The Royal International Air Tattoo is indeed one of the largest shows in the world and although budget cuts and segregation meant that one of the shows high points, the static display was somewhat smaller than previous years it had a wide variety of items. The show’s operational theme for this year was SkyGuardian which explores the part that aviation plays in protecting and supporting communities on the ground. Although these aircraft are often unseen, their work is vital and is undertaken by civilian and military aircraft alike in jobs such as policing and fire fighting to coastal patrols and airborne interception.
This review of the static display will cover the aircraft featured in the SkyGuardian theme first.
There was a large selection of fast jets present that represented the theme. The Royal Air Force and Italian Air Force provided a combined total of seven Eurofighter Typhoons which featured a pair of F-2000As from Italy and five FGR.4s which represented five of the six squadrons that the fly this impressive fighter as well as a further example in the BAe Systems village. France provided a pair of rarely seen aircraft in the form of two Dassault Mirage F.1CR reconnaissance jets from the French Air Force which will soon be retired. The Royal Netherlands Air Force also provided a pair of Lockheed-Martin F-16AM Fighting Falcons with one them being painted to commemorate the 65th Anniversary of 323 Squadron. Concluding the static fast jet line up was the Swedish Air Force with a two-seat SAAB JAS-39D Gripen.
There was also a large number of transportation and other utility fixed wing aircraft. There was three different variants of the CASA/IPTN CN-235 including a CN-235M-100P maritime patrol aircraft from the Irish Air Corps, a C-295M from the Finnish Air Force and a debut appearance by a C-295MPA Persuader from the Portuguese Air Force. A pair of Embraer ERJ-145 variants were also part of the static display including an R-99B from the Brazilian Air Force and an EMB-145H of the Hellenic Air Force. There was also a pair of Dornier Do-228s from the German Navy and the Royal Netherlands Coastguard. Several other individual aircraft were also present including an Army Air Corps Britten-Norman BN-2T-4S Defender T.3, the debut of the Estonian Air Force with an Antonov An-2T ‘Colt’, a Bombardier CL-604 Challenger from the Royal Danish Air Force, a Lockheed P-3C Orion of the German Navy and the McDonnell-Douglas KDC-10-30CF from the Royal Netherlands Air Force as well as a privately owned Partenavia P.68 Observer.
There were also a lot of rotary types in the static displays that encompassed the SkyGuardian theme. The Royal Air Force provided a Westland Sea King HAR Mk. 3A which if not the most famous helicopter in the world is certainly the most famous search and rescue helicopter. The Royal Navy also provided a Westland Lynx HMA.8DSP which will soon be retired and replaced by the Wildcat. Another debutant was a NHIndustries NH90 TTH from the Finnish Army which was also present in the flying display. The German Navy also provided a pair of helicopters with a Westland Sea King Mk. 41 and a Westland Super Lynx Mk. 88A. A more offensive helicopter in the form of a Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow from the Royal Netherlands Air Force was also in the static park. There was also a civilian rotary element in the static display with a Eurocopter EC145 C2 from the Devon and Cornwall Police Air Operations Unit.
Now the review will cover the rest of the aircraft present in the static display.
First up is the Royal Air Force, A soon to be retired and replaced type present was a Panavia Tornado GR.4 which is used for ground attack roles. Rotary types weren’t going to be outdone with the inclusion of four different types as well as a full scale model of a Boeing Chinook. The biggest of the helicopters on display was the Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin HC Mk. 3 which is used to carry either troops or heavy cargo. On the smaller end of the size scale was a pair of helicopter trainers, the Bell 412EP Griffin HT.1 and Eurocopter AS350BB Squirrel HT.1. The oldest of them was a Vickers VC-10 K.3 which will be retired very soon. There was also a recent acquisition, the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III which is used as tactical airlifter. There was also the future of transport and tanker operations in the form of the Airbus A330 Voyager KC.3, which will provide these services for the next thirty years. Training aircraft were not going to be left out with a pair of Grob G-103A Viking TX.1 and a Grob G-109B Vigilant T.1 which provide air experience training for Air Cadets. There were also examples of advanced training aircraft including a Beechcraft B200BT King Air for air-observer and multi-engine training and the BAe Hawk T.2 to train the next generation of fast jet pilots which is currently replacing the BAe Hawk T.1A in Royal Air Force service.
BAe Systems also presented some Royal Air Force aircraft from the past and present. There was a Panavia Tornado GR.4 and a Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 which represented modern day frontline jets. There was also a seldom seen BAe Jetstream 31, with this example having been previously used as a test bed for the ASTRAEA (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment) programme. Aircraft that were used in the past were represented by a Hawker Hunter T.7, a Supermarine Spitfire Mk. I Replica and a Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe Replica.
The Empire Test Pilots’ School also made an appearance with a trio of their varied fleet of aircraft used in their day to day tasks. Their sole rotary item was an Agusta-Westland AW109E Power Elite which was joined by an Avro RJ100 and a Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A.
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm was also present with two of their rotary items used for a variety of roles. There was an Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin HM Mk. 1 which is used for anti-submarine and surface warfare. The future multirole helicopters were also present with the Agusta-Westland AW159 Wildcat HMA.2 which is a maritime attack variant and were received by the Royal Navy in January 2013 and will be on operations in 2015.
Belgium sent a singular static item in the form of an Embraer ERJ-135LR which is used as a light transport for the Belgian Air Component.
The French Air Force also had a rotary addition in the form of a Eurocopter AS555AN Fennec which is used as a utility and training helicopter. French Army Light Aviation also contributed some more rotary items including an Aerospatiale AS330B Puma and an Aerospatiale SA342M Gazelle which are used for transport and reconnaissance respectively.
The German Air Force returned with an Airbus A310-304 MRTT which they use as a strategic transport which was joined by a pair of Panavia Tornado ECRs which are used in electronic warfare. The “Arctic Tiger” schemed Tornado was also awarded the Best Livery Award for having the best paint scheme at the show.
The Hungarian Air Force sent over one of their Antonov An-26 ‘Curl’ tactical transport aircraft which are soon due to be replaced by other types between 2014 and 2015.
Poland provided two aircraft in the static park including the SkyGuardian, EADS CASA C-295M used in tactical transport from the Polish Air Force. The Polish Navy also contributed with a PZL M28B Bryza 1R which is used as utility aircraft as well as maritime patrol duties.
The Royal Air Force of Oman once again sent one of their Gulfstream G-IV which is used typically as a business jet and other utility tasks.
The Royal Danish Air Force also returned to the show with an Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin Mk. 512 SAR used for search and rescue duties.
The Jordanians are probably the biggest supporters of the show in all its history and this year supplied a Lockheed C-130H Hercules from the Royal Jordanian Air Force
The Royal Netherlands Air Force also provided a large transport type in the form of a Lockheed C-130H-30 Hercules.
The Swiss Air Force also provided a rotary item, the Eurocopter AS332M1 Super Puma which is used as a medium lift transport.
This year’s Air Tattoo did suffer some severe cut backs in the static park due to the sequestration of the United States military forces. But there was a healthy amount of civilian owned types, warbirds and classic jets although this may not be to everyone’s taste.
The biggest star of the classic jet segment was the newly restored English Electric Canberra PR.9 from the Midair Squadron which only flew for the first time in several years’ since its retirement from Royal Air Force service mere days before the show. She will hopefully be displaying in the future and will also be joined by a pair of Hawker Hunter T.7s at some stage. The Classic Air Force also made an appearance with their Gloster Meteor NF.11 for the static display whilst the T.7 variant performed in the flying programme. Former training types were represented by The Gnat Display Team with a pair of Folland Gnat T.1s as well as a pair of BAC Jet Provosts including Jet Aerobatic’s T.5 and Hollytree Management Ltd’s T.52. A new team to the display circuit in 2013 were also present in the static park in the form of the Red Star Rebels who fly a pair of jet back Aero L-29 Delfins.
There were also some classic rotary types courtesy of the Huey Flight Team with their duo of a Bell UH-1H Iroquois and a Hughes OH-6A Cayuse which sat among some of the other helicopters.
Warbirds on the static display were represented by a sole example of an American classic which is of course, the Boeing-Stearman N2S-3 Kaydet which is owned by Tracey Curtis-Taylor who was soon to embark on an epic journey in honour of aviatrix, Mary Lady Health. This journey will is between Cape Town and Goodwood, covering almost 10,000 miles.
There were also multiple civilian owned general aviation types in the static park which included trainers, microlights, touring aircraft and even small airliners and transporters. The biggest of these types on the static display was the Lockheed L-1049F Super Constellation which is operated by the Super Constellation Flyers Association and sponsored by Breitling. Another pair of larger aircraft present was an Alenia MC-27J Pretorian from Alenia-Aermacchi and a Dornier Do-228NG from RUAG. Although not to everyone’s taste there was a number of general aviation types in the static display including an Auster J/1N Alpha, a Diamond DA-42 Twin Star, an Eclipse EA-500, a pair of Evektor RV-97 Eurostars, an Extra EA-400, a pair of Ikarus C42 FB80s, a Piper PA-28-151 Cherokee Warrior, a Piper PA-28R-201T Turbo Arrow III, a Raj Hamsa XAir Hawk and a Rans S6-ES Coyote.
Despite the static display being considerable thinner due to budget cuts but did contain a few highlights including the Estonian Air Force’s Antonov An-2T ‘Colt’, the pair of French Air Force’s Dassault Mirage F.1CRs, the German Air Force’s pair of Panavia Tornado ECRs, the Portuguese Air Force’s EADS CASA C-295MPA Persuader, the Royal Air Force’s Vickers VC-10 K.3, the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s McDonnell Douglas KDC-10-30CF, the Lockheed L-1049F Super Constellation and the Midair Squadron’s English Electric Canberra PR.9.
Hopefully the static line up will improve in future years but this year did have some very interesting types present and was thoroughly enjoyable to walk around.
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