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The oldest national flag in the world celebrated 800 years in 2019 with the Royal Danish Air Force celebrating the anniversary of King Valdemar’s victory in the Battle of Lindanise in 1219

Legend has it that 800 years ago the flag of 'Dannebrog' fell from the sky - the RDAF celebrating the anniversary with this specially painted F-16AM

Another static display aircraft was this F-15E Strike Eagle from 494th Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath

What was really disappointing was the fact the 48th Fighter Wing had painted three F-15s in D-Day Anniversary markings and yet couldn't manage to get one of them to RIAT - a poor showing in my opinion

Taking the Paul Bowen Trophy for the best solo jet display - in honour of the late Paul Bowen, co-founder of the Air Tattoo - was Lt Col Yurii Bulavka, with his display in the Sukhoi Su-27P1M from the 831st Guards Tactical Aviation Brigade of the Ukrainian Air Force.

Northrop Grumman Firebird
RIAT provided an opportunity for Northrop Grumman’s Scaled Composites Unit to show off its Firebird intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform (photo, right). The Firebird is offered in piloted, optionally piloted and unmanned configurations, its rugged landing gear making it suitable for operations from unmade airstrips. Produced in Mojave, California, its sensor payloads can be swapped out in just 30 minutes, with the unmanned version having an endurance of 30hrs at 25,000ft.

Without doubt one of the most popular visitors at RIAT 2019 were the Turkish Air Force F-4E Phantoms

Two aircraft from 111 Filo/1nci AJU at Eskisehir both painted in anniversary markings dominating the static park

The aircraft above carried tail markings commemorating 60 years of the Phantom

Proving that even grey aircraft can be photogenic - Hawker Hunter Aviation's Hunter F.58 departs RIAT

Another aircraft that was on static display, HHA owns, operates and maintains a multiple-platform fleet of fast jets providing services to Government Agencies and Defence Contractors for the purpose of Trials Support & Trials Management, and the provision of Aerial Threat Simulation & Mission Support Training

This Airbus A319-112 is another example of aircraft often seen on the Monday after the airshow

Strangely though, the Hungarian Air Force did not display at this year's RIAT and so we can only assume it arrived to pick up senior officials that attended the show. The aircraft is one of two of the type used for VIP/Govt. transportation

This Bombardier CL-604 Challenger of the Swiss Air Force is one of two aircraft recently acquired

#T-752 and its sister ship #T-751 will replace the Beech 1900D #T-729 of the Lufttransportdienst des Bundes (LTDB- Air Transport Service). It is a typical example of support aircraft that can be seen on the Monday following RIAT

When it comes to special paint schemes the Germans take some beating and they always look great on a Tonka

This Tornado IDS from TaktLwg.51 was painted for this year's NATO Tiger Meet

This C-27J is from the Lithuanian Air Force. Of note is the in-flight refuelling probe above the cockpit, something which is lacking on the Romanian example in the previous photo

It's a long way from Greece in an aircraft such as a Beechcraft T-6 Texan II

Nonetheless, the Hellenic Air Force crew from 364 Mira 'Team Daedalus' gave a great display in the small two-seat trainer and it was great to see them travel all this way to put on a show

The most recent addition to the UKMFTS fleet are the ten Beechcraft T-6C Texans (left). The Texan T.1 will take over the Basic Fast Jet Training (BFJT) role currently flown with the Shorts Tucano T.1, which is slated for withdrawal in October this year. The Texan is in service with 72 Squadron at RAF Valley, Anglesey. Following the BFJT course, students progress onto the British Aerospace Hawk T.2. 

Although they look very similar, the Airbus Helicopters Jupiter HT.1 (right) and Juno HT.1 (left) are used in very different roles by the Defence Helicopter Flying School.

The smaller Juno provides basic rotary-wing training at RAF Shawbury - the first Juno (H135) arriving on 3rd April 2017, with the first trainee pilot flying the aircraft on 25th April 2018. The Jupiter, which is based on the H145-model helicopter, is used for advanced rotary-wing training, with just three in service

The Grob 120 Prefect T.1 (above and left) is operated by 3 Flying Training  School in the Elementary Flying Training (EFT) role at RAF Cranwell - 57 Sqn RAF, 674 Sqn AAC and 703 Sqn RN being the subordinate squadrons conducting EFT for the three services. Although nominally located at RAF Cranwell, the Prefects operate primarily from nearby RAF Barkston Heath.

The Future of RAF ISTAR

Reconnaissance Ventures Limited Group undertake specialist aerial survey work for the Coast Guard Agency

This Cessna F406 is one of six operated by the company

The diminutive Embraer 121 Xingu from the French Navy serves with 28 Flotille at Lann-Bihoue

The Brazilian manufactured twin-turboprop is used for multi-engine training by the Aeronavale and has been in service for over 35 years

860 Sqn Royal Netherlands Navy NH.90-NFH (NATO Frigate Helicopter) forms part of the Netherlands

Defence Helicopter Command (DHC). The helicopter's crew consists of a pilot, tactical co-ordinator and a sensor operator. The NFH is designed for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW), operating from ships and equipped for all-weather day or night missions

What better way to close the report than with one of the Turkish F-4E-2020 Phantoms

In recent years RIAT has played host to Greek F-4s on a number of occasions, but it's been a while since a Turkish Phantom has graced the arena at Fairford - hopefully it won't be so long before they return again

Also operated by 3FTS is the Embraer Phenom T.1 (right), in service with 45 Sqn at RAF Cranwell. The Phenom is used for Multi-Engine Pilot Training (MEPT) and those destined to be 'rear crew'

Operations were transferred from the RAF, Royal Navy and Coastguard to Bristow Helicopters between 2015-17, who now provide the UK's SAR capability operating from ten different locations with the AW.189 and S-92 helicopters. The Sikorsky S-92 (above) is the larger of the two helicopters currently in service



This year’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) took place 19-21 July at RAF Fairford, with a major anniversary as one of its key themes marking 70 years since the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Created in 1949 by 12 nations – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States, from its founding and throughout the Cold War period, NATO’s primary purpose was to unify and strengthen the Allies military response to a possible invasion of Western Europe.

The B-52 throughout its long history has been a fairly regular visitor to RAF Fairford, both for the RIAT and also on US Air Force deployments. This particular B-52H is from the 20th Bomb Squadron/2nd Bomb Wing at Barskdale AFB, Louisiana




The RIAT Chief Executive Trophy, presented by outgoing Air Tattoo CEO Andy Armstrong, went to the Spanish Navy's EAV-8B Harrier II+ duo. Mr Armstrong referred particularly to the initiative shown by the squadron's commanding officer following a brake fire suffered by one of the two aircraft on arrival, which led to repairs being affected and enabling them to participate in the weekend's displays.

Supporting the Spanish Navy AV-8B Harriers, this Cessna 550 Citation II is based at Rota with Escuadrilla 004

Following the SU-27s out of RIAT was the Ukrainian Ilyushin IL-76 transport

Providing support for the Flankers it was also on display in the static arena, wearing a new overall grey scheme

As a regular performer at RIAT, Swedish Air Force Saab JAS 39C Gripen pilot Maj Peter Fallén from F 7 wing won the King Hussein Memorial Sword for best overall flying demonstration. An emotional Fallén said, "This means so much to me. I'm almost in tears now, because RIAT has been a big part of my career as a display pilot. I've been flying here for six years, and it's been the main event every year, I'm so grateful."

Where else to start but with the wonderful Flankers of 831st Guards Tactical Aviation Brigade

This two-seat SU-27UB1M was in the static display and is captured as it departs for Myrhorod

The -2020 'Terminator' is an upgraded version of the F-4E Phantom II. Approximately 30 F-4E 2020s remain in service with the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK - Turkish Air Force)

The Steedman Display Sword for best display by a UK participant went to the Red Arrows - Flypasts with the British Overseas Airways Corporation-schemed Boeing 747-436 of British Airways as part of the BA100 events and the French Air Force's Patrouille de France team as a salute to the 50th anniversary of Concorde's first flight, plus of course their own inimitable display routine earning them the award. Sqn Ldr Doug Smith commented, "This is absolutely fantastic. We adore coming to RIAT every year - it's a tremendously well-run airshow - and to come away with the trophy for best display from the UK is stunning."

Boeing's P-8A Poseidon is a multi-role maritime patrol aircraft, equipped with sensors and weapons systems for anti-submarine warfare, as well as surveillance and search and rescue missions. The P-8A’s comprehensive mission system features an APY-10 radar with modes for high-resolution mapping, an acoustic sensor system, including passive and multi-static sonobuoys, EO/IR turret and electronic support measures (ESM).  This equipment delivers comprehensive search and tracking capability, while the aircraft’s weapons system includes torpedoes for engaging sub-surface targets. Within the next year the Poseidon MRA.1 version will enter service with the RAF, firstly with 120 Squadron, followed by 201 Squadron in 2021, marking the resurgence of long-range maritime patrol for the Royal Air Force.

HM Coastguard attended RIAT with three different aircraft in 2019, a great effort on their part

The Cessna F406 with its distinctive SLAR below the nose departs Fairford for home

The Royal Canadian Air Force have become regulars to RIAT again in recent years, 2019 seeing a CC-130J Hercules and a CP-140 Aurora (above). The CP-140 is a version of the Lockheed P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft

The Finnish Air Force F-18 Hornet demonstration by Capt Arto Ukskoski flying the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet from Fighter Squadron 11 was outstanding, unsurprisingly winning both the Sir Douglas Bader Trophy for best individual flying demonstration and the As The Crow Flies Trophy for best display awarded by the Friends of RIAT

The Italian Air Force's Frecce Tricolori aerobatic team of 10 Aermacchi AT-339A jet trainers scooped the RAFCTE Trophy, awarded to the best flying demonstration by an overseas participant. Team leader Maj Stefano Vit said, "It is really a great honour for me and for all the team, because it's a special trophy. The Air Tattoo is the biggest airshow in Europe, and winning this trophy is a big reward."


Over the last few years I have made a point of ensuring that I am on base on the Monday after RIAT to capture the departing aircraft. It's an opportunity to capture almost everything in action - including most of the static display aircraft and hopefully a number of support aircraft that arrive and depart throughout the day. From around 9.30 it's pretty much non-stop action. Sadly we don't get the spectacular take-offs that were once the norm, undoubtedly due to restrictions placed upon the crews by the powers that be. However, it's still a great few hours - here's a little taster.



Quite possibly the last time we will see a MiG.21 at RIAT - hopefuly not

With the type being replaced by F-16s in the Romanian Air Force it is however unlikely we will see them again

The two Sukhoi SU-27s disappear into the distance with afterburners in full flow

No aircraft epitomizes NATO co-operation more than the Boeing E-3A Sentry, Airborne Warning & Control aircraft

The NATO AWACS are based at Geilenkirchen, Germany and have recently undergone an upgrade programme

On display in the static park once again was a US Navy P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA)

The aircraft is from VP-9 squadron based at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington

At present, 29 countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey joining the founder members) continue to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through both political and military means.

The British Aerospace Hawk T.2 is the current trainer used for the Advanced Fast-Jet Training (AFJT) role

It is in service at RAF Valley with 4 Sqn and 25 Sqn, both part of 4 Flying Training School

In recent years RIAT has become more of an opportunity for manufacturers to show off their aircraft, particularly in years when Farnborough (FIA) is also held. Embraer displayed the EMB-314 Super Tucano in the static, with the aircraft caught just after rotating off Runway 27

The second F-4E carried special markings celebrating 70 years of NATO

Both Phantoms also sported the obligatory Sharks mouth on the nose

Now becoming regular attendees at RIAT - the two Italian Air Force helicopters from 15° Stormo at Cervia. Left is the Leonardo HH-101A and right is the smaller HH-139A. 15° Stormo performs Search and Rescue (SAR), international humanitarian missions and Combat SAR (CSAR) missions

So what did we make of RIAT 2019? Well it has to be said that it was rather frustrating in many ways. Billed as a celebration of 70 years of NATO, the NATO flypast was a huge disappointment in so many ways - aircraft too high, aircraft pulling out at the last minute due to technical issues (which we all know can't be helped, but with the small numbers involved in the first place they become so more noticeable) and the aircraft spaced huge distances apart, it was poor! The flying displays in general were sparse to say the least, full price tickets for a shortened display on the Friday need to be looked at. Those that attended on the Friday only certainly felt short-changed, I know that from feedback I have seen on social media - the poor weather on the Friday only leading to more frustration as most of the few flying displays cancelled and the static park was left unattended as crews sought shelter elsewhere - so no flying, no crews to chat with and no stalls to purchase merchandise from! The static displays could have been better - still too many unnecessary blue cones, Ferris wheels in the background of static aircraft and so on. I know that the show is not just for hard core aviation enthusiasts who want to photograph the aircraft, but why can't RIAT give a little more thought to how they lay out the displays? It would be so easy to provide better backdrops than portaloos, funfairs and inappropriately placed dross so as to allow people to get uncluttered photos. I could go on a little rant here but I don't want to, or maybe I already have? - Friday was awful for many reasons, Saturday was better - be it all the flying display was noticeably sparse compared to previous years, with Sunday also having a restricted flying display compared to Saturday - why? Not many people attend all three days and so a little more thought to the fact that people look at the programme and think - I should have come yesterday, or I should have come tomorrow - it's so frustrating when everyone has paid the same money to be there irrelevant of what day it is.

But - as always there were some nice and unusual attendees. Whilst the really rare items that were once compulsory at RIAT are now few and far between, there were some great colour schemes to be seen - Luftwaffe Tornado, Danish F-16, Pakistan C-130, Turkish F-4s, Luftwaffe Eurofighter, Belgian F-16s and Norwegian F-16. There were also some superb flying displays - Finnish Hornet, Ukrainian SU-27, Frecce Tricolori, the British Airways/Red Arrows formation and of course the Spanish Navy AV-8B Harriers, which not only displayed, but displayed as a pair - fantastic! So will I be there in 2020, of course I will - I wouldn't miss it for the world. I've attended every IAT/RIAT since 1974 - yes 45 years, Christ I'm old................ It's still the greatest airshow in the world and gives you the opportunity to meet great people, old friends and get up close and personal with lots of military aircraft that you'll never see at any other airshow, let alone all in one place. All I ask is that RIAT's organisers give a little more thought to the hard-core enthusiasts - many of whom pay large sums of money every year to attend and keep coming back - you've lost some of them in recent years and are in danger of losing more of them.

MQ-8C The US Navy declared Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for Northrop Grumman’s Bell 407-based MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial system (UAS) on 8th July 2019, six years after fight trials commenced. The US Navy has planned for a total of 38 MQ-8C, with initial deployments on board the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) -class vessels in fiscal year 2021.

The MQ-8C will be equipped with a Leonardo Osprey 30 lightweight active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that allows for a larger field of view and includes a range of digital modes including weather detection, air-to-air targeting and a ground-moving target indicator. To date the MQ-8C has flown over 1,500hrs with more than 700 sorties.

The German Navy sent a Lockheed P-3C Orion from Marinefliegergeschwader 3 (MFG-3) and a Westland Super Lynx helicopter from MFG-5 to RIAT '19 for the static display, both aircraft based at Nordholz. The Orion is still a very capable ASW asset, whilst the German Navy is the last operator of the Lynx in Europe, albiet still maintaining a viable ASW/ASuW capability

This Aerospatiale SA.330B Puma belongs to 3 Régiment d'Hélicoptères de Combat (3 RHC) of the French Army

Based at at Étain-Rouvres, the French Army still operate a sizeable number of the ageing Puma helicopter

The trophy for best livery was unsurprisingly presented to the Eurofighter EF2000 operated by Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 71 'Richthofen' of the German Air Force, stationed at Wittmund

in aircraft such as Atlas, C-130, Sentinel, Sentry and also those for the future Poseidon and E-7 AWACS fleets.

Two Mikoyan MiG.21 LanceR C from Constanta/Mihail Kogalniceanu air base attended this year's RIAT, demonstrating their prowess in the flying display. The aircraft are seen here departing Fairford on Monday 22 July

Also painted for the NATO Tiger Meet was this RAF Puma HC.2 helicopter from 230 Squadron based at Benson

It certainly makes a change for the RAF to come up with something so nice

One of the larger aircraft that are hard to photograph in the static display was the Qatar Air Force C-17 Globemaster

Seen heading out to the runway and provides a great example of how much easier it is to photograph on departure

The Coastguard Leonardo AW189 - Bristow Helicopters, who currently hold the contract for UK SAR duties

were one of the first operators of the AW189

As mentioned, there were no less than four Leonardo C-27J Spartans in the static display

This particular one is from the Romanian Air Force's 90 ABT at Bucharest-Otopeni

As is the norm at RIAT, each year a number of awards are given out by the organisers, each winner being presented with a trophy for their efforts.

Lt Col Yurii Bulavka puts the mighty Sukhoi SU-27 through its paces at RIAT 2019

With the flying display much smaller than in previous years, especially on the Friday and Sunday; the static display took on a more prominent role in 2019 - and it didn't disappoint, with some notable firsts, some nice special schemes to admire and a number of aircraft that haven't put in appearances at RIAT for a number of years. Having debuted in 2018, the UK Coast Guard brought along Sikorsky S-92 and Leonardo AW189 helicopters, together with a twin-engine Cessna F406 aircraft. Unlike the flying display, there were a number of other helicopters present in the static display, including those from the French Army, German Navy, Italian Air Force, Netherlands Air Force and Navy, and the Royal Air Force. There was also a number of 'large' aircraft on display including; US Air Force B-52, KC1-0 and C-17; joined by C-17s from the multi-national Strategic Airlift Capability at Pápa Air Base, Hungary and the Qatari Air Force, who also brought along a Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules. P-3 Orions from Canada and Germany, together with a US Navy P-8 provided a maritime patrol element, whilst the smaller transport aircraft saw a Finnish Air Force C295 and C-27J Spartans from Romania, Italy, Lithuania and Slovakia. Undoubtedly though the two most popular large aircraft were the Pakistan Air Force C-130B and the Ukrainian IL-76.

Along with NATO members, Partnership for Peace (PfP) members such as the Ukraine also attended RIAT 2019

Sporting a new overall grey paint scheme was this Illyushin IL-76 transport aircraft in the static display

This nicely camouflaged F-16BM Fighting Falcon from 331 Squadron was another static display item

It was painted in this non-standard scheme to commemorate 20 years of F-16 service within 331 Skv, 60 years of 331 Skv and the RNoAF 75th anniversary. It is painted in the colours of  a Supermarine Spitfire IX (#PL258/FN-K) of 331 (Norwegian) Squadron

This beautiful old girl departs RIAT for the long trip back to Islamabad, Pakistan

This almost 60 year old C-130B Hercules looks like it just came off the production line


Qinetiq's fleet of aircraft includes this Avro RJ70 - nicknamed the 'flying classroom'. Supporting multi-engine test pilot and flight test engineer training, the aircraft wears Qinetiq's striking new colour scheme

Although looking resplendent in its new livery and having flown all the way from Pakistan for RIAT '19

This Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a B-model that was built almost 60 years ago!

The Royal Netherlands Air Force operates a mixed fleet of CH-47D and CH-47F Chinooks from Gilze-Rijen air base with 298 Squadron. The one above is a CH-47D, one of seven ex-Canadian aircraft that were acquired in 1996, with a further six new-builds joining the fleet in 1998. Six F-models were delivered from 2012, a further order for 14 F-models has subsequently been placed, with the existing CH-47F's being upgraded to a similar standard. The heavy-lift Chinook is also part of the Dutch DHC fleet.

The Royal Jordanian Air Force has been a supporter of IAT/RIAT almost from the outset

In days gone by they have brought CASA101s, Mirage F.1s and Northrop F-5s, but for many years now they have rolled out the customary C-130 Hercules. At least this year they changed the tail scheme!

Static Displays

In August 2009 Ascent Flight Training – a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Babcock, signed its first MOD contract to provide the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS). The £57 million, 5-year contract caters to the learning needs of all UK military air crew including Rear, Advanced Jet and Multi-Engine Pilot Training. 

The flying each day was somewhat varied at this year's RIAT to say the least. Friday was somewhat limited due to it not being a full day's display - but the rain pretty much put paid to that anyway! Saturday's display was by no means anywhere near that of previous years in terms of numbers - with the NATO flypast becoming a complete non-event due to aircraft withdrawals and the fact that the participants flew past with huge gaps between each 'formation', many of which were just 1-2 aircraft only. As to Sunday's display, well that was also a strange set-up, with many of the Saturday items not being present and again very limited. Too be honest, RIAT really must do better in 2020.


​​Jetwash Aviation Photos