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Royal International Air Tattoo 2016
 
Mirage 2000N - 353/125-AM - EC 02.004 - French Air Force   CV-22B Osprey - 08-0064 - 7 Special Operations Squadron - United States Air Forces in Europe   Mirage 2000N - 353/125-AM - EC 02.004 - French Air Force   F-35A Lightning - 12-5052/LF - 61 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force
 
PZL130 Orlik - 048 - 1. OSzL - Polish Air Force   A400 - 54+03 - Lufttransportgeschwader 63 - German Air Force   KC-767J - 07-3064 - 404 Hikotai - Japan Air Self-Defense Force   C-130E Hercules - 64144 - 11 Squadron - Pakistan Air Force
 
F-35A - 12-5042/LF - 61 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force

Royal International Air Tattoo 2016


Report and photos by Stuart Freer

For most aviation enthusiast’s the Royal International Air Tattoo is the highlight of there calendar year. With an announcement in early January from Lockheed-Martin that the F-35 Lightning II would finally make its debut at an airshow outside of the United States. Many will of course remember that this was scheduled to happen back in 2014, but was cancelled due to a fire reported on board an F-35A at Eglin AFB while taxiing causing the grounding of the entire fleet, this therefore stopped the aircraft from participating at the show that year.

Lockheed-Martin planned to bring both the F-35A and B-models to the U.K to demonstrate in front of the British public and aviation history was made on the evening of the 29th June when the first F-35B for the Royal Air Force piloted by Squadron Leader Hugh Nichols touched-down on British soil at RAF Fairford, it was accompanied by two more F-35B’s from VMFAT-501 based at MCAS Beaufort. The following evening saw three more F-35s make the transatlantic crossing to RAF Fairford, this time it was the A-model from the United States Air Force from 56th Fighter Wing based at Luke AFB, bring a total of 6 F-35’s attending the airshow.

One of the themes for this years show was “The next Generation” & the theme certainly lived up to it’s billing, the sight of so many fifth-generation aircraft on the ground at the show was something to behold, and the variety and volume of displays over the weekend was much appreciated by the sell out crowd, one of the best flying display in years.

The static display, yes the size is considerably down on previous years but there was still an outstanding international participation, the undoubted stars for the enthusiasts were a pair of McDonnell Douglas F-4E(AUP) Phantom II’s from the Hellenic Air Force from 339 Mira based at Andravida AB. The charismatic F-4 is now a rare sight with only the Greeks & the Turkish operating the type in Europe, so were very welcome to see. Moving onto larger types in the static. The Japanese Air Defence Force attended again, a few year’s ago the enthusiast could only dream of this air arm attending but are now becoming regulars at the show with there Boeing KC-767J tanker aircraft.

Another returning air arm that hasn't been seen for a number of years was the Royal Australian Air Force with there tanker the Airbus DS A330MRTT KC-30, completing the line-up of aerial refuelling aircraft was a recently delivered Airbus DS A330MRTT Voyager KC2 fro the Royal Air Force from nearby RAF Brize Norton. Another welcome return after a ten year hiatus were the Pakistani Air Force with a Lockheed C-130H again in a very striking colour scheme.
 
C-130E Hercules - 64144 - 11 Squadron - Pakistan Air Force   CN-235 - 903 - 4 Squadron - Royal Air Force of Oman   F-15C Eagle/Strike Eagle - 86-0176/LN - 493 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Forces in Europe   F-15C Eagle/Strike Eagle - 91-0605/LN - 493 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Forces in Europe
 
F-16 Fighting Falcon - FA-77 - 1 Wing - Belgian Defence - Air Component   F-4E Phantom II - 01504 - 339 MPK - Hellenic Air Force   F-4E Phantom II - 01504 - 339 MPK - Hellenic Air Force   Falcon 20 - 053 - 717 Skvadron - Norwegian Air Force
 
KC-46 - A33-001 - Royal Australian Air Force
 
F-35B Lightning - ZM137 - 17 (Reserve) Squadron - Royal Air Force   F-35A Lightnng - 12-5042/LF - 61 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force   F-22 Raptor - 09-4191/FF - 94 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force   F-35B Lightning - 166727/VK-19 - VMFAT 501 - United States Marines
 
F-35B Lightning - 166727/VK-19 - VMFAT 501 - United States Marines   F-22A Raptor - 09-4191/FF - 94 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force   F-22 Raptor - 09-4191/FF - 94 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force   F-35B Lightning - ZM137 - 17 (Reserve) Squadron - Royal Air Force
 
Moving onto the flying display as stated earlier it was one of the best in years and if you were a lover of fast jets you were in for a real treat. For the second year running the area at the western end of the airfield was used for the fast jets a superb move by the RIAT operations team and allowed for the public to get up close. A sign of the times, eight of the fast jet displays were covered by two designs, the F-16 & the Eurofighter Typhoon. Some may of thought the fast jet emphasis was a little too much but I personally thought to witness the sheer power of these various fast jets from nearly every active combat type in the West was a sight to behold.

Making what would be there final appearance at an airshow were the French Air Force display team Ramex Delta. Flying a pair of Dassault Mirage 2000N Nuclear strike aircraft, the display is a tactical demonstration of brute force & will be sadly missed, there final display on the Sunday was acknowledged by the organisers with a water cannon salute, a fitting tribute.

But the undisputed stars of the flying were the F-35’s.The F-35B solo display is not fully developed, consisting only of a number of fast passes and a minimum radius turn. However, when demonstrating its hovering capabilities, the aircraft did not disappoint. Prior to the show, the Royal Engineers and USMC had constructed a heat resistant landing pad allowing the F-35B to finish its display with a vertical landing in front of the crowd. Not to be out done by the F-35 appearance, the F-22A Raptor made a welcome return to RIAT’s flying display, it was the first time in six years the thrust-vectoring F-22 had been displayed at RIAT. This superb agile display was enough to earn the F-22A Demonstration Team the FRIAT ‘As the Crow Flies’ Trophy.

More American hardware was to be seen in the flying in the form of the Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey demonstration from the 7th Special Operations Squadron based at RAF Mildenhall. An excellent display highlighting the contrast in the high speed performance and hovering capabilities of this unique tilt-rotor aircraft.

Making their UK display debut were the Croatian Air Force with their popular Wings of Storm display team flying the Pilatus PC-9M an excellent display of formation flying. The 'King Hussein Memorial Sword' was awarded to them for the best overall flying demonstration.

Closing the show on the Sunday were the immaculate Frecce Tricorlori the Italian Air Force demonstration team flying the MB339 in its final year before being re-equipped with the more modern M-345. The Frecce have a long history in appearing at RIAT & this was fitting for them to close the show.
Mirage 2000N - 353/125-AM - EC 02.004 - French Air Force
 
F-35A Lightning II - 12-5042/LF - 61 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force   F-35B Lightning  - 166727/VK-19 - VMFAT 501 - United States Marines   F-35A Lightning - 12-5042/LF - 61 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force   F-35A Lightning - 12-5042/LF - 61 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force
 
F-5E Tiger II - J-3040 - Patrouille Suisse - Swiss Air Force   F-5E Tiger II - J-3038 - Fliegerstaffel 19 - Swiss Air Force   KC-135R Stratotanker - 62-3563 - 101 Filo - Turkish Air Force   Hawker Hunter - ZZ190 - HHA
 
F-35A - 12-5042/LF - 61 Fighter Squadron - United States Air Force
 
Mirage 2000N - 325/125-CI - EC 02.004 - French Air Force   Mirage 2000N - 325/125-CI - EC 02.004 - French Air Force   P-3C Orion - 61+05 - Marinefliegergeschwader 3 - German Navy   Rafale C - 142/4-GU - EC 01.002 - French Air Force
 
Hawk T1 - XX201 - The Red Arrows - Royal Air Force   Rafale - 142/4-GU - EC 01.002 - French Air Force   Tornado - 43+59 - Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 71 - German Air Force   EF2000 Typhoon - 37+11 - Jagdgeschwader 74 - German Air Force
 
Mirage 2000N - 353/125-AM - EC 02.004 - French Air Force
 
EF2000 Typhoon - 30+29 - Jagdgeschwader 74 - German Air Force   EF2000 Typhoon - 30+68 - Jagdgeschwader 74 - German Air Force   CV-22B Osprey - 08-0064 - 7 Special Operations Squadron - United States Air Forces in Europe   PC-9 - 059 - Wings of Storm - Croatian Air Force
 
Hawk T1 - XX278 - The Red Arrows - Royal Air Force   A400 - EC-406 - Airbus   F-16 Fighting Falcon - 88-0258 - 171 Filo - Turkish Air Force   F-16 Jastrzab - 4058 - 10. elt - Polish Air Force
 
C-130H Hercules - 347 - 3 Squadron - Royal Jordanian Air Force
 
Touchdown Conclusion
 
On conclusion RIAT 2016 was one of the best RIAT’s for a number of years with the balance of a great dynamic flying display & a varied static display. I look forward to seeing what RIAT 2017 will have to offer seeing as it will celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the United States Air Force. The author wishes to thank Richard Arquati and Ellie Webster, Press & Publicity Officers, RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises for there kind assistance over the show weekend.
 
Touchdown Rating - 4 out of 5
 
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