History was made both in the air and on the ground at this weekend’s Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
The airshow, which took place over three days (July 8-10), attracted a sell-out crowd of 153,000 people who enjoyed demonstrations by some of the world’s leading pilots.
Friday’s flying programme featured the first ever international display by Lockheed Martin’s F-35B Lightning II, the world’s most advanced fighter jet and on the same day, the airshow hosted a visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who attended with Prince George on his first ever public engagement.
A post on the Royal Family’s official Facebook page, said: “The Air Tattoo is a fantastic family-orientated event, and The Duke and Duchess knew that George would enjoy seeing the aircraft up close. Their Royal Highnesses took a closer look at an RAF Squirrel helicopter, which The Duke trained upon at RAF Shawbury in 2009, met Air Cadets and teams involved in the spectacular displays at the show, and even tried out an RAF Red Arrows Hawk for size.”
Other Royals attending the airshow were HRH Prince Michael of Kent and HRH Prince Feisal of Jordan.
More than 230 aircraft, from 37 air arms in 24 countries participated in the Air Tattoo which took place in warm, largely sunny weather. Among the many highlights were displays by the F-22 ‘Raptor’, a Polish MiG-29, an RAF Typhoon and Chinook, a French Rafale and the Turkish Air Force F-16 ‘Solo Turk’.
Flypasts included a unique formation of the Red Arrows, an F-35B and two RAF Typhoons giving a glimpse of the future of the UK’s defence capability. There were also some notable firsts and lasts, with the Croatian Air Force displaying for the first time in the UK with their display team Wings of Storm and the last ever display by the French Air Force ‘Ramex Delta’ Mirage 2000D duo.
Croatia became the 56th nation to take part in the Air Tattoo since it was first staged in 1971.
Among the highlights on the ground was a march past by 750 air cadets to mark the Air Cadet Organisation’s 75th anniversary. Taking the salute were the RAF’s Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, Commandant Air Cadets Air Cdre Dawn McCafferty and Honorary Air Cadet Gp Capt Carol Vorderman.
There were 36 international military chiefs in attendance including Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Chief of the Defence Staff; Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the RAF Chief of the Air Staff (Designate); and new Chief of the US Air Force, General David Goldfein. Senior industry guests included the Chairman of BAE Systems, Sir Roger Carr; Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson and Airbus CEO Mr Allan McArtor. The UK’s Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt and the Minister for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne were also attended.
RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises’ Chief Executive Andy Armstrong said: “This year will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest ever Air Tattoos. That such a significant aircraft as the Lockheed Martin F-35B should make its international display debut at the Air Tattoo is testament to the incredible faith the military and the world’s leading aerospace companies have in our event.
“Our 2,000-plus volunteers and small team of permanent staff deserve a huge pat on the back for delivering such an outstanding event. The icing on the cake was the visit on Friday by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son Prince George.
“My thanks go to all our sponsors, in particular BAE Systems and all the participating air arms including the US Air Force, who allow us to stage the event at RAF Fairford and the Royal Air Force for all its support.
Once again, the Air Tattoo has performed an important defence diplomacy role not only in showcasing some of the world’s most exciting aircraft but also by offering the RAF a platform on which to demonstrate its current – and future – capabilities.
“I am particularly pleased that over the three-day airshow our parent charity, the RAF Charitable Trust was able to demonstrate the many ways it has touched people’s lives by providing support for RAF personnel and encouraging and inspiring young people.”
The show received a big thumbs’ up from the many visitors who attended.
Hannah Booth, from Birmingham said: “We’re having a great day! There’s a brilliant atmosphere here and so many amazing aircraft to see. I couldn’t believe how much is here and how big it is,” whilst Tom Newdock, from Cardiff said: “It was phenomenal to see the F-35 and, as always, a fantastic job by the Air Tattoo organisers. I can’t wait for next year!”
Press release and picture RAF/MOD UK