RAF Fairford, England, 17-19 July 2015
2015 heralded the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and was celebrated in style at RIAT.
A magnificent selection of Hurricanes and Spitfires were brought together to fly in loose formation, accompanied by a real Messerschmidt 109 and Spanish built HA-1112 Buchon. The crowning glory was the first RIAT appearance of the newly restored Blenheim.
The organisers did not stop there! Vulcan to the Sky bid farewell to Fairford with a stunning solo display before forming up with the Red Arrows for two passes. Over 200 aircraft participated, possibly most surprisingly was the presence of two Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft of the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) having crossed two oceans en route to a trial detachment in Djibouti Africa. A first visit by this air arm announced only days before the show plus a flight demonstration too. The static example parked beside a German P-3 Orion and a Boeing P-8 Posieden giving a great comparison of these parallel types.
Soviet types were increased this year with two MiG-29s and an Su-22 from the Polish Air Force, a very rare Mi-14 Haze from the Polish Navy and two Hind helicopter gunships from the Czech Air Force one of which flew whilst the other was painted to celebrate a Polish crewed Liberator of WWII.
Another new nation was Qatar with a fairly new C130J Hercules, another of which, a MC130J, came from RAF Mildenhall who also provided to CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors that dwarfed the assembled collection of helicopters.
Surprisingly the new generation fighters, Rafale and Gripen were absent but, instead, the French Air Force sent a pair of Mirage 2000Ns who flew so close together that the only way to separate them photographically seemed to be when one had a technical issue on Sunday leaving the solo ship to improvise.
Display teams were, as usual, in evidence but in no way dominated the flying which was varied and exceptional. Switzerland, Spain, France, Jordan and, of course, the Red Arrows excelled. Without the ‘solo Turk’ who would show off the F-16? Both the Hellenic Air Force ‘Zeus’ display and the special scheme Belgian challenge the forces of gravity, as did a Finnish Hornet – I think the Greeks were ‘special’ but it is a close call between them.
The RAF contributed greatly to the content with numerous Tornadoes, celebrating the formation of the Tri-national Tornado Establishment (TTTE), Typhoons; many in anniversary markings and the new A330MRTT and A400M transports. Mention is also due to the RAF personnel and RIAT volunteers without which there would be no event; at least this year the weather was relatively kind to them and to the public. Both Saturday and Sunday were completely sold out.
The pictures tell the story but without doubt, this was one of the finest RIATs for many years. Let us hope the coffers of the RAFBF are suitably topped up, the public certainly had more than their money’s worth.