Text: Bruno Ghils - Pictures: Bruno Ghils, Anthony Graulus, Jacques Vincent & Philippe Decock - Translation: Marc Arys
© sbap 2018
Royal International Air Tatoo : Happy Birthday RAF

One year after the anniversary of the U.S.Air Force, the organizers of the RIAT set the theme with the centenary of the great lady: The Royal Air Force. We wondered of course, what the organizers of the Tatoo could offer more for this commemoration. But we were quickly reassured by the announcements, scoops, previsions and programs in the preceding months. Walking through the RIAT gates, we knew we were about to attend a great show. While waiting going through the always serious and professional security check, you just had to scrutinize the horizon to see it was spangled with tails, wearing the red logo "RAF 100".
Just for the record, Saturday morning had a typical British fog disclosing only some silhouettes, but rapidly replaced by the shimmering colours as a sign : as a curtain-raiser for a great show !
This famous red logo, marked with the RAF roundel and number 100, found on most of the aircraft types actually in service with the Royal Air Force - from the Typhoon to the C-130, from the Puma to the Voyager, from the Juno HT1 to the new A400M Atlas - was the thread running through this event.
Entering the static display area, the mighty tail of the new Voyager KC2 welcomed us and nearby, the 2018 solo-display Typhoon FGR4. One have to emphasize on the fact that at Fairford, some of the display aircraft are parked close to the public area as to put you in the atmosphere right from the start. It is always pleasant to be welcomed by the Red Arrows line-up, giving immediately brightness to the show.
At Fairford, as at some rare airshows, one has to make a choice : visit the static display or move towards the flight line and find a decent spot to witness the flight displays under good conditions . At the RIAT flying starts continuously from 10.00AM till 6.00 PM. That is why it is vividly recommended to spend at least two days. Show is open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, without the "special formulas" allowing being present during the arrivals on Thursday and the departures on Monday... some people need to have a very conciliate spouse...
But let's talk about the show. This year, everything was made to remind us this important anniversary, starting of course with the static display offering a series of more than emblematical aircraft, from the eldest to the latest, starting with the aircraft of the renowned Shuttleworth Collection, like the Avro Tutor and the magnificent recently restored Spitfire LF.Vc (what would a British show be without a Spitfire in the static area ?). In the historical zone there was a Fury 1 (from the Historic Collection) and a BE2c (from the World War One Heritage Trust). Historical helicopters too. A Bristol Sycamore Mk52 (The Flying Bull), a Whirlwind HAR10, which we had loved seen flying, numerous training aircraft (Chipmunk, Buldog, Gnat, Tiger Moth, Jet Provost), transport aircraft (Pembroke C1, Avro Anson), fighter planes (Hunter, Meteor), to much to enumerate here.
At this relics' list, you have to add the contribution of the RAF, having dispatched an example of almost all the types in service : Typhoon, Hawk, Tornado, Puma, C-130J, A400 Atlas, Tucano, Boeing E-3ASentry, RC135 W Rivet Joint, Sentinel R1, C-17A, Tutor, as well as the new aircraft which will be the "face" of the RAF for many years to come : Juno HT1,Jupiter HT1, Prefect T1, Phenom 100, G120 TP (quinetic) , Pilatus PC 21 ( Quinetic). Just a F-35B was missing in the static area !


Besides the airplanes of the great lady, foreign participants were also present. An E-7A Wedgetail from the Royal Australian Air Force (wearing a centenary logo, but commemorating the centenary of the RAAF), a beautiful Canadian delegation (CC-130, CC- 177, CH-146, CF-188). Only the Royal New Zealand Air Force was missing to complete this Commonwealth panel.
Also worth mentioning was the presence of numerous friends from the Royal Air Force having come to honour this anniversary. This rich panel allowed us to see known as well as more exotic roundels such as Holland, France, Germany, Brazil, Ukraine, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lithuania, Norway, the Oman sultanate, Pakistan, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, the United States of America and good old Belgium.
As for the flying part... The Royal Air Force could not do more than organizing a superb flying display and besides the presentations of friendly air forces, the regular participants of European airshows, a big space was left for the one celebrating her 100th anniversary. On Friday, a big official fly-by was organized, but had to be cancelled due to the weather, but on Saturday and Sunday, the perfect weather (who said you have always bad weather in England ?) allowed the show to be flown as planned by the organizers.
To start with the anniversary of the RAF, a magnificent "Diamond Nine" of Typhoon FGR4, followed by the Lancaster of the BBMF, escorted by a Tornado GR4 and a F.35B Lightning (Former and future 617 Squadron). This fly-by was proceeded by a "full demo" of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (Lancaster, Dakota, 2 Hurricanes and 3 Spitfires) : not often seen all together.
A bit earlier in the program as our allied from over the Atlantic call it, an "Heritage Flight", usually made up of a F.35A and a P.51D Mustang. The centenary one being joined by a Spitfire Mk IX adorning a most beautiful "sand/ocher" camouflage scheme. A real delight! A display of two Vampires (T.55 and FB.6) from the Norwegian Air Force Historic Flight, repainted for the occasion in the colours of the RAF.
To this historical and official part, we have to add the displays of the RAF 2018 aircraft: solo-display of the Grob Tutor T.1, the Chinook HAC.2, the Typhoon FGR4, a short demo of a RAF F.35 B from the 617 Squadron, freshly arrived on the British soil and, of course, the magnificent Red Arrows Aerobatic Team, always much acclaimed by her Majesty's people... and others.
To celebrate this centenary, there was also a very important invited guest, and this star was without a doubt the CF-188 from the Royal Canadian Armed Force in the anniversary colours of NORAD. A real delight for the eyes and ears to celebrate the big complicity between Canada and the United Kingdom, Commonwealth oblige.
Before moving on to the rest of the demonstrations, we have to mention a surprise and a disappointment. First the surprise and only on Saturday, without warning and out of the program, a Northrop B-2 bomber escorted by two F-15E appeared out of the blue and made just one and only passage to share in this celebrations event. The disappointment was the cancelation of the flying display of a Romanian Air Force Mig 21. We would like to pay homage to the pilot, who lost his live a few days earlier, during an airshow in his homeland.
As usual, the program was incredible and so we could see two Rafale from the French Marine and the Rafale solo-display from the Armée de l'Air. The Finnish and Swiss F-18's, the Spanish "Patrulla Aguila", the Italian "Frecce Tricolori" of which the commentator surprised us with his enthusiasm and vivacity. On to the Turkish, Greek and Polish F-16's without forgetting the Belgian Dark Falcon. The Belgian A109 and Finnish NH90, the Swedish Saab Gripen, the Typhoon, T-346 Marter and C-27J Spqartan of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana, "Couteaux Delta" flying the Mirage 2000D and the always impressive Ukranian Sukhoi SU-27, and much more which you will discover through our pictures.
Once again a flying display as nowhere else: just a fantastic RIAT !
To conclude, what can we say more, than to impel most of you to go and go back to RIAT... Fairford is not that far away.
We have, and gladly do, thank and congratulate the organizers and the Royal Air Force for this most memorable show. Congratulate them also for their welcome, the quality of the program in flight as well as on the ground. Thanks to the International Air Tatoo Trust and once more: Happy Birthday to the Royal Air Force.
It is obvious that for most of the passionate, going back in 2019 is already earmarked in their agenda, this time to celebrate the 75th anniversary of NATO.
Let us hope that the members of the Treaty will release some "rarities" to celebrate this Organisation for peace.

Hawker Hunter F.58 (ZZ191) from Hawker Hunter Aviation Ltd. Former Swiss Air Force J-4058
 Bad weather @ Fairford: from Tornado to Typhoon! 40 years old and soon retired
Bell CH-146 Griffon from RCAF 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron A specially marked 6th Squadron Pakistan Air Force C-130H Hercules
Agusta Westland AW189 from Her Majesty's Coastguard A simple and effective logo
 Heritage flight Typhoon FGR4 Solo Display
 Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188A Solo Display Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi SU-27 Solo Display
 Polish Air Force F-16C Solo Display Some advertising for the dealer
 U.S. Air Force's F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning II 617 Squadron "Dambusters"
 Northrop B-2 Spirit fly past with two F-15E Strike Eagle The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight 100 anniversary formation
 From Switzerland the PC-7 team and the F/A-18 Solo Display The "Hornet" on landing
Belgian Air Force F-16AM Solo Display  The jewels of the RAF in the heart of the British People
 Preparing for the show I believe...I can fly...
Blue smoke...  ...and red smoke... The unique Red Arrows team
 US Navy Boeing E-6A Mercury (163918) from the VQ-3
 RAF Short Tucano T.1 old style Rockwell B-1B from 28 Bomber Wing Ellsworth AFB (South Dakota)
 Rafale M Polish Air Force F-16C Solo Display
Italian Air Force F-2000A from Reparto Sperimentale Volo Swedish Air Force Saab JAS 39C Gripen from Såtenäs Wing (F7)
Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188A Solo Display Belgian Air Force F-16AM Solo Display
 Norwegian Historic Squadron in golden years RAF colours Supermarine Spitfire Mk LFIXe (BBMF) 92 Squadron paint scheme
Patrula Aguila from the Spanish Air Force  Pull up!
 RAF 100 diamond nine formation Frecce Tricolori from the Italian Air Force
 Airbus Military A400M Atlas Spanish markings and RAF 100
  U.S. Air Force's F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning II 617 Squadron "Dambusters"
Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi SU-27 Solo Display SU-27 Landing but note the formation in the background
Reds and Blues  The "Tornado" pass
Belgian Air Force Dassault Aviation Falcon 900B...Will be shortly retired... A short visit of the Embraer KC-390
 Royal Canadian Armed Forces McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet...The grey display of the Sunday
Turkish Air Force F-16C Solo Display alias "Solo Turk"  Spledid formation landing for the Patrula Aguila
French Air Force Rafale Solo Display (RSD)..."Babouc" in action  Finnish Defense Force Airbus Helicopter NH-90 TTH
Perfect diamond formation executed by the Frecce Tricolori  Italian Air Force Alenia Aermacchi T-346A Master
U.S. Air Force's F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft photographer view for the next 50 years...
RAF Tutor T.1 display discreet but efficient Belgian Air Force A109BA Solo Display
Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning II...hidden facet of the Jump Jet Royal Canadian Armed Forces McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet
Rafale M n°6... French Navy Flotille 12F in action  "Couteau Delta"...The powerful beauty of the 2000D
 Airbus Military A400M...Flexible and massive Belgian Air Force F-16AM Solo Display
RAF Tonado GR4 a powerful weapon for 40 years RAF Boeing Chinook HC.2A display
Finnish Air Force F/A-18C Hornet Solo Display Typhoon FGR4 the flagship of the dashing centenary
BBMF  Douglas C-47A Skytrain 617 "Dambusters" Squadron tibute
 Red is red ! Simply upside down
 When sailors invade the mainland (French Navy Rafale M)
Airbus (A330 MRTT) Voyager KC.2 from 10 Squadron French NAvy Rafale M n°5...70 years 12F
Leonardo Aermacchi M-346FA, the Fighter Attack version of the "Master" Bristol 171 Sycamore HR52 preserved by the "Flying Bulls"
KLU Lockheed-MArtin F-16AM 322 "Parots" Squadron 75 years  Belgian Air Force  Embraer ERJ135 75 years 15th Wing
Hawker Hunter F.58 (ZZ190) former Swiss Air Force J-4066 Hawker Hunter F.58 (ZZ191) former Swiss Air Force J-4058
Gloster Meteor T.7 WA638 from Martin Backer (Ejection seat test aircraft) Slovenian Air Force Let 410 UVP from 152 Letalska eskadrilja
Face to face with the Italian Air Force...  ...the Swiss Air force...
 ...and the German Air Force Splendid paint scheme for the NORAD anniversary
Japan Air Self Defence Force Kawasaki C-2 Tactical transport in the rising sun fashion
Australian Air Force Boeing E-7A Wedgetail Royal Air Force Boeing RC-135V/W Rivet Joint from 51 Squadron
French Air Force Dassault Aviation Mirage 2000D from EC 3/3 "Ardennes"  USAF McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle from 48th Fighter Wing
Ukrainian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76MD The Sukhoi SU-27 and SU-27UB at take off back to Myrhorod Air Base
2018:  From Estonian simplicity... ...to the American high tech!
A conclusion and a future without a pilot...  Royal Air Force General Atomics MQ-9B Skyguardian UAV with 31 Squadron markings
Rendez-vous in 2019 for the NATO 75 years event... 

Reports Menu - Homepage