Royal Navy Wildcats spotted practicing two-ship airshow routine at Yeovilton

The Royal Navy’s official aerobatic team, the Black Cats, appear set to resume two-ship displays for the first time since 2016.

[File photo from 2015 – not from this week’s practice displays]

This is Flight correspondents witnessed a pair of Wildcat HMA.2s performing a two-ship routine over their home base at RNAS Yeovilton ahead of the start of the 2023 airshow season. The display featured energetic formation and opposition manoeuvres remeniscent of the Black Cats’ pairs displays. Solo display practices have also been performed in recent days.

Although we cannot be certain which squadron the aircraft belonged to, it is overwhelmingly likely that they are part of the Royal Navy’s aerobatic team, the Black Cats, from 825 Naval Air Squadron, which has been the only Royal Navy unit to regularly perform at airshows in recent years.

The Black Cats last performed two-ship displays in 2016. They were de-activated for the 2017-18 seasons before being re-established as a solo display in 2019, and later being officially re-branded as the Wildcat Demo Team. The team’s social media accounts, which have been largely inactive for several months, have not posted any information about their plans for the 2023 season and the Navy has not released a 2023 schedule for the team at time time of writing.

A recent post by the RAF Cosford Airshow, which is currently the only event of the year to have announced the Black Cats, appeared to suggest that they are expecting a solo display. Assuming the display practices at Yeovilton did indeed involve the Black Cats, the fact that two-ship practices have occured does not necessarily mean that all – or, indeed, any – upcoming Black Cats displays will feature two aircraft. However, the fact that the Navy seemingly intends to resume two-ship Wildcat air displays in some form this season will come as a welcome development to UK airshow enthusiasts.