This year saw my fourth visit to the Royal International Air Tattoo where the static display had one of the most diverse line-ups in recent years with several aircraft rarely seen in the UK. The main theme of the show was “Securing the Skies – Past, Present and Future” which featured aircraft from all over the world including advanced fighters, helicopters and other support aircraft that keep out airspace secure. The “Past” element also came into its own in the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
The home team of the UK armed forces were well represented in the static park in regards to Securing the Skies. The Royal Air Force managed to provide a fantastic close look at their latest transport aircraft, the Airbus A400M Atlas C.1 which was making its static airshow debut. Other transport and support aircraft were also on display including an Airbus A330-243 Voyager KC.3 tanker, a Lockheed-Martin C-130J Hercules C.5 transport which will soon be replaced by the Atlas as well as a RAF Waddington based Boeing E-3D Sentry AEW.1 airborne warning and control system aircraft . Frontline fighters were well represented with a pair of Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4s which were both specially schemed to commemorate the 100th Anniversaries of No. 6 Squadron and XI(F) Squadron. More jet action was also provided by a pair of Panavia Tornado GR.4s from No. IX(B) and XV(R) Squadron both wearing special tail schemes depicting their 100th Anniversaries. Rotary elements were also featured including a Eurocopter AS350BB Squirrel HT.1 trainer and a Westland Puma HC Mk. 2 support helicopter.
The Empire Test Pilots’ School are regulars to the show and presented their Agusta-Westland AW109E Power, a BAe Hawk T.1 and Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A.
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm also had a great selection of their types on show such as their fixed-wing Beechcraft B350CER Avenger T.1. Helicopter fans were also well catered for with a pair of Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlins including a HM Mk. 2 and the new HC Mk. 3, recently acquired from the Royal Air Force. With the approaching retirement of the Westland Sea King it was great to have two of the Navy’s examples on display, the ASaC Mk. 7 Airbourne Surveillance and Control variant and a HC Mk. 4 commando assault helicopter.
The British Army were also on the ground with a trio of active types, the Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1, a Westland Gazelle AH Mk. 1 and a Britten-Norman BN-2T-4S Defender T.3.
The German armed forces are regular supporters of the show and often provide a number of types for the static display and this year being no exception. The German Navy provided a pair of fixed-wing types in the form of the Dornier Do-228NG and the Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft alongside a Westland Super Lynx Mk. 88A which is used for general maritime roles respectively. Another two rotary aircraft were provided by the German Army Aviation Corps with a civilian registered Eurocopter EC135 P2 used for training and a very striking Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm Bo 105P anti-tank helicopter.
Probably the most exciting participant in the static display was impressive Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft courtesy of the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force making its UK airshow debut alongside a second example which would participate in the flying displays. This four-jet aircraft was appropriately placed among a number of other maritime types.
Denmark also returned to the show with one of their Bombardier CL-604 Challenger from the Royal Danish Air Force which is used for surveillance roles and VIP transport.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force once again provided one of their Lockheed C-130H Hercules transporters.
We were also treated to no less than five different air-frames from the Royal Netherlands Air Force including a Dornier Do-228-212 from the Netherlands Coastguard. The soon to be retired McDonnell-Douglas KDC-10-30CF tanker was also present along with a Lockheed C-130H-30 Hercules transport aircraft. Rotary elements from the Netherlands were also on show including a Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter and a Boeing CH-47F Chinook transport helicopter.
The Polish Navy returned once again with a PZL M28B Bryza 1R used for maritime patrol and reconnaissance roles as well as a Mil Mi-14PL ‘Haze’ which is equipped for anti-submarine warfare.
Qatar also participated at the Air Tattoo with a Lockheed-Martin C-130J-30 Hercules from the Qatar Emiri Air Force.
The Slovenian Air Force provided an example of their Pilatus PC-9M Hudournik turboprop trainer in the static display as well as another for the flying display.
Spain made another welcome return to the show with one of their EADS-CASA C-295M transporters as well as the rare appearance of a pair of Northrop SF-5B Freedom Fighters which are used for fighter training.
A country which has thankfully returned in force to the Tattoo was the United States of America with a very diverse variety of different types. The United States Air Force provided the welcome return of a pair Fairchild-Republic A-10C Thunderbolt IIs used for close air support roles such as ground-attack. There was also a pair of McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle jet fighters including an F-15C single-seater and an F-15D two seater which were parked either side of a Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker. Some interesting aircraft types used for special operations were also on display featuring Lockheed-Martin MC-130J Commando II and the UK airshow debut of the Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey along with another example for the flying programme. The United States Navy also returned with the second consecutive visit by a Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime aircraft. The United States Army also made an appearance after a few years absence with a Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter and a Sikorsky UH-60+ Blackhawk tactical transport helicopter which is also used for medical evacuation.
Representing one of the earliest defenders of the skies over Britain was the Classic Air Force’s Gloster Meteor T.7 training variant appearing in place of their NF.11 night fighter.
The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain was also a major theme of the show with several aircraft in the static display representing types, squadrons and pilots involved in the battle.
The Royal Air Force had plenty of types on display including a Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 from No. 1(F) Squadron and sporting a small ‘wasp’ on the nose to represent a similarly marked Hurricane flown by Pilot Officer A. V. Clowes who fought during the Battle of Britain. There was also a large contingent of training aircraft including a pair of Grob G-115E Tutor T.1s from the Bristol University Air Squadron, a Shorts Tucano T.1, a Beechcraft B200GT King Air and a trio of BAe Hawks with a pair of T.1s and single T.2. There was also some rotary elements including a Bell 412EP Griffin HT.1 and a Westland Sea King HAR Mk. 3A search and rescue helicopter probably making its final appearance at the Air Tattoo before being withdrawn from service.
The Belgium Air Component were also in attendance with their Lockheed C-130H Hercules and Embraer ERJ-135LR transporters as well as one of their recently acquired NHIndustries NH90 TTH helicopters.
The Czech Air Force were also making a welcome return to the show after being absent for several years with an EADS-CASA C-295M transport aircraft and a Mil Mi-35 ‘Hind’ attack helicopter which was painted in a replica scheme of a Liberator GR Mk. VI flown by No. 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron of RAF Coastal Command during the Second World War.
The Italian Air Force were also back for another visit with one of their Alenia C-27J Spartan transport aircraft and a single standard schemed Panavia Tornado ECR and a pair of Eurofighter Typhoon F-2000A frontline jets.
The Polish Air Force were also present in the static park with an EADS-CASA C-295M transport aircraft and a Sukhoi Su-22UM3K ‘Fitter’ two-seat training version of this cold war jet.
A number of warbirds were also presented at various points of the static display including some replica aircraft depicting a Hurricane and two Spitfires. The Duxford based Historic Aircraft Collection bought over their Hawker Hurricane Mk. XIIA painted as ‘P3700’ which was part of No. 303 (Polish) Squadron and was abandoned by Sergeant Kazimierz Wunsche during combat with enemy aircraft over Beachy Head. The Hurricane was also joined by its hanger mate, the Supermarine Spitfire LF. VB and an LF. XVIE owned by Stephen Stead was positioned else were.
There was also a celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment which was an air unit based at RAF Cottesmore to perform training on the Panavia Tornado for the Royal Air Force, German Air Force and Italian Air Force which was represented in both the flying and static displays. The air arms involved each provided a Tornado (a GR.4 and two IDSs respectively) which had a special tail scheme applied to commemorate the anniversary. The Tornados from the UK, German and Italian Forces were presented with the impromptu RIAT CEO Award for their static presentation at the Air Tattoo.
The remaining aircraft dotted around the airfield were also impressive including a pair of light trainers from the Royal Air Force, a Grob G-103A Viking TX.1 and a Grob G-109B Vigilant T.1.
It was also great to see the Army Historic Aircraft Flight back on the airshow scene with their Agusta-Bell Sioux AH Mk. 1 and De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver AL Mk. 1.
Ireland were once again back at the show with a CASA/IPTN CN-235-100P from the Irish Air Corps.
The Swiss Air Force were also present and supplied a single Eurocopter AS332M1 Super Puma utility helicopter.
There was also a number of classic training aircraft including the BAC Jet Provost T.5 from Jet Aerobatics and a trio of Scottish Aviation Bulldog T.1s from the PitBull Formation. We also had the Bronco Demo Team’s North American-Rockwell OV-10B Bronco on static display which was parked between Invicta Aviation’s two Shorts SC.7 Skyvans. The Gazelle Squadron also returned to the show with a pair of Westland Gazelles with their HT Mk. 2 and HT Mk. 3.
A small number of warbirds were also present including Tracey Curtis-Taylor’s well-travelled Boeing-Stearman N2S-3 Kaydet, a Douglas DC-3A Dakota from the Super Constellation Flyers Association and a Sopwith Camel F.1 Replica.
Among the aircraft on display was two full scale models depicting the Royal Air Force’s current frontline fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 and the next generation of jet in the form of the Lockheed-Martin F-35B Lightning II.
There was a good selection of demonstrator aircraft operated by aviation corporations on display. Agusta-Westland provided an Agusta-Westland AW149 which was designed as medium lift military helicopter. British Airways sent one of only two Airbus A318-112s still in service with them. Boeing presented their answer for a Maritime Surveillance Aircraft in the form of the Boeing MSA whose design is based off of the Bombardier Challenger. Embraer showed off one of their more recent products with an Embraer EMB-500 Phenom 100 which is marketed as a very light jet for personal or business use. Grob Aircraft AG made their second consecutive visit with their advanced trainer, the Grob G-120TP. Textron Aviation made yet another large contribution with four of their aircraft including a Beechcraft AT-6B Wolverine used for weapons training or light attack, a Beechcraft G58 Baron ISR used in various intelligence gathering roles, a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX light transport and the second visit by the Textron AirLand Scorpion which is being marketed as an attack and reconnaissance aircraft.
General aviation was also featured in the static park with a number of light aircraft types including a Cessna 172N Skyhawk, Bruno Stocker’s Diamond DA42 Twin Star and Socata TB-20 Trinidad, an Ikarus C42 FB80 from Airbourne Aviation, an Evektor EV-97 Eurostar and Ikarus C42 FB80 Cyclone from the RAF Halton Microlight Club, a Piper PA-28R-201T Turbo Arrow III and a Tecnam P2002 JF Sierra.
This year’s static display at this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo was truly phenomenal with too many highlights to mention. The big of the United States Armed Forces was great to witness, especially the first appearance of the Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey and Fairchild-Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II. The gathering of Panavia Tornados to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment was also impressive along with the rare Northrop SF-5B Freedom Fighters from the Spanish Air Force. The biggest surprise and highlight was definitely the European debut of the Kawasaki P-1 from the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force. I hope the static display for 2016 is even greater in terms of the quantity and quality.
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