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  Royal International Air Tattoo - RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, July 18, 2015

 


Comment -
RIAT 2015 saw a return to form for what is now the UK’s only real major military airshow. Building on a stronger 2014, there were numerous debuts, coups and highlights. Fast jets were well served, solo displays including a Finnish Air Force F-18C, Polish MiG-29A Fulcrum and the RIAT debut for the Greek F-16C Block 52 demo team 'Zeus,' who painted their display aircraft in a very attractive scheme specially for the show. The French Air Force Ramex Delta team also debuted with a pair of Dassault Mirage 2000N, which put on a very powerful and eardrum shattering routine.

However, the noise was not all blasted from frontline afterburner cans, although one could have been forgiven for thinking that Kev Rumens, Saturday’s Vulcan pilot, had decided he was flying an F-16. As XH558 reached take off speed, Kev pulled her off in an almost 90 degree bank and turn which left my jaw hanging on the ground for the remainder of what was the best and most powerful Vulcan routine ever seen since the machine’s return to flight. The later flypast with the Red Arrows was mere icing on the cake!

A major coup for the show was the attendance by a pair of Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft, one of which put in a spirited display during the flying program. The deployment also marked the first time any pilot or aircraft from the JMSDF had flown in the UK since 1927 as well as being the first time a JMSDF machine had crossed the Atlantic. It was no accident that the visit came at a time when the MoD was considering how to plug the maritime patrol capability gap left by the cancellation of the Nimrod MR4 project. However, the low-key appearance of a Boeing P-8A Poseidon in the static truly heralded the future, with an announcement of the procurement of this type for the RAF having since been made.

Other debutants included a USAF CV-22B Osprey, which ably showed off the capabilities of this machine, and the RAF’s own Hawk T2 role demo display. A personal highlight was also the dynamic routine flown by a Czech Mil Mi 24V, this ex-Eastern Bloc gunship certainly having given a lot of food for thought for anyone who would have faced it on the battlefield, if the Cold War hard ever got hot.

With the RAF’s Tornado role demo now a distant memory, it was welcome to see three of the swing-wing beasts in the flying program, celebrating the Tri-National Tornado Training Establishment (TTTE). The TTTE, based at RAF Cottesmore, trained 3,400 crew members, using aircraft from the 3 partner nations (Germany, Italy and the UK), between 1980 and 1999.

2015 also saw the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and a tribute, involving 18 warbirds, was flown during the display. This included Bf109G-4 D-FWME, an ex-Spanish Air Force Hispano Buchon since re-engined with a Daimler-Benz DB605A, allowing us to enjoy the sight and sound of a more accurate representation of the most numerously built fighter from the Second World War.

To sum up, RIAT 2015 was a belter of a show and, with the F-35 and F-22 already announced for 2016, I look forward to seeing what else is in store for the next instalment.

back to airshow photographs from 2015