I have to admit that if your last visit to the Air Tattoo was about 8 years ago, well a lot has changed in that time... good or bad... I don't know! One thing I know for sure was that the weather wasn’t great. Once again we had a grey sky, wind and pale light. The opener of the Air Tattoo on Sunday was The Air Combat Command F-16 Viper Demonstration Team from the 20th Fighter Wing of the US Air Force. Pilot Major John ’Rain’ Waters took his F-16 into the grey sky above Fairford for the start of his demo, but after a few minutes he reports a loud bang and there was something wrong with his F-16. He climbed to higher altitude while assessing the problem then flew over the runway, with gear down at low speed, for a visual inspection before coming to a final safe landing. Rumours circulated that the problem probably was caused by a spontaneous delamination of the right stabilizer composite material.
An old acquaintance on the Air Tattoo is the C-27J Spartan from the Italian Air Force. The C-27J Spartan, the most effective multi-mission medium turboprop airlifter available on the market today, is able to operate from the most rudimentary airstrips and in extreme environmental conditions. With 85 aircraft already sold to 15 operators across five continents, the C-27J offers high operational effectiveness together with competitive costs, extreme flexibility and interoperability with larger airlifters. The C-27J has the largest cargo bay in its class with a unique strong cargo floor supporting almost 5 tons per square meter and adjustable both in height and inclination, to facilitate operations. The C-27J has the best descent and climb rate (4,000 - 2,500 ft/min), can perform 3 g tactical manoeuvers and it is qualified to perform short take-offs and landings (STOL) on snowy, sandy and unprepared airfields.
The Saab JAS-39C Gripen from F7 Squadron from Swedish Air Force was ready to perform his demo at the Air Tattoo 2019. The Gripen is a multirole fighter aircraft, intended as a lightweight and agile aerial platform with advanced, highly adaptable avionics. It has canard control surfaces that contribute a positive lift force at all speeds, while the generous lift from the delta wing compensates for the rear stabiliser producing negative lift at high speeds, increasing induced drag. Being intentionally unstable and employing digital fly-by-wire flight controls to maintain stability, removes many flight restrictions, improves manoeuvrability and reduces drag. The Gripen also has good short takeoff performance, being able to maintain a high sink rate and strengthened to withstand the stresses of short landings. A pair of air brakes are located on the sides of the rear fuselage; the canards also angle downward to act as air brakes and decrease landing distance.It is capable of flying at a 70–80 degrees angle of attack.
Italy was well represented at the Air Tattoo and this time they presented the Leonardo T-346A “Master in Training” The M-346 is the most advanced jet trainer and has been designed for a wide range of training capabilities, long- term reliability and cost-effective operations. Central element of an Integrated Training System, the M-346 is the most modern solution to train the new generation of pilots. The aircraft is in service with the Air Forces of Italy, Republic of Singapore, Israel and Poland with 72 aircraft already ordered. The twin-engine, tandem-seat M-346 has four channel Fly-By-Wire Flight Control System, redundant main systems, state-of-the-art avionics with latest human-machine interface with Multi-Function Displays (MFD), Head-Up Displays (HUD), Hands On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) controls, in-flight safety features like PARS (Pilot Activated Attitude Recovery System). An APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) provides autonomous operations. The Embedded Tactical Training Simulation (ETTS) allows the M-346 to emulate on-board sensors, weapons, Computer Generated Forces (CGF) as well as allowing pilots to interact in real time with a virtual tactical scenario in a Live (aircraft in flight), Virtual (simulators) and Constructive (ETTS) - LVC environment, further enhancing flexibility and cost reduction. The wide flight envelope, high thrust-to- weight ratio and unmatched maneuverability allow the M-346 to offer handling similar to those of next generation
combat aircraft, like the Eurofighter Typhoon or the F-35. This maximises teaching effectiveness and allows flight hours to be downloaded from far more expensive front line aircraft at Operational Conversion Units.
The Mc Donnell Douglas F/A-18 C Hornet from the Finnish Air Force, one of the oldest Air Forces in the World, took to the very dark sky above Fairford for his demo. The main fighter type of the Finnish Air Force is the American Boeing (formerly McDonnell-Douglas) F-18 Hornet Multirole Fighter. The aircraft was designed in the 1980’s originally for the U.S. Naval Air Force. In 1992 the Hornet was chosen to replace the Swedish Saab 35 Drakens and Soviet MiG 21 bis fighters of the Finnish Air Force. The Hornet won the bidding contest against Swedish, French and American competitors. The Finnish Patria Ltd. has constructed most of the F-18 Hornets used in Finland. The fleet of the Finnish Air Force consists nowadays of 62 Hornets, 55 single-seat C-variants and seven two-seat D- variants. The aircrafts are to be replaced in the 2020’s.
Time for the heavy lift helicopter; The Royal Air Force Boeing Chinook, based at 27 Squadron RAF Odiham, home of the UK Chinook Force. The Chinook is an extremely capable and highly versatile support helicopter that can be operated from land bases or seaborne vessels into a range of diverse environments, from the Arctic to the desert or jungle. The aircraft may be heavily armed and is fitted with a suite of self-defence equipment allowing it to operate across highly contested battlespace. Chinooks are primarily used for trooping, resupply and battlefield casualty evacuation (casevac) but the crews are trained to accomplish these tasks under threat from both ground and air based enemies. With its triple-hook external load system, internal cargo winch, roller conveyor fit and large reserves of power, the aircraft can lift a wide variety of complex underslung or internal freight, including vehicles. It can carry up to 55 troops or up to approximately 10 tonnes of mixed cargo. Its secondary roles include search and rescue (SAR), and supporting a wide variety of specialist tasks, including the National Resilience commitment. A Chinook crew traditionally comprises two pilots and two crewmen, supplemented by specialists dependent upon mission requirements.
Next on the list is for the multi-rol Eurofighter F-2000 Typhoon from Reparto Sperimentale Volo, Italian Air Force, Pratica di Mare. The Eurofighter F-2000 Typhoon is a highly capable and extremely maneuverable fighter. It features a canard foreplane to give extra agility, lift and STOL performance. Much of the airframe is made of carbon fibre composite and light alloys. The twin Eurojet EJ200 Turbofans engine’s give the Typhoon a top speed of Mach 1.8 with a service ceiling to 55,000 feet. The Eurofighter Typhoon is the world’s leading air defence and ground attack aircraft with full multi and swing-role capabilities.
Back to Italy with the Frecce Tricolori, the team and their the Finmeccanica MB-339. The aircraft’s sophisticated man- machine integration allows the team to push their skills to the limit and put on a show that has made Italy famous all over the world. The MB-339 has also been a great commercial success, having been acquired by nine Air Forces (Italy, UAE, Peru, Argentina, Malaysia, New Zealand, Ghana, Eritrea, Nigeria) and been used since 2010 by Al Fursan (The Knights), the United Arab Emirates’ aerobatics team. All Frecce Tricolori pilots have to be under 30 years of age, have a minimum of 1000 flying hours and the ability to work well in a group. In addition to performing acrobatics, during the course of the year, the team carry out training activities to maintain their operational qualification and could become a combat ready group if called upon. The Frecce Tricolori pilots number 10 in total, including the solo pilot. On average the stay of newly assigned pilots in the national Aerobatic Team is 4-5 years.
The Sukhoi Su-27 twin-engine super-maneuverable fighter aircraft and Russia's response to US F-14 and F-15. The Ukrainian Air Force was allowed to demonstrate their SU-27P1M Flanker at the Air Tattoo.
Next on the list is for the multi-rol Typhoon FGR4 from 29 Squadron at RAF Coningsby. The Typhoon FGR4 is a highly capable and extremely maneuverable fighter. It features a canard foreplane to give extra agility, lift and STOL performance. Much of the airframe is made of carbon fibre composite and light alloys. The twin Eurojet EJ200 Turbofans engine’s give the Typhoon a top speed of Mach 1.8 with a service ceiling to 55,000 feet.. The Eurofighter Typhoon is the world’s leading air defence and ground attack aircraft with full multi and swing-role capabilities, and has been in frontline service with the Royal Air Force since 2007. All this power was in the professional hands of Flt Lt Jim Peterson.
A regular host on the Air Tattoo, The Royal Jordanian Falcons, is a perennial national aerobatic team formed in 1976 at the initiative of His Majesty, the Late King Hussein Bin Talal. It has an international reputation for precision, professionalism and spectacular performance.
Royal Jordanian Falcons function as a highly specialized asset for the promotion of Jordan, serving as the country’s “roving ambassadors”. Their unique status as a professional aerobatic team allows them the opportunity not only to present the sophisticated state of aviation in Jordan, but also to promote goodwill and interest in their native country. The Royal Jordanian Falcons team presently consist of 5 Extra-330 LX aerobatic aircraft. The team headquarters has recently been transferred by Royal Decree to King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba (Red Sea), in an effort to enhance tourism and investment there.
The T-6A Texan II will replace the Tucano in its future duties, but for now, Demo Team’Deadalus’ perform the T-6A Texan II at the Air Tattoo, based on the Swiss Pilatus PC-9 turboprop trainer, it features stronger wings for enhanced agility and strength an oxygen system and numerous further revisions. The Texan T-6A II from the Hellenic Air Force, NO 120 Air Training Wing based at Kalamata Air Force Base in southern Greece.
Next in line is for the Grob Tutor T1 display team and in the professional hands of display Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Neil “Ski” Owczarkowski. Neil was born in Frimley, Surrey and was a former member of 457 (Farnborough) Squadron Air Training Corps where he attained the rank of Air Cadet Warrant Officer and completed both gliding and flying scholarships. Since 1999 it has equipped Air Experience Flights, University Air Squadrons and Elementary Flying Training Squadrons. Being easy to handle and fully aerobatic, the aircraft is excellent for teaching the basics of flight. It normally carries 2 crew members sitting side by side, with instructor on the left and student on the right, but for display flying the student is omitted and the pilot flies from the right hand seat. The Aircraft is 96% Carbon fibre, of semi-monocoque construction and is powered by a single 180hp Textron-Lycoming engine, the Tutor cruises at a respectable speed of 135 knots.
2019 is the final year for the Shorts Tucano T1 after 30 years of being used for fast-jet flying training. The Tucano combines the economy of turboprop power with jet-like handling, making it an ideal platform to teach formation flying, low-level navigation, poor weather flying and aerobatic handling. For the final season, Display Pilot Flt Lt Liam Matthews, born in 1992 in Warwickshire, is the qualified Flying Instructor on 72 Squadron.
The Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) operates from RAF Coningsby; a Typhoon and fighter base in Lincolnshire. The BBMF operates six Spitfires, two Hurricane Mk 2Cs, a Lancaster as well as a C47 Dakota and two Chipmunk aircraft (primarily used for training). Today at the RAF Cosford Airshow, the BBMF De Lancaster and spitfire are flying. The Avro Lancaster, the most successful British heavy bomber of World War II, powered by two 24-cylinder Rolls-Royce Vulture engines and armed with a mixed load of high- explosive bombs and armed with a powered tail turret mounting four 0.303-inch (7.7-mm) machine guns, a powered twin-0.303 turret on the upper rear fuselage, and a pair of 0.303s in the nose; a few had twin-0.303 belly turrets. Operated by a basic crew of seven, including the pilot, copilot, bombardier, navigator, radioman, and gunners. Many of these young crew lost their lives over enemy lines during dangerous nightly bombings. The Lancaster PA474, from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, is one of only two Lancaster aircraft remaining in airworthy condition out of the 7,377 that were built (the other is in Canada with the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum at Hamilton, Ontario).
The beast on the Air Tattoo, The Airbus A400M, is the most advanced, proven and certified airlifter available, combining 21st century state-of-the-art technologies to fulfil the current and upcoming armed forces’ needs. The A400M combines the capability to carry strategic loads with the ability to deliver even into tactical locations with small and unprepared airstrips and can act as a frontline-tanker. One aircraft that can do the work of three – the A400M.
The Blades are a full-time civilian aerobatic display team consisting of ex-Red Arrows pilots and a national aerobatic champion. During their dynamic four-ship display the goal is to showcase the amazing capabilities of the Extra 300. The Blades operate the Extra 300 LP version, witch is certified to plus ore minus 10g, while for his solo performance Blade 4 flies the Extra 330SC with a more powerful engine. As holders of an Air Operator’s Certificate, The Blades are in effect a fully fledged airline which allows them to fly formation aerobatics while carrying fare-paying passengers. Something for you check on the Blades website https://theblades.com
For British glory the Red Arrows, one of the world’s premier aerobatic display team. Representing the speed, agility and precision of the Royal Air Force, the team is the public face of the service. They assist in recruiting to the Armed Forces, act as ambassadors for the United Kingdom at home and overseas and promote the best of Britain. The team is made up of pilots , engineers and essential support staff with frontline operational experience. Together, they demonstrate the excellence and capabilities of the Royal Air Force and the service’s skilled, talented people. Diamond Nine shape, the trade mark of the Red Arrows and the combination of close formations and precision flying, the Red Arrows have been displaying since 1965. The team is based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.
Another famous RAF display team, the Attack Helicopter Display Team with the Agusta Westland Apache AH MKI from RAF Middle Wallop. The Boeing AH-64D Apache Longgbow attack helicopter is able to operate in all weather conditions, day and night. Equipped with an advanced system that can detect, classify and priorities up to 256 potential targets in seconds. A potent mix of weapons can be carried, including rockets and hellfire missiles. The Smart Onboard Data Interface Module (SMODIM) transmits Apache data to an AWSS ground station for gunnery evaluation. The AH-64's standard of performance for aerial gunnery is to achieve at least 1 hit for every 30 shots fired at a wheeled vehicle at a range of 800–1,200 m. The AH-64 is powered by two 850 Rolls-Royce Turbomeca turboshafts engines with high-mounted exhausts on either side of the fuselage.
Capt Nicolas”Vincent” Rossier from Fliegerstaffel, performing a thrilling flying display in his F/A 18C Hornet. The Swiss Air Force choose the F/A-18 Hornet after a thorough evaluation was the top performance of this aircraft. The Hornet has a very short reaction time from its alert position, very good aeroplane performance and flying characteristics and is able to accelerate extremely fast, reaching sonic speed within seconds. Its extremely good manoeuvrability in curvilinear flight is important in aerial combat in visual flight conditions and is proven to be of the best worldwide.Its high performance radar allows the F/A-18 to detect and simultaneously engage multiple low flying targets with its long-range guided missiles, by day and night and under bad weather conditions. The Hornet is also well tested in electronic warfare. This aircraft, developed to operate from aircraft carriers, is very well suited for our mountainous regions and narrow valleys as well as our short runways.
The prototype MiG-21 first flew in 1956, with the operational fighter entering service with the Soviet Union in 1959. Since then over 60 nations have operated the 11,000 that were produced, with over 2,000 also being licence built in China as the Chengdu J-7.
Romania is one of a handful of nations that continue to operate the supersonic fighter and who, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, faced a shortage of spare parts out of Russia. This precipitated the modernisation of the Romanian fleet, with a total of 111 aircraft being upgraded between 1995 and 2002 and being given the LanceR designation.
The Breiling Jet Team is Europe’s largest civilian aerobatic display team formed in 2003 and based in Dijon, France, the team flies seven Aero L-39 Albatros, Czech-made two seat military trainer. The Breitling Jet Team have displayed across the globe, including the Far East and North America. Their display includes formation flying, opposition passes , sol routines and synchronised manoeuvres and the team is led by Jacques Bothelin. More info about the team at https://www.breitling.com/ch-en/partnerships/breitling-jet-team/
After the end of the Breitling Jet Team demo we had the fly-past of the Boeing CV-22B Osprey and the end was for the duo of The Spanish EAV-8B Harrier II Plus. The demonstration brings the Harrier’s show-stopping repertoire of hovering, rotational and re-directional manoeuvres. This the 21st century Harrier featuring composite materials, an upgraded engine and the state-of-the-art AN/APG-65multimode radar in its nose. The Harrier demonstrated for us is based at 9 Squadron in Rota in southern of Spain.