframes stands for an awesome display
Inner tails of the two visiting Fulcrums was decorated with the faces of two Polish pilots, F/O Miroslaw Feric and W/Cdr Marian Pisarek,
who flew in the RAF during the second world war
And there is the home team of course. After an absence of one year, RAF provides again a Typhoon display.
Squadron Leader Scott Loughran of 6 Sqn is the lucky one to show the capabilities of RAF’s sole frontline fighter
Two RAF Tornados gave a demonstration of their capability in the close air support mission
Different fighters were also in the static park.
A very welcome sight was this German F-4E Phantom of JG 71
Two American F-15E’s of 494 FS, 48 FW, are among the regular guests
Belgium, The Netherlands and Norway contributed with F-16’s. Two of the three examples of  338 Sqn Royal Norwegian Air Force had smart Tiger markings
Hungarian Air Force sent a JAS-39D Gripen of 1 Sqn whereas this MiG-29UBS came from the Slovakian Air Force
French Navy was represented by this Super Etendard SEM of 17F RAF Typhoon FGR4 showed its nice tail art to commemorate 100 years of 3(F) Sqn
Germany participated with two specially painted Tiger Tornados, an IDS of AG51 and an ECR of JBG 32
Skylift 2012

Skylift 2012 was one of the major themes of this year’s RIAT. A large number of military transporters and heavy helicopters were present in the static park. A short but impressive fly past of RAF heavies presented the theme in the air.

A400M is the future transport capability for the RAF and many other European air arms. Days before the show, A400M was christened “Atlas” for use in the RAF
German Air Force contributed with its Airbus A310 This An-26 was support aircraft for the Hungarian JAS-39D Gripen
C-5B Galaxy of 439 AW was without doubt the largest machine in the static park Italian C-27J Spartan could only be seen in action
during the arrival and departure day
Two C-17s participated: one of the RAF and one of the USAF Reserve Air Command
C-130 transporters in a number of different versions were present: Brazilian Air Force C-130H/M, Colombian Air Force C-130H, Royal Danish Air Force C-130J-30
and Jordanian Air Force C-130H
Royal Norwegian Air Force C-130U-30 United Arab Emirates L-382G
Final C-130 came from the RAF A smaller C-160 was provided by the German Air Force
RAF Chinook HC2 showed the high versatility of this heavy helicopter Polish CN295M was support aircraft for the MiGs
And some heavy tankers: Airbus Voyager KC2 of 10 Sqn RAF KC-10A of 541 AMW USAF Air Mobility Command
two KC-135R of 459 ARW USAF Reserve Air Command and 157 ARW USAF Air Mobility Command
Italy and Japan brought each a Boeing 767 to the show: a KC767A of 14 Stormo and aKC-767J of 404 Hikotai
And two BAC VC10’s of RAF 101 Sqn finish this Skylift 2012 theme. Aircraft XR808 showed a special tail to commemorate 95 year of 101 Sqn and 50 years of VC10 flying

Display Teams

Al Fursan, The Knights,  of the United Arab Emirates  Air Force is a recently formed team using Alenia Aermacchi MB-339A trainer aircraft. The team first performed in Dubai last November to mark UAE’s 40th anniversary and RIAT formed the European debut. Although their routine is a bit sloppy and not yet up to standards of established teams, the nicely painted aircraft brought new color to Fairford’s skies
The Breitling Jet Team remains a rare bird on the airshow circuit: a civil seven aircraft jet team putting up a routine which can compete with the best military teams.
This year’s RIAT was no exception, always a pleasure to see them
After stunning the Waddington audience, Golden Eagle of Republic of Korea Air Force was one of the surprises of the RIAT for many people.
Their brand new T-50B trainers looked brilliant and they put up an entertaining show
T-50 was developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in response to the increased demands on future trainer aircraft to keep up with higher-performance military fighters. Participation at highly visible events such as RIAT, Waddington and Farnborough underlines the ambition to sell this trainer to foreign air arms
Patrouille de Suisse with their six F-5E’s are a regular sight at Fairford. Sunday display was special for team leader Capt. Marc ‘Zimi’ Zimmerli
who is leaving the team after nine years
And the home team, The Red Arrows, should of course not be forgotten  
Historic Aircraft
RIAT is most know for its modern day aircraft. However, a number of interesting warbirds and other historic aircraft are featured each year
in the flying display and in the static park
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is a yearly, but most welcome sight in the sky above Fairford.
This year, Avro Lancaster and Spitfires MkIIa and MkVb performed in the flying display
Sea Furry T20 represented the Royal Navy Historic Flight
and the rich history of the Royal Navy
Also a Sea Harrier was present in the static park. It is still strange to think in terms of  “warbirds” seeing this aircraft which was in frontline service until 2008
De Havilland Dragon Rapide 6 of Air Atlantique Ltd Breitling’s DC-3
Chipmunk T10 of Henlow Chimunk Grp... ...and Avro Anson T21 of Classic Aircraft Trust are seen here in action during the departure day
And what would an airshow be without some classic British Jets:
BAC Jet Provost T3A of Neil McCarthy, BAC Strikemaster Mk80 of John Rowley,
Hawker Hunter T7A also of Neil McCarthy and Meteor T7 of Classic Aircraft Trust
But the head turner of every flying display is without doubt the Vulcan B2. XH558 The Spirit Of Great Britain keeps on trilling people with a very dynamic display
Bombers, trainers, helicopters and other flying machines
B-2A Spirit of New York of USAF Global Strike Command’s 509 BW Grim Reapers got lots of attention in the static park.
It made B-52H of USAF Reserve Air Command’s 307 BW looked a bit lost
Flown for the first time out of Russia was this Yak-130 Mitten of the Irkut Corporation. It is the next generation trainer for the Russian and potentially other Air Forces
One of the anticipated highlights MV-22B Osprey of the US Marine Corps. The aircraft comes from VMM-264
Time for some maritime patrol aircraft: French Navy Atlantique ATL2 of 21F PZL-28B of the Polish Navy
P-3C of MFG3 German Navy US Navy P-3C of VP-30
Two special mission C-130s of USAF Special Operations Command, an MC-130P  and an MC-130H
Two basic RAF trainers featured in the flying display:
Grob Tutor 115E of 16 (R) Sqn
ant Short Tucano T1 of 72 (R) Sqn
Besides the Hawk solo display, a number of other BAE Hawk T1, T1A and T2 examples were in the static park. 100 Sqn XX318 aircraft showed 95 years anniversary markings and the aircraft was painted to represent Lancaster EE139 ‘Phantom of the Ruhr’. 30 bombing mission markings under the cockpit canopy mark the 30 missions this Lancaster completed during its time with 100 Squadron
An unusual participant to the RIAT was DHL with two Boeing-757s. One gave a very enjoyable display in the flying program
BAE 146ARA is a atmospheric research aircraft of FAAM Do-228MR of MFG3, German Navy, is a pollution control patrol aircraft.
Surprisingly, no British AWACS but a NAVO example was in the static park A glimpse of things to come for RAF’s SIGING and ELINT future, an RC-135V Rivet Joint of USAF Air Combat Command
Two very colorful helicopters in the static park: Sea King Mk41 of the German Navy Mi-14PL of the Polish Navy
Apache AH1 of the Army Air Corps was in the flying display whereas HH-60G Pavehawk of USAFE could be admired in the static park


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