Text: As mentioned - Pictures: Serge Van Heertum, Anthony Graulus, Bruno Ghils, Philippe Decock & Jacques Vincent
Translation: Marc Arys   © sbap 2017

Royal International Air Tattoo… Once again, RIAT honoured its name: a Royal International Airshow.
Royal by the quality of the displays, Royal by its program and above all, Royal by the shared dreams. International by the number of participating countries, International by its encounters and human contacts, International by its diversity.
It is said that RIAT is the biggest airshow on earth; well this has become a certainty. You can visit magnificent shows on all continents, Australia, USA, Japan or even Russia, but no matter the qualities of these shows, never will you encounter so many represented countries, so many airplanes as different and exotic as well, so many demonstrations.
Where can you find that much airplanes? Take pictures of so many roundels and flags? Where can you see a Japanese aircraft hobnob with an Ukrainian? An Australian parked next to a Dutch or Belgian one? An Irish and a Greek, Austrian, Germans, Canadians and Slovenes among hundreds of other aircraft and helicopters? Where can you run into six C-130 on the same apron, an Israeli, a Pakistani, a Qatari, a Jordanian, an American and a Dutch?


Where to admire national display teams from Finland, Switzerland, Jordan, British and American at the same time? The Red Arrows and the Thunderbirds in the same show, is already not often seen, but to complement them with the Patrouille Suisse and the Midnight Hawks... is quite exceptional. Only the Patrouille de France and the Frecce Tricolori were missing and why not, one can always dream, the Japanese Blue Impulse or a Russian team to complete the picture. Let us not forget that some years ago, the Korean team displayed at the Tattoo... where everything is still possible!
And the European solo displays? Ukrainian Sukhoi SU-27, Belgian and Turkish F-16's, Spanish EF/A-18, French Rafale (which received a well-deserved award), the RAF Typhoon FGR.4, Swedish and Czech Gripen's, Italian Tonado and T-346 "Master", Austrian Saab 105OE, Slovenian PC-9M and our venerable Belgian Sea king, before retiring and vanishing forever out of the European skies.


Add to all this the French tactical displays on Mirage 2000D and Czech on Aero L-159 Alca. Where to picture USAF and warbirds aircraft at the same location: six F-15's, twelve F-16's, a KC-135, a stealth bomber B-2, two Mustang P-51D, a B-17G, a CV-22B, two U-2's, a B-1B, a B-52H, two C-17 and in fine two F-22 "Raptor"?
All at Fairford to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force and sign this fabulous stars and stripes show.
What is also interesting at the RIAT is the diversity of languages heard during conversations, English, French, Italian, Dutch, German, Hebrew, Arab, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian or Japanese.
This flavor some mix can only be found at Fairford, county of Gloucestershire in Great Britain. So if you are looking for this diversity you have to go imperatively to the Royal International Air Tattoo, the biggest military airshow on earth!
(By Bruno Ghils)

Click on the picture to make a walk in the static display

U.S.A.F. the past and the present (Based on USAF notes)
The Air Force is the youngest of all U.S. military services. Its birth date is September 18th, 1947. On that day, the National Security Act became law. Signed by President Harry Truman, it set up the National Military Establishment, which was renamed the Department of Defense (DOD) in 1949.
The DOD was divided into three equal branches. The former War Department became the Department of the Army. The Navy Department became the Department of the Navy, which included the Marine Corps. And a brand-new branch was created; the Department of the Air Force.
The head of the Department of Defense is a civilian, the secretary of defense. Each of the three branches is also headed by a civilian secretary. The first secretary of the Air Force was Stuart Symington, who had been an assistant secretary of war and who later became a U.S. senator from Missouri. The highest-ranking military officer in the Air Force is the chief of staff. The first chief of staff was General Carl "Tooey" Spaatz, a World War II veteran.
All American military forces are commanded by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). This group meets weekly in Washington, D.C. It includes a chairman and vice chairman, the Chiefs of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and Air Force. These six people advise the president in decisions about the military. The president is commander in chief of all the military forces.
The job of the United States Air Force (USAF) is to protect the United States from any threat by air and to defeat aggressors. Along with the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, the Air Force is pledged to preserve the peace and security of the United States and to defend it if necessary.
Air Force Headquarters is located in the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., as are the headquarters for all the military services. Headquarters sets policy, reviews programs, plans and budgets, and distributes resources to all Air Force units. It is the center of all Air Force activities.
The Air Force includes more than 500,000 servicemen and women on active duty. In addition, there are more than 250,000 men and women in the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard. The Air Force Reserve has its headquarters at Robins Air Force Base (AFB) in Georgia and has units all around the country. Its members are not on active duty, but they stay in training and can be called into service in an emergency. Some reserve units of the Air Force, as well as the Army and Navy, were activated during the war in the Persian Gulf in 1991.
For years, one of the main jobs of the Air Force and other services was to counter the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. But in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. At that time, the Air Force began a streamlining project.
Changes in technology have also changed the way the Air Force will operate in the future. "Global reach---global power" might be thought of as its new slogan. In this new "leaner, meaner" Air Force, these are the major commands:

AIR COMBAT COMMAND, Langley AFB, Virginia, is in charge of fighters and bombers.
AIR MOBILITY COMMAND, Scott AFB, Illinois, controls most of the tanker force and airlift planes.
AIR FORCE INTELLIGENCE COMMAND, Kelly AFB, San Antonio, Texas, combines intelligence operations, once scattered among other commands.
AIR FORCE MATERIAL COMMAND, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, makes sure that Air Force units everywhere have the supplies they need. It buys, stores, supplies, and transports anything the Air Force needs anywhere, including about 890,000 airplane parts.
AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND, Peterson AFB, Colorado, is in charge of Air Force space programs. It was created in 1982. The Space Command works with NASA on U.S. space projects, including the operation of the space shuttle. And it is responsible for early warning of an enemy air attack. It also keeps track of weather and communications satellites as well as "space junk," pieces of rockets or satellites left in orbit. The ICBM missles are under the Space Command.
AIR FORCE SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND, Hurlburt Field, Florida, has as its motto "Air Commandos--Quiet Professionals." Its mission is to organize, train, equip, and educate special operations units of the Air Force. This would such unconventional warfare as dealing with terrorism.
AIR TRAINING COMMAND, Randolph AFB, Texas, recruits and trains airmen and officers for the Air Force. Since it was created in 1943 during World War II, it has trained more than ten million people! Anyone who joins the Air Force will at some time be trained by this command. It provides, among other things, basic military and officer training (at Lackland AFB, Texas), reserve officer training, (headquarters Maxwell AFB, Alabama), and technical training in nearly 350 different fields at six centers in Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, and Texas. This command also runs a fifty-two-week pilot training program at five bases in Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas; navigator school at Mather AFB, California; and space training for specialists at Lowrt AFB, Colorado.
AIR UNIVERSITY, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, sees to the higher education of Air Force officers at various locations around the country. It may be thought of as the Air Force officers at various locations around the country. It may be thought of as the Air Force Academy's graduate school.
PACIFIC AIR FORCE, Hickam AFB, Hawaii, provides the U.S. Pacific Command with everything it needs for air combat.
UNITED STATES AIR FORCES IN EUROPE, Ramstein AFB, Germany, provides the U.S. European Command with what it needs for air combat.
The thirty-four Field Operating Agencies include such units as the Air Weather Service, the Civilian Personnel Management Center, and the Air Force Reserve. The three Direct Reporting Units are the Air Force District of Washington, the Air Force District of Washington, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, and the United States Air Force Academy.
The basic fighting unit of the Air Force has always been and continues to be, the "wing". A wing is stationed at one base and has one commander. Some wings operate only one kind of aircraft, such as fighters or bombers. Others are composite wings. They might have, for example, fighters, tankers, and special-mission aircraft. They are designed to get to trouble spots in a hurry anywhere in the world, which is another example of "global reach--global power."

After 70 years, the USAF remains the strongest worldwide Air Force involved in most of the current external conflict.
As it should be said, and by way of conclusion: Happy Birthday USAF.
(By Serge Van Heertum)

Click on the picture to watch the USAF 70 anniversary tribute

The airshow, which on both days started at about 10 AM lasting until 7 PM, gathered a great number of displays of all kind. All from an exceptional quality be it by rarity, mastery of the flight or the know-how of the pilots.
But the most noticed presence, beside the "USAF Tribute" was the presence from, at the last minute confirmed participation, of the powerful display of the Sukhoi SU-27, The SU-27 present at the RIAT were from the Ukrainian 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade, based at Mirgorod, a fighter base located in the region of Poltava in East-Ukraine. Today the 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade consists of three squadrons on SU-27, SU-27P and SU-27UB. Sadly since the conflict in Crimea, the exact number of operational aircraft is unknown.
The SU-27 and SU-27UB are equipped with air-to-air refueling probes for the long distances fighter operations. The UB version is a two-seat variant of this aircraft, but with the same combat capabilities as the single-seat aircraft.
Before the conflict in Crimea, this base hosted also MIG-29 Fulcrum, of which six were operational in 2014.
At the RIAT, the Ukrainian delegation was made up of a SU-27 and a SU-27UB, together with a supporting IL-76M. The last visit to a RIAT by an Ukrainian SU-27 goes back to 1996. The three pilots present in Great Britain were Colonel Oleksander Oksatchenko (the display pilot), Colonel Dmitry Fischer and Colonel Oleksander Mostovoy.
Colonel Oleksander Oksatchenko is the official Ukrainian SU-27 display pilot, for several years now, but the visit at the RIAT was a lengthily effort between the organizers and the Ukrainian delegation. Wing Commander Jonathan Nixon went to Mirgorod a few weeks before the Tattoo to validate personally the display. In the past, as we know, the Ukrainian airshow reputation was befouled by one of the biggest fatal airshow accidents, after Ramstein in 1988, when in 2002 at Lviv, a SU-27 crashed into the crowd killing tens of people. But this is the past, as by now the Ukrainian Air Force was redrafted and professionalized, with the pilots having acquired much more experience, especially during combat in 2014 and the Crimea conflict.
The Ukrainian headquarters dedicated two aircraft for the airshows, the "58" single-seater (display aircraft) and the "71" two-seater (static show) and were already present in Slovakia, Malta, Denmark and Czech Republic. Why not in Belgium? Who knows?
(By Anthony Graulus)

Click on the picture to discover all the display of the RIAT 2017 edition

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