The Royal International Air Tattoo which is billed as the worlds largest military airshow has decreased in size over recent years which, is an unfortunate sign of modern times. That said, RIAT 2010 held between 14th July and 19th July oozed quality air displays even if the static display was a little sparse. With three central themes; the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Training 2010 and Cadet 150; the stage was set for an interesting weekend.
70 Years Ago in a Land Not So Far Away...
During the summer of 1940, a battle raged over the skies of England that could be argued; played a very large part in shaping modern society. The Battle of Britain was fought in the defence of the free world against Germany and her Allies. Germany, intent on controlling Europe had been extremely successful and now only the British Isles stood in their way.
Before an invasion of Britain could go ahead, air superiority needed to be established in order to protect the invasion fleet from aerial attack. This resulted in the Battle of Britain which has led many to believe was the RAF fighting alone against overwhelming Luftwaffe numbers for supremacy of the skies. In reality, whilst the RAF formed the vast majority of the combatant many other nations fought under their banner. These ranged from defeated European nations, members of the Commonwealth and friends from across the Oceans.
RIAT 2010 was chosen as the premier RAF celebration of the battle and as such, this formed the centre of this years show. Not only in the sky but also on the ground too. On the ground, visitors found a Battle of Britain village where re-enactors and displays told the story of that summer, including a NAAFI serving a rather nice Cream Tea! In addition a number of rare static aircraft helped make the occasion including an extremely rare Polish Su-22 Fitter. In the air however, RIAT was always going to pull off something special.
The culmination of RIAT was a multi nation flypast by elements of the RAF, RNZAF, USAF, AdlA and BAF which, included the debut of the RAF's latest Hawk T.2. This was accompanied by a flypast of multiple Spitfires and Hurricanes with a few 'friends'. These included a T-6 Harvard (or Texan depending where you are from) and a Bf-108 Taifun. However, one of the stars of this years show was EADS Bf-109G which made its UK debut. This aircraft is really a Spanish built Buchon that has been re-engineered but was still most welcome. Unfortunately, the weather on Sunday did prevent the modern part of the flypast from occurring in its entirety but the warbirds carried on regardless.
These weren't the only displays, the USAF sent their F-22A Raptor Demo Team to wow the crowds with its awesome display of power and stealth. As a reflection of the crowds love for this display, the team won no less than three major awards at RIAT. A display made all the more special for the enthusiast by the aircraft being used coming from Alaska!
Teaching the Future Pilots Today
Training 2010 saw a number of aircraft take part from throughout Europe, many of which were predictable. However, the USAF once gain provided excellent support for RIAT in the form of two displays from Altus AFB. These took the shape of a KC-135 and C-17 demo both of which are rarely seen outside of the USA! Unfortunately weather and technical displays meant that the KC-135 was unable to display which was very unfortunate.
This also at5tacted some surprise visitors such as an Italian Air Force MB-339CD and Avanti but also a few prototypes in the form of the Pilatus PC-21, Aermacchi MB-311, MB-346 plus Beechcraft's T-6B and AT-6.
Hello to the New - Farewell to the Old
RIAT 2010 saw a number of debuts in one form or another; this was greatly assisted by the close proximity of the Farnborough International trade show taking place the following week. These debuts ranged from the International (Gripen NG) to the UK (Sukhoi Superjet, AT-6 and Airbus A400M).
There were also three goodbyes to old faithful types that have graced the skies of RAF Fairford for many years. Making their final appearance were the Tornado F.3, Jetstream T.3 and T-43 Gator; all of which will be retired well before RIAT 2011!
RIAT continues to offer something that cannot be found anywhere else in thd UK and also, for the FRIAT member offers good value for money. As with everyone, RIAT are struggling in a tough climate but still managed to deliver even when it seems the weather is against them.
RIAT 2011 will take place on the week of Wednesday 13th July to Monday 18th July. I've already got my FRIAT ticket, and hope to see you there too!
If you would like more information on RIAT, please visit www.airtattoo.com . There are 422 photos from this event in our Gallery, please feel free to check them out. Andy Evans would like to thank everyone at Douglas Bader House for a job well done.