Update: 2022/09/30  by Will Moore / CHK6

After a two year absence due to Covid protection measures the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) made its comeback in style. The three day event held over the weekend of 15th,16th and 17th of July was well worth the wait especially for military fast jet fans. In the background to the event were a couple of factors that cast a shadow on the mood of the show. The weather is always a concern for the organisers, participants and folks attending but not usually for the reason on everyone’s mind this year. The UK was having a heat wave with temperatures in the mid 30 degree range all week, and the forecast for the show days was getting higher raising questions of audience safety particularly for the Sunday. The Meteorological Office predicted temperatures of 40 degrees plus for the Monday with the Government announcing a red alert for all emergency services. Fortunately the heat didn’t peak until Monday and Tuesday with the UK recording its highest temperatures ever recorded on both days, closing down most rail transport and even Luton Airport and RAF Brize Norton due to runway problems. The other spectre on the horizon was of course the war in Ukraine. The organisers paid tribute to the Ukrainian Pilot Col Oleksandr Oksanchenko who was killed in action during the war. In 2017 he won the “As the crow files Trophy” for the best overall display in the Sukhoi Su-27P1M. 
The final shadow over the gathering was of course Covid 19 and tributes were made to many people who lost their lives and to the people who acted to protect the public over this period. The overall themes of the show this year were the United States Air Force  75TH Anniversary and the 80th Anniversary of the United States Army  Airforce “ The Mighty 8th” . This year there were over 60 international delegations attending and over 300 combined on static and flying displays and with an expected 170,000 spectators over the 3 display days it was one of the biggest in RIAT’s history.

Eurofighter EF-2000A TYPHOON - © by Will Moore
Renegade exercise - © by Will Moore

The first day of the flying display was the Friday, a short display programme starting at 11am and running until 2.30pm. The following two days saw flying start at 9.45am and run until after 6pm with no breaks in the display. Opening the show was the Eurofighter F-2000A TYPHOON of the Reparto Sperimentale Volo Italian Air Force at Practica di Mare, the first of the four Eurofighter TYPHOON´s displaying each day over the Saturday and Sunday. And a rip-roaring opening it was too, straight into lots of high energy flying start to finish setting the pace for the other fighters following on. The Austrian Air Force displayed a pair of Eurofighter TYPHOON´s in a QRA (quick reaction alert) role demo with a Lockheed C-130K HERCULES.  The C-130 playing the part of an unidentified aircraft entering national airspace. A well scripted commentary set the scene with the intruder failing to respond to air traffic control and the fighters being brought to readiness to intercept. As the intruder maintained its heading and continued to be none responsive the fighters were ordered to Scramble!!

All the while the second TYPHOON maintained position behind the C-130 ready to shoot it down, “check your six!!”

Eurofighter EF-2000 - © by Will Moore
Eurofighter EF-2000 TYPHOON FRG4 - © by Will Moore

One fighter making a very steep take off to intercept the intruder with the other taking a less dramatic climb to position behind the intruder to take the kill shot if required. The intercepting TYPHOON positioned alongside of the C-130 to assess the threat and then give verbal instructions to the crew. The commentary talked us through the instructions, leading up to the TYPHOON lowering his undercarriage to instruct the intruder to land. All the while the second TYPHOON maintained position behind the C-130 ready to shoot it down, “check your six!!” As the C-130 lined up to land as instructed both TYPHOON`s formed up just behind and as the intruder landed they accelerated to perform a high speed run and break, mission accomplished. This demonstration was very entertaining and made for a great display showing both high energy performance and a close to life regular task for a QRA unit
The final Eurofighter TYPHOON display was the Royal Air Force (RAF) TYPHOON FGR4 (Black Jack) from No 29 Squadron at RAF Coningsby. The custom livery of the RAF display TYPHOON is a “love it or hate it” scheme but against the clear blue sky of the heat wave it was very striking indeed. As reported on from the RAF Cosford display earlier this year this was another aggressive display from Flight Lieutenant Adam O’Hare meeting the challenge set by the Italian Air Force TYPHOON display earlier in the day. And still more fighters to come!

Lockheed Martin F-16C Block50 “ZEUS“ - © by Will Moore
Lockheed Martin F-16C Block50 “ZEUS“ - © by Will Moore
There were two Lockheed Martin F-16 FIGHTING FALCON´s displaying one being the Lockheed Martin F-16C Demo Team “ZEUS“ of the Hellenic Air Force and the other a Lockheed Martin F-16AM VIPER of the Belgian Air Component. Since being formed in 2010 the Hellenic Air Force Team ZEUS have attended at RIAT before, this year being the fourth time. Flying the Lockheed Martin F-16C with conformal fuel tanks in a very aggressive style of display highlighting the power and manoeuvrability of the type. The display also shows how the clad on Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) don’t impinge on the aircraft’s performance at sub-sonic speeds. The tanks are added onto the aircraft post production but the aircraft has to be plumbed and wired to receive them. The tanks cannot be discarded in flight like “drop tanks” but can be removed in 2 hours if required. The advantages of having the tanks are an increase in range and/or loiter time of up to 20 to 40% dependant on the weapons load without the need for a tanker aircraft. Also the weapons points below the wing and fuselage remain available for ordinance.

As then the plan was to display in the “Dream Viper” with its outstanding bespoke livery with Vipers head tail fin

Lockheed Martin F-16AM DREAM VIPER - © by Will Moore
Lockheed Martin F-16AM DREAM VIPER - © by Will Moore

Making the point of no interference of performance during the display the pilot will be subjected to 9.5g of acceleration forces and reach Mach .94. The other F-16, a Lockheed Martin F-16AM VIPER of the Belgian Air Component has been reported on already by Check-Six at the RAF Cosford Air Show in June. As then the plan was to display in the “DREAM VIPER” with its outstanding bespoke livery with VIPER´s head tail fin. Unfortunately on the days it was intended to display the DREAM VIPER had technical issues and the reserve aircraft the “X Tiger“ was rolled out to take its place.  A great many people were waiting to see the DREAM VIPER aircraft as the livery scheme has been much talked about in the run up to the show, and although disappointed not to see it they were not disappointed with the display of the X Tiger. Captain Steven “VRIESKE” De Vries gave us an impeccable display of speed, power and agility.

Saab JAS-39C GRIPEN - © by Will Moore
Saab JAS-39C GRIPEN - © by Will Moore
The Hungarian Air Force and the Swedish Air Force both displayed Saab JAS-39 GRIPEN aircraft on all three display days, neither sporting display livery but both quite striking in grey against the clear blue skies over the UK. The Swedish Air Force displayed a Saab JAS 39C as did the Hungarian Air Force. Both teams undertook mid-air fuel dumps to add a little spice to their displays, but the fuel did not ignite every time, when it did it was quite the spectacle but not quite as impressive as the General Dynamics F-111 fuel dumps of old. Both displays were very impressive from the slow pass to the highspeed climb keeping the pace of the show at a high level.
The final actual fighter displays were from the Swiss Air Force and the Spanish Air Force. The Spanish displaying a Boeing EF-18M HORNET as a solo display and the Swiss with a Boeing F/A-18C HORNET flying with the Pilatus PC-7 Team. The Spanish display EF-18M HORNET sporting a bespoke tail decoration offered an outstanding performance of brute force and aerial agility setting a high bar for the Swiss team later in the day.

As airshow audiences have come to expect from the Swiss team it was a flawless display that matched any during the show

Boeing F/A-18C HORNET - © by Will Moore
Lockheed Martin F-35B LIGHTNING II - © by Will Moore

The Swiss display started with the Boeing F/A-18C HORNET joining up with the nine Pilatus NCPC-7 Turbotrainers of the Swiss Air Force to undertake a formation flyby before breaking out of the formation to start the solo display. The display itself was another outstanding fighter solo to add to an already outstanding collection of fighter displays. As airshow audiences have come to expect from the Swiss team it was a flawless display that matched any during the show. Flown by Captain Yannick Zanata “Fonsi” from Fliegerstaffel 17 based at Payerne Air Base near Bern the combined Swiss Teams closed the show on the Saturday and Sunday. The RAF also had the Lockheed Martin F-35B LIGHTNING II from No 617 Squadron at RAF Maram on the display list, alas it wasn’t an actual full display to match the other fighter displays. It was however interesting to see the RAF’s latest fighter running in and then returning to show the hovering abilities of the aircraft. The No 617 Squadron will be familiar to aviation fans everywhere as it was of course the “Dambuster” Squadron of WWII. The Squadron had been disbanded in 2014 but was re-formed in 2016 in preparation to receive the new Lockheed Martin F-35B LIGHTNING II at its base at base at RAF Marham.

Leonardo AW 149 - © by Will Moore
Boeing CHINOOK HC.Mk6a - © by Will Moore

Helicopters were well represented at the show, the first being the Leonardo AW149 from the Leonardo manufacturing site at Yeovil on the South coast of England. Leonardo is hoping to win a contract from the UK Ministry of Defence for a new helicopter to replace among others the ageing Aerospatiale Puma fleet, a contract worth between GBP900 million and GBP1.2 billion (between USD1.1 billion and USD1.5 billion), during a seven-year contract timeframe. Leonardo is counting on the commonality of parts with other Leonardo Helicopters and having the production line ready at Yeovil in 2023 to give them an edge on the contract that requires first delivery of aircraft in 2025. The display clearly showed that the AW149 would have no problems fulfilling the operational role of the PUMA. The Boeing CHINOOK HC.Mk6 display was provided by No 27 Squadron at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, a firm favourite with aviation fans in the UK and a regular contributor to RIAT. As we have come to expect from the CHINOOK Display Team an excellent display was delivered showcasing the abilities of the heavy lift aircraft including the now traditional wave from the rear ramp from the load master with huge orange gloves. The crowd responded in kind especially the children.

Supply chain issues have also played a part in damaging the reputation of the medium sized helicopter

NHIndustries NH-90TTH - © by Will Moore
Mil Mi-24V NATO Code: HIND D - © by Will Moore
Another outstanding solo helicopter display was delivered by the German Army (HEER) NHIndustries NH90 TTH (Tactical Transport Helicopter), the first time the German Army have displayed the type at RIAT. First flown in 1995 the type has been beset by controversy and technical issues. Supply chain issues have also played a part in damaging the reputation of the medium sized helicopter. But today none of those issues were apparent with the display being one of the best of RIAT 2022. Older military types were on display too with Czech Air Force fielding a display duo of a Mil Mi-24V (NATO Code: HIND D) and a Mil-171S (NATO Code: HIP). Both very successful designs with the Mil-17 seeing over 12000 of its family built since introduction in 1977 and in use during that time with 60 nations in military and civilian roles. The Mil Mi-24V HIND is another successful design introduced in 1972 to the Soviet Airforce and since then its variants have been used by 48 other nations. Primarily a battlefield attack aircraft its also capable of transporting up to eight fully equipped troops. The pair performed a number of opposition manoeuvres before splitting to undertake solo routines to cover a longer part of the display line. The Hind has been a regular performer at RIAT, but the addition of the Hip made the display far more interesting. And we still had another HIND waiting to display, this one a Mil MI-24P (NATO Code: HIND F) of the Hungarian Air Force in a striking matt black scheme. The Hungarian Air Force has most of its fleet of Mi-24P and Mi-24V in storage, but a few are being upgraded in Russia and Hungary, these upgrades will see the types remain in service with the Hungarian Air Force into the late 2020s.

One being the US Air Force Bell Boeing CV-22B OSPREY from the 7th Special Operations Squadron RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk England

Kawasaki C-2 - © by Will Moore
Leonardo C-27J SPARTAN - © by Will Moore

Transport aircraft were hardly represented in the flying display, we have already mentioned the Austrian Air Force Lockheed C-130K HERCULES in the role demo, only two other transports displayed this year. One being the US Air Force Bell Boeing CV-22B OSPREY from the 7th Special Operations Squadron RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk England. A short display of a run in and number of slow hover passes with 360 degree rotations. This is one type that would be great in a role demonstration instead the display relies on the uniqueness of the design to captivate the audience. An opportunity missed especially as this was the only flying display from the US Air Force in a show with one of its main themes being big anniversaries for US Air Forces. It was of course well received by the audience as one would expect.  The transport aircraft that stole the show was the Italian Air Forces Leonardo C-27J SPARTAN of Reparto Sperimentale Volo at Practica di Mare.

Leonardo C-27J SPARTAN - © by Will Moore
Airbus A-330 BELUGA XL - © by Will Moore
The Leonardo C-27J SPARTAN is a development of the Aeritalia G.222 a medium sized short take off and landing (STOL) transport, itself a regular and firm favourite display at RIATs past. In 1995 Aliana and Lockheed Martin began discussions to upgrade the G.222 using Lockheed Martins C-130J glass cockpit and an improved engine, eventually moving to Rolls-Royce AE 2100 engines and a six blade propeller. The improved aircraft adopted the US designation of the G.222 THE C-27A and became the C-27J SPARTAN.  The new aircraft entered service in 2006 with an increase in range of 35% and a 15% increase in cruise speed. In 2020 Leonardo announced the C-27J Next Generation programme that will see further improvements on systems and aerodynamics that will keep the type at the forefront of medium lift ability for another decade. The display is truly outstanding for an aircraft of this type with the pilot taking the C-27J inverted several times during his routine. The STOL attributes and rate of climb were displayed well too, a surprisingly entertaining display from the Italian transport. The other transport aircraft to make an impression at this year’s display was the Airbus BELUGA XL. The BELUGA XL is a development from the origan Airbus specialist transport the BELUGA ST (Super Transport). With Airbus having manufacturing sites spread across Europe they had a requirement to move parts between sites and so needed an outsized transport
Leonardo T-346A MASTER - © by Will Moore
Leonardo T-346A MASTER - © by Will Moore

Before embarking on the development of the original BELUGA ST Airbus evaluated several other aircraft before deciding on designing their own. The BELUGA XL is one of a fleet of six that are replacing the original BELUGA ST’s and is based upon the Airbus A330-200F. The BELUGA XL has in increased capacity of 30% and can carry two A350XWB wings in its longer by 23ft and wider by 5ft 7in hold. A common site around airbus facilities but rarely seen elsewhere, the aircraft was impressive by its size and heavily modified design and clearly made an impression on the audience. Training aircraft were mostly represented in the team displays but there were two outstanding solo displays from training aircraft that were generations apart. The Leonardo T-346A MASTER came from a joint development between Alenia Aermacchi and Yakovlev. That joint development was ended in 2000 with both companies proceeding with their own version of the aircraft Yakovlev built the Yak-130 and Alenia Aermacchi building the M-346 MASTER. The company is now under the banner of Leonardo as of 2017 and the T-346 MASTER first flown in 2004 is now in use with the Air forces of Italy, Israel, Singapore, Poland, and Qatar. The aircraft gave a very good display, one wonders if the FRECCE TRICOLORI would ever receive this type to replace their aging Aermacchi AT-339As?

What the Finnish Air Force did for us today was to remind us of why the British Aerospace Hawk type has been so successful

Bae HAWK Mk.51 - © by Will Moore
Bae HAWK Mk.51 - © by Will Moore

The other solo training aircraft to make an impression was the British Aroespace HAWK MK.51 of the Finnish Air Force. In the UK we see the British Aroespace HAWK T1/T1As as used by the RAF RED ARROWS at many airshows so they are very familiar to us. But what we don’t see is the type being displayed as a solo. What the Finnish Air Force did for us today was to remind us of why the British Aerospace HAWK type has been so successful. Presented in grey with white engine cowlings and a blue cross it really stood out against the clear blue sky with smoke generators on the outer wing hard points, the display seemed much better than we have come to expect from the type. First flown in 1974 as the Hawker Siddeley HAWK a whole 30 years before the T-346 MASTER, an advanced training and low cost strike aircraft the type has been in operation with 18 operators around the world with over 1000 of the type sold. The Royal Air Force (RAF) has retired its HAWK T1/1As leaving the RAF RED ARROWS as the only operational HAWK T1/1As user in the RAF. The type is still in production under licence by HAL Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in India.

SILVER SWALLOWS / Irish Air Corps - © by Will Moore
Swiss Air Force Pc-7 TEAM - © by Will Moore
The aerobatic display teams are always a highlight at RIAT and this year did not disappoint in this regard, smaller teams were in plentiful supply with two and four ship teams. The ROYAL JORDANIAN FALCONS who have a long and strong association with RIAT were of course displaying on both main days of the show with their Extra EA330SCs. As we have come to expect their routine was flawless. Another four ship display and a first for RIAT was The SILVER SWALLOWS from the Flying Training School of the Irish Air Corps flying 4 Pilatus PC-9Ms rock solid formation flying.  Pilatus were also the aircraft used by the French Air Force Team Mustang-Xray with two Pilatus PC-21s and of course the Swiss Air Force PC-7 Team displayed with nine Pilatus NCPC-7 Turbotrainers. The Swiss Team flying with the Swiss Air Force BoeingFA-18C HORNET highlighted and closed the show on the Saturday and Sunday.
Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (PAN) FRECCE TRICOLORI - © by Will Moore
Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (PAN) FRECCE TRICOLORI - © by Will Moore

Jet teams were represented by The RAF Red ARROWS of course and the firm favourites and regular attendees The Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (PAN) FRECCE TRICOLORI of the Italian Air Force at Rivolto in Northern Italy. The RAF’s RED ARROWS were displaying with a reduced team as two pilots had been reassigned to other duties leaving not enough time available to train replacements. Hawk instructors did fill the gaps for general fly-bys but were not cleared for display flying. This reduced the programme for the team and left the display somewhat short of its usual impact. The team have had some serviceability issues this year and a very serious bird strike that could have been disastrous. We look forward to seeing them back to full strength next season when they will be based at RAF Waddington as RAF Scampton one of the historic RAF bases from WWII closes. Still a formidable act to follow but this year there were two teams that could. One being the FRECCE TRICOLORI and the other being the team from The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) the BLACK EAGLES. The FRECCE TRICOLORI flying 10 Aermacchi AT-339As are an outstanding aerobatic team and we have reported on them many times from RIAT and shows all over Europe.

They performed as expected giving an outstanding display, unfortunately at this year’s RIAT there was very little wind and the FRECCE TRICOLORI do use a lot of smoke from their ten aircraft. This year the smoke didn’t clear very well or very quickly, so much of the display was seen through a haze of smoke in Green, White and Red and accompanied by much coughing. Even so a great display from a much loved team.

The team is based at Wonju Gangwon a province of the Republic of Korea, and this was their second visit to RIAT the first being in 2012

Korean Air Force BLACK EAGLES - © by Will Moore
Korean Air Force BLACK EAGLES - © by Will Moore
Last but not least was the Republic of Korea team The Black Eagles, flying eight KIA T-50B GOLDEN EAGLE’s. The team is based at Wonju Gangwon a province of the Republic of Korea, and this was their second visit to RIAT the first being in 2012. The team were having a short stay in the UK and appeared at several shows and even performed a couple of flybys at the Shuttleworth Collection Show that took place over the same weekend as RIAT. The team’s aircraft were dissembled and transported by Boeing 747S to the UK for reassembly at THE Ministry of Defence (MOD) station Boscombe Down. There they were reassembled over three weeks, flight tested and certified for displaying. The permanent team was formed in 1994 and flew six Cessna A-37B DRAGONFLY aircraft. They disbanded in 2007 and reformed when the T-50 GOLDEN EAGLE aircraft became available in 2010. The aircraft is South Koreas first indigenous supersonic aircraft, developed by Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin. The KIA T-50 GOLDEN EAGLE is an advanced supersonic jet trainer and light combat aircraft.
KIA T-50B GOLDEN EAGLE - © by Will Moore
KIA T-50B GOLDEN EAGLE - © by Will Moore
Development works ran from the 1990s with the first flight taking place in 2002 and entered service with ROKAF in 2005. The BLACK EAGLE’s fly the T-50B variant that was further developed for aerobatic flying. Over 200 of the type have been built covering all variants, they are in service with ROKAF, Iraqi Air Force, Indonesian Air Force and the Philippine Air Force. The Team was well received and proved very popular on the ground, their display was clearly a highlight on each day. The flying display was outstanding, the routine clearly being influenced by other teams and including their best manoeuvres, there seemed to be flashes of RAF RED ARROWS, USAF THUNDERBIRDS and the FRECCE TRICOLORI. All that with the added rarely seen aircraft type and distinctive livery of black, white and yellow made for an attention grabbing display. The flying was excellent and included some original sky writing. Many teams fly the cupid’s heart and arrow and indeed the BLACK EAGLE’s did too, but they followed that up with the Ying and Yang symbol of the Republic’s flag, which was a surprise that drew applause in the show and in the surrounding areas where campers stay to see the event from a distance. The close formation stacks were very Thunderbirdish, but performed very well, the final diving break ended with a split as anticipated but with a hard levelling off and turn that left a flower petal in the sky.

VERDICT:  RIAT is back with a bang! Overall it was a great show with many highlights, but the weekend belonged to the fighters. Their displays seemed to be louder and more aggressive than previous years or perhaps it was just because of the absence for two years making the heart grow fonder? Either way a great event displaying to a capacity crowd, well done to the organisers and volunteers whose work delivered an event that set a very high bar for next year.

Will Moore / CHK6 UK

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