Two Merlin helicopters from the Royal Navy were on display in the static park

This HM.2 is the Navy's latest anti-submarine warfare version in service with 814  Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose

Since WWII, the RAF has been involved in a number of conflicts; the Falkland’s conflict in 1982 saw RAF Harrier pilots on exchange duties with the Royal Navy participate in the South Atlantic Task Force that headed out to engage Argentine forces on-board HMS Hermes, with Handley Page Victors providing air-to-air refuelling for the Hercules, Nimrods and Vulcans engaged in the war. Harriers from 1 Squadron also saw action during the conflict, providing close air support (CAS) for the land battles taking place in the war’s final phases. Following the surrender of the Argentine forces, RAF aircraft and helicopters continued to provide supplies and air defence to the Falkland Islands, a task they still perform to this day.

Since then, the RAF has been almost constantly involved in conflicts somewhere around the world; Gulf War 1982, Balkans 1993, Kosovo 1999, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003, Libya 2011 being the most noticeable. However many other overseas operations have and continue to operate, such as providing air policing in the Baltic region and Operation Shader, Cyprus; the strain on resources seemingly never ending. During its 100 years, the Royal Air Force has secured ‘Freedom of the Skies’ around the world, and can be justly proud of its history and heritage. It has changed irreversibly in that time, but continues to provide the primary defence of the United Kingdom. As Winston Churchill famously said; “Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few”.

QinetiQ had three of their aircraft in the static, this PC-21 having only been delivered in June of this year

This Pilatus PC-21 is the first of two of the type to be delivered for use by the Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS) to train test pilots and flight test engineers

Whilst Friday's mass flypast was cancelled, we did get a number of smaller multi-aircraft displays

The nine-ship Typhoon flypast is captured on Saturday

One of the undoubted ‘stars’ of the show was the Japanese Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) Kawasaki C-2 transport aircraft Based with 403 Hikotai at Miho Air Base, the aircraft is currently replacing the smaller Kawasaki C-1 in service with the JASDF

The Finnish Army demonstrated a NH.90-TTH helicopter in both the flying and static displays

The aircraft were from 2.HK/HeKoP at Utti

No apologies for showing two images of the Canadian Hornet

After all, it did win the award for the best paint scheme at the show

Accompanying the Ilyushin Il-76 transport from the Ukrainian Air Force, were two Sukhoi Su-27 Flankers

The single-seat aircraft from the 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade is seen here during its aerial display

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) provided a strong attendance at RIAT '18

On display in the static park was this CC-177 (C-17) Globemaster from 429 Squadron

The KC-10A Extender has never been a regular visitor to the Air Tattoo

This McGuire-based aircraft provided support for the USAF F-35A Lightning IIs

The As The Crow Flies Trophy, for the best overall flying demonstration as judged by members of the

Friends of the Royal International Air Tattoo, was awarded to the French Air Force Couteau Delta team

Flown by an Airbus crew in the flying display, this A400M Atlas C.1 is seen at the commencement of its display on the Friday

The aircraft wear's an Airbus test registration and is currently being used as a development aircraft

However it also has RAF100 decals applied and is destined to be the last Atlas C.1 delivered to the Royal Air Force

The F-35A performed a Heritage Flight display with a Mustang and Spitfire

Listed in the static display as a Beechcraft Shadow R.1 and sporting RAF100 marks, the aircraft is based on the Kingair 350ER and is believed to be used as a trainer for the Shadow R.1s operated by 5 Squadron at RAF Waddington. Its modifications are thought to include a roll-on, roll-off mission system

The Polish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon uses its brake chute to slow the aircraft after its display

The 2018 Royal international Air Tattoo (RIAT) was selected by the Royal Air Force to be the international celebration of the RAF's Centenary. RIAT 2018 saw air arms, aircraft and military personnel from around the world coming together to salute the Royal Air Force. Billed as 'The World's Greatest Airshow', few events can rival the intensity, drama and spectacle on offer, with the RAF contributing a significantly larger number of aircraft to the 2018 event than it has for a number of years. Both in the air and in the static displays, the RAF showed off its latest assets, many of which are rarely if ever seen at airshows; such as the Sentinel R.1 and RC-135W, together with a number of new aircraft such as the Embraer Phenom, and the Juno and Jupiter helicopters. However the most anticipated aircraft was of course the Lockheed-Martin F-35B Lightning, now in service with 617 Squadron, RAF Marham; the first frontline squadron to re-equip with the type. Although the aircraft was not on display in the static park, it did perform in the aerial display each day.

An aircraft once operated in large numbers by the RAF, the British Aerospace Hawk T.1 is operated by just 100 Sqn and the Red Arrows

Replaced in the fast-jet training role by the Hawk T.2, the T.1/T.1A is expected to remain in service until 2030 in the 'aggressor' role

A first time visitor at this year's Air Tattoo was the Leonardo C-27J Spartan of the Slovakian Air Force

One of two aircraft delivered, they have replaced the old Antonov An-26s that were withdrawn some years ago

Always a popular attendee at the Air Tattoo is the Ukrainian Air Force

On display in the static park was this Ilyushin Il-76MD transport from 25 Transport Aviation Brigade at Melitopol

A former CF-104 Starfighter squadron, 430 Squadron is now equipped with the Bell CH-146 Griffon

The Squadron supports 5e Groupe Brigade Mécanisé du Canadais, located at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Valcartier, Quebec

The specially marked Griffon was transported inside the RCAF CC-177 Globemaster that was also on display in the static and 'sports' the unit's Silver Falcon unit emblem

Not to be outdone, the RAF Red Arrows put on their standard tidy and tight demonstration

There were a number of RAF aircraft on display at RIAT 2018 that are rarely if ever seen at airshows

One example of that being this BAe-146 CC.2 from 32 (The Royal) Squadron, based at RAF Northolt

The aircraft was on static display and is seen here departing the show on Monday 16th July

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The Swiss Air Force PC-7 Team formated with the FA-8 Hornet to perform a nice flypast

With the threat from Nazi Germany on the rise, in 1936 the decision was made to form Fighter Command, Bomber Command and Coastal Command. Between 1934 and 1939, no less than 142 new airfields had been acquired, with most completed by the outbreak of World War Two. Sadly, and despite its major involvement in victory, 70,000 personnel were killed in WWII and almost 23,000 were wounded. The jet-age came to the RAF in 1945, with the V-Force of strategic bombers (Valiant, Victor and Vulcan) capable of delivering nuclear bombs in place by the mid-1950s. The V-force became the United Kingdom’s central feature of its defence policy, guaranteeing that Britain could deter any threat from the Soviet Union by having a capable 24-hour response to any acts of aggression. In 1965, the Red Arrows were formed at RAF Little Rissington; The Central Flying School (CFS) forming the team with the Folland Gnat T.1 jet trainers painted in their distinctive red scheme, which has little changed to this day. The RAF’s airlift capability saw a dramatic overhaul in the 1960s with the introduction of the Lockheed C-130K Hercules, Short Belfast C.1 and the long-range Vickers VC-10.  At the same time, Transport Command was renamed Air Support Command. Bomber, Fighter and Coastal Commands were merged under the Strike Command name, with Training Command forming in 1969.

So we'll end this year's report with a couple more images of the Ukrainian Air Force Flankers as they depart Fairford on the Monday. For many, they were once again the 'stars' of the show

Making its first appearance at an Air Tattoo was this Leonardo HH-139A from 15° Stormo

It was joined it the static by an HH-101A from the same wing, which is based at Cervia, Italy

The Royal Norwegian Air Force Historic Flight

demonstrated their De Havilland Vampire and Venom aircraft

Making its last appearance at an Air Tattoo was the RAF's Tornado GR.4

Slated for withdrawal in early 2019, the 'Tonka', as it is affectionately known, is always a popular item at any airshow

The Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey was displayed both as a static and in the flying display

The Osprey came from the 7th Special Operations Squadron/352nd Special Operations Wing at RAF Mildenhall, U.K.

Both the French Air Force and French Navy brought Dassault Rafales to this year's Tattoo

This Navy Rafale-M from 12 Flotille at Landivisiau, wears 70 Year Anniversary marks for 12F

The Royal Air Force was established on 1st April 1918, with 22,000 aircraft, 27,000 officers and 260,000 enlisted ranks. With the end of the First World War, the air arm saw its ranks decrease rapidly and within a year, the RAF’s 188 operational squadrons had reduced to just 12, whilst personnel dropped to just 31,500 in total! During the 1930’s the RAF began to grow once again.

Unusually the RAF's ISTAR assets were displayed to the fore at RIAT, including for the first time the Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint

Utilised in the ELINT role, the aircraft is one of three in service with 51 Squadron at RAF Waddington

Rotary-Wing Displays

Having been in service with the British Army Air Corps for almost 50 years, the Gazelle AH.1 from 665 Squadron

still soldiers on, albeit in vastly reduced numbers

The Slovenian Air Force has supported the Air Tattoo for a number of years

In 2018 they provided a LET L.410 Turbolet transport and two Pilatus PC-9Ms, one of which is seen departing the show

The Royal Canadian Air Force brought a strong contingent to the 2018 Air Tattoo,

including this Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules

As already mentioned, the RAF Tornado GR.4 made its last appearance at the Air Tattoo

One of two on display in the static is seen departing the show on 16th July, with the classic full afterburner departure

Seen departing after the show is the Boeing E-7A 'Wedgetail' from 2 Sqn, Royal Australian Air Force

After an epic journey that included technical issues that saw the aircraft delayed in Hawaii, the E-7A eventually arrived on Friday evening

As with the P-8 Poseidon, the aircraft is based on the Boeing 737 commercial airliner and is operated in the airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) role

Although no orders have yet been placed, it is rumoured that the RAF may procure a number to replace the E-3D Sentry fleet

One of the first of four Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning's recently delivered to 617 Squadron at RAF Marham

The F-35B is the RAF's newest combat aircraft and will supplement the BAe Typhoon squadrons

A Boeing P-8A Poseidon from the U.S. Navy's VP-30 squadron at NAS Jacksonville, Florida

VP-30 is the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Fleet Replacement Squadron

The Royal Air Force has ordered the P-8, with nine aircraft expected to eventually be on strength

Capt Lauri Mäkinen from Fighter Squadron 31 of the Finnish Air Force won the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for the best individual flying demonstration in his F-18C Hornet

2018

The U.S Air Force provided a number of aircraft in both the static and aerial displays

This Lockheed HC-130N Hercules from the 39th Rescue Squadron/920th Rescue Wing based at Patrick AFB, Florida, arrived with an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter inside its hold

Air Tattoo 2018 had a varied display of helicopters, with a number of first-timers and 'old school' airframes on view. The role of the rotary-wing assets on display was also wide and varied; Search & Rescue (SAR), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)/Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), General Utility/Light Transport, Rotary-Wing Training, Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC), Heavy-Lift troop/vehicle transportation and anti-armour/attack helicopters all on view

Heavy Haulers, Gas Stations, MPAs and ISTAR platforms

Few, if any airshows around the world can rival what's on view at RAF Fairford during RIAT week. Held over 13-15 July, the build-up to the airshow begins well in advance, with the display aircraft starting to arrive three days before the show itself. As well as marking the centenary of the Royal Air Force, RIAT 2018 also commemorated the RAF's past achievements. In addition to the aircraft in the large static display, the show also included over seven hours of flying each day; plenty to keep even the most ardent aviation fan occupied. An estimated 185,000 people and over 300 aircraft from 43 air arms and 30 different nations attended RIAT '18. Almost one of every aircraft type in service with the Royal Air Force was on display, but sadly the much anticipated Centenary Flypast scheduled for the Friday afternoon was cancelled due to thunderstorms in the vicinity; the first time the southern U.K had seen any significant rainfall in over two months! Despite that disappointment, there was plenty of great weather, with some spectacular displays and some interesting aircraft on view.

Having replaced the Bell Griffin HT.1 in the SAR training role, the Airbus Helicopters H145 Jupiter is part of the

UKMFTS programme undertaken by Ascent, along with the H135 Juno (which has replaced the Squirrel HT.1/HT.2)

The Hellenic Air Force's Team Zeus turned up to this year's RIAT with aircraft not painted in the team's colours

Based in Souda, Crete, the aircraft came from 340 and 343 Squadrons

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF)

won the King Hussein Memorial Sword, for the best overall flying demonstration

Air Tattoo 'Fast-Jets'

Another popular aircraft is the Dassault Mirage 2000

The Couteau Delta team from the French Air Force always providing a spectacular role-demo display with their two aircraft

The U.S. Air Force brought two Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs from the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, Arizona

Development of the Embraer KC-390 began in 2006, based on a requirement by the Brazilian Air Force to replace the C-130 Hercules

Initially designed as a medium-range cargo aircraft, the aircraft can be rapidly converted from transport to tanker, depending on mission requirements

The KC-390 has been ordered by Argentina, Brazil, Czech Republic, and Portugal

RAFCTE Chief Executive Andy Armstrong presented his RIAT CEO Award to the Royal Canadian Air Force

CF-18 Hornet from 3 Wing at Bagotville

The aircraft, not surprisingly also won the Best Livery award

Fliegerstaffel 17 Swiss Air Force, demonstrated one of its FA-18C Hornet's in the aerial programme

The aircraft is seen with its undercarriage retracting as it begins its routine

A number of Royal Air Force aircraft wore RAF100 decals on their tailfins

This Typhoon FGR.4 from 29(R) Squadron illustrating the logo to good effect

So with another RIAT under our belt, was 2018 a success? Clearly there had been a lot of expectation, mainly due to the celebration of the Royal Air Force's centenary 'RAF100'. In terms of attendance, the Air Tattoo committee will be rightly proud that over 185,000 people attended the three day event, with the Saturday a complete sell-out long in advance of the actual event. When it came to the flying display there were some obvious highlights; the USAF F-35 Heritage Team, the RAF F-35 display, the Ukrainian SU-27, 9-ship Typhoon flypast, B-2/F-15 flypast (although we won't say too much about that!), the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF), the BBMF Lancaster and Tornado/F-35 formation being noticeable. The RCAF Hornet , French Navy and French Air Force Rafales also deserve a mention, together with the ever popular Couteau Delta Mirage 2000Ds. The static display also held some 'gems' such as the Japanese Air Self Defence Force Kawasaki C-2 transport (not going to see those anywhere outside Japan!?), plus lots of new hardware from QinetiQ/ETPS, the Canadian CH-146, Martin-Baker Meteor T.7, all the new RAF training aircraft & helicopters, plus of course the ISTAR aircraft such as the Sentinel, Rivet-Joint and Shadow (be it all a 'civvie' one!). The RAF100 logo was applied liberally, even on aircraft that weren't from the RAF, such the Australian E-7 and Pakistan C-130. So there were many 'new' aircraft to be seen at RIAT 2018, but of course there were also some disappointments that were completely out of anyone's control; the cancellation of the mass RAF100 flypast on the Friday due to weather, the cancellation of the Romanian contingent due to the crash of a MiG-21 only a couple of weeks before the show, and a similar situation with the Polish MiG-29 and Su-22 for similar reasons. Every aircraft 'lost' is sure to disappoint, but nonetheless the Air Tattoo should be rightly proud of once again putting on Europe's largest and best international airshow, and the likelihood is that no-one is going to do any better!

The General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian (to be named the Protector in RAF service) made history when it touched down at RAF Fairford on 12th July, after its epic 24 hour flight from Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was the first medium-altitude Remote Piloted Aircraft (RPA) to cross the Atlantic whilst controlled by satellite communications in U.K airspace. The RPA will enter service with 31 Squadron in 2023, Air Vice-Marshall Julian Young saying; “It features world-beating characteristics that we are bringing into service as the lead customer and this aircraft will be a game-changer like no other”. It is expected that the Protector will be capable of carrying a payload of up to 18 MBDA Brimstone air-to-ground missiles.

The RAF's 617 Squadron reformed at RAF Marham to fly the new F-35B Lightning, the first stealth aircraft in RAF service. 617 'Dambusters' officially stood up on 17th April 2018, with IOC (Initial Operational Capability) expected by the end of the year. The OCU (Operational Conversion Unit), 207 Squadron, will be the next unit to equip with the Lightning and will operate alongside 617 Sqn at Marham. It is expected that the first flight trials on-board HMS Queen Elizabeth by the end of this year, and that by 2023 the first Royal Navy squadron in the form of 809 Naval Air Squadron will also be fully operational, although Royal Navy pilots are already flying with 617 Squadron.

Another ISTAR asset is 5 (AC) Squadron's Sentinel R.1, the RAF's only long-range aerial battlefield surveillance asset

Depsite its unquestionable ability, the fleet is slated for withdrawal and will most likely be replaced by RPAs

Not to be outdone, 617 Squadron performed a flypast with a Lancaster, Tornado and F-35B

617 Sqn Dambusters performed the famous Operation Chastise attack on German dams with the Lancaster on 16–17th May 1943, using the bouncing bomb developed by Barnes Wallis. The Tornado aircraft was 617's mount prior to it re-forming on the new F-35 Lightning at RAF Marham 

The General Atomics MQ-9 Protector had 31 Squadron decals applied to the airframe after it arrived at the show

31 Sqn will be the first to operate the RPA when it is expected to enter service in 2023

The Leonardo AW189 was one of two delivered to the U.K. Coastguard at Prestwick in May 2017

Owned by Bristow Helicopters, they are operated on behalf of the U.K. Maritime & Coastguard Agency

Static Display Aircraft

Another new type recently entering the QinetiQ/ETPS fleet is the Grob 120TP

As with the PC-21, the aircraft is one of two delivered and is part of the total re-vamp of the fleet

The F-35A Lightning II from the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, is put throught its paces

The Grob 120TP Prefect T.1 also now serves with the RAF in the elementary flying training role at Cranwell and Barkston Heath

Replacing the Grob Tutor, the Prefect provides a turbo-prop powered aircraft with digital avionics and a retractable undercarriage, features that make that level of training far more relevant to the next stage of MFTS training, where pilots move onto the Juno helicopter, Texan II or Phenom aircraft

Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons are regular visitors to the RIAT

37º Stormo provided two aircraft for the static display in 2018

Owned by Hawker Hunter Aviation (HHA), based at RAF Scampton, their fleet of jets are flown and maintained by former RAF, RN & Test Pilot personnel. HHA provides tailored contractualised air support training services for the United Kingdom's armed forces

This Lockheed C-130E Hercules from 6 Squadron, Pakistan Air Force, was on the static display and won second prize for its paint scheme, as runner-up to the Canadian FA-18 Hornet

The aircraft had visited the Air Tattoo many years previously when in service with the Royal Australian Air Force

The Spanish Patrulla Aguila display team end their show with a patriotic salute to the colours of the country's flag

RIAT 2018 saw good participation from a number of large aircraft; Heavy-lift cargo aircraft, aerial refuelling aircraft, Maritime Patrol Aircraft and ISTAR aircraft in all shapes and sizes, from a number of different air arms around the world. This year's Air Tattoo probably had more large aircraft on display than had been seen for a number of years. Here's a few of the highlights..........................................

In service since 1989, the Boeing E-6B Mercury is the U.S. Navy's TACAMO aircraft (TAke Charge And Move Out)

The E-6B's airborne communication system support's the Navy’s SSBN ballistic missile submarine force

It also has a secondary role as an airborne command post and as a communications relay station over combat areas