report by: Mike Danks & Anthony Dufour
Selected by the Royal Air Force as the global celebration of RAF100, RIAT’s organisers brought together some 300 or so aircraft, 121 of them in the flying display alone, from 43 air arms representing 30 nations. With the show being held in support of the hugely impactful Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, it is a superb chance to see not only the past, present and future of aviation. The ground displays were supported by one of the biggest ‘shows of force’ from the RAF in recent years with no less than 26 aircraft on static.
The RAF100 theme saw a collection of aeroplanes operated by the RAF over the past century gather on the airfield. 51 Squadron’s RC-135W Air Seekers was in fact making the types first static display since entering service. Another piece of choice , in the static display ; was the Hunter F58a wearing a newly applied white, grey and black multi-scale camouflage scheme and carrying a drill AIM-9L Sidewinder.
With Farnborough 2018 immediately following RIAT 18, we got the Kawasaki C-2 comming fromthe 403nd Tactical Airlift Squadron of the 3rd Tactical Airlift Group from JASDF Miho. Embraer sent a KC-390 that took part to the flying display. Another first was the NATO’s Hungarian based C-17s that make up the multinational initiative NATO Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) at Pápa Air Base. It’s been ten years since the RCAF’s CF-18 demonstration has reached these shores, and wearing its striking NORAD anniversary scheme the Canadian participation really felt like a nation digging deep to support the RAF’s 100th birthday.
More welcome returns to the static came from the US Navy who provided an E-6B Mercury and P-8A Poseidon. We had the pleasure to see again the E-7A Wedgetail from the Royal Australian Air Force. A lone Swedish Gripen and two Italian F-2000As werealso added to the fast jet static display. The C-130 Hercules examples were in abundance in the static, with the air forces of Austria, Denmark, Jordan, Poland, Pakistan and Oman each sending a single example of the world famous transport Aircraft. Slovenian AF and Irish Air corps provided their PC-9Ms. The Royal Canadian Airforce CC-177 and CH-147 were also highly apreciated .
The German Air Force showed a single C-160D provided by LTG-61, with two Tornado IDS of TLG33 and a lone EF-2000 Typhoon from TLG7. The NATO F-16 delegation was provided by Belgian Airforce, Royal Danish Airforce , Royal Norwegian AF and KLU. For many fans, one of the other stars of this show was the Estonian Air Force An-2 Colt. It is so sad to learn that this famous plane is so close to it’s end of operational life. The static park had to suffer its fair share of unfortunate cancellations; the Polish Su-22 did not make it, neither did the USAF B-52H, or indeed the Romanian C-27J.
The Friday of the show was to be the main day of celebrations at Fairford with a mass flypast of more than 50 aircraft following on from a Royal Review and a parade by the Queen’s Colour Squadron.But due to a very bad weather over the entire south of UK, the final decision was made to cancel all the flightpass. A subtantial consolation was the sight of a ‘Diamond 9’ from the RAF’s Typhoon Force out of RAF Coningsby followed by the Lancaster of the BBMF, escorted by a Tornado GR4 and a F.35B Lightning (Former and future 617 Squadron). The Belgians with Dark Falcon, the Polish with their Tiger Demo, the Turkish with Solotürk and the Greeks with Team Zeus ; were the members of the F-16 flying team. Couteau Delta with their Mirage 2000Ds, the French Air Force Solo Rafale C, a pair of Rafale M’s from the French Navy were the brilliant representative of the French Armed Forces.
The Ukrainian Air Force making another return to Fairford . a two-seater SU-27UB Flanker from the 831st Guards Tactical Aviation Brigade, based display at Myrhorod Air Base in central Ukraine found its way into the static. It was joined by an Ilyushin Il-76MD. Flown once more by Colonel Oleksander Oksanchenko, the Ukrainian Air Force SU-27 flying displays was conducted with some kind of routine. This routine was broken by an anxious moment during the Friday of the show that saw the jet end up somewhat lower than I think most expected. The United States Air Force Heritage Flight was jinxed yet again with the Friday seeing the F-35A of the 56th Fighter Squadron at Luke AFB. Saturday and Sunday, a new page of RIAT history was made with a Spitfire joining the fifth-generation jet and the usual P-51D.
The outstanding effort from the Air Tattoo team, both volunteers and permanent staff, who were behind the show should must be one more time emphasized. We are sure that our reporters are from now, ready to be present next year; for a new great édition of the Royal International Air Tattoo.