Category Archives: Airshow News Military

What will the Red Arrows’ shortened 2020 display routine look like?

SCAMPTON | The RAF Red Arrows were awarded their Public Display Authority for 2020 today (Wednesday 8th July), but this year’s display routine will be a little different to usual.

With the majority of airshows cancelled, several RAF display teams suspended and the Red Arrows abandoning their annual training spring exercise in Cyprus, it seemed possible a few months ago that we might not be seeing the acclaimed aerobatic team display at all this year.

However, following a three-and-a-half week gap in their training, the Red Arrows resumed flying activities at their RAF Scampton base on April 15th, and have been working up a reduced display routine here in the UK, performing practice sorties at Scampton, Syerston and Donna Nook. This led them to achieve their Public Display Authority (PDA), their permission to perform in front of the public, around six weeks later than usual.

The 2020 display routine follows a largely familiar format, although is slightly shorter than in other years. The display will start with around seven minutes of nine-ship formation aerobatics, which in the case of the full display will include two loops and one barrel roll (down from a more typical two barrel rolls in recent seasons). This will be followed by the ever-popular Tornado, which has this year been upgraded to feature Reds 1-5 leading in line abreast, creating a Tango-eqsue formation.

The second half of this year’s full, flat and rolling shows all begin with the Detonator this year, a manoeuvre that typically features only the flat and rolling displays. This will be followed by some of the Red Arrows’ trademark opposition manoeuvres, including the Gypo Pass, Carosel and Goose, and the crowd favourite Heart. A new, flatter version of the Heart, known as the Rolling Heart, will allow the Red Arrows’ famed sky art to be flown in the rolling display for the first time.

Two manoeuvres have been dropped from the display at this point; typically Reds 1-5, 8 and 9 join up for a formation manoeuvre such as the Vertical Break, followed by an opposition pass by the Synchro Pair. Instead, the display will skip straight to a series of manoeuvres by Enid and Gypo, which will include the Python (replaced by the Slalom in the flat display), the Mirror Pass, the Rollbacks and the Gypo Break.

A new manoeuvre known as Crossbow – an opposition pass that combines the Opposition Barrel Rolls with Vice-Versa – will serve as the penultimate manoeuvre, before the display is concluded with the Vixen Break. Despite a shorter duration, and greater commonality between the full, flat and rolling display routines, the inclusion of several new or upgraded manoeuvres, as well as the retention of most crowd favourite manoeuvres, means fans will still enjoy a fresh and exciting performance.

However, the Red Arrows were seen practicing several manoeuvres before the lockdown which are no longer to be featured in this year’s display, including the Vertical Break, and a manoeuvre that appeared similar to the Twizzles, in which five or seven aircraft peel out of formation to execute synchronised barrel rolls. It has not been featured in a Red Arrows display for well over a decade. Until March, the Red Arrows were also seen practicing the Wall arrival part of the Red Arrows’ show in 2016 and 2017, but their final show instead sees them arriving in a more traditional Nine Arrow formation.

Already this year, the Red Arrows have performed three high-profile flypasts, marking VE Day in London and Armed Forces Day in Scarborough, as well as flying over London and Paris with the Patrouille de France on the 18th June. The Red Arrows said achieving PDA would allow them “to respond fully, with preparation completed, to any future national tasking across the UK,” although with most airshows cancelled and others still in doubt, it is not yet clear where and when the public will be able to see them in action.

At the time of writing, only three major UK airshows remain this season: the Jersey and Guernsey air displays, and the Duxford Battle of Britain Airshow, all in September. There are also a smattering of smaller events planned, and at least one foreign airshow has also told This is Flight reporters that they are in talks with the team. It is also possible that the Reds could participate in one-off aerial displays on their own around the country.

Red 10 Sqn Ldr Adam Collins said the team is “ready to display as soon as restrictions allow.”

Iran sets up bizarre aerobatic team with knock-off jets, paint scheme and logo

TEHRAN | The Iranian Air Force today took delivery of three indiginous HESA Kowsar fighters, seemingly destined for a new aerobatic team.


A newly-delivered Kowsar at the delivery ceremony today. Photo: Iran_Newsroom.

The Iranian Defence Ministry handed the three aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) in a ceremony on Thursday 25th June, at which the specially-painted planes performed formation manoeuvres and flypasts.

Iran’s most recent official aerobatic team, Golden Crown, flew eight Northrop F-5Es up until the Imperial Iranian Air Force was dissolved in 1979. In recent years, Iran has harboured ambitions to create a new team, with the commander of the IRIAF stating in February this year that he hoped a three-ship Kowsar display would be ready in time for the Army Day parade in April. Although the deadline has been missed, the special paint schemes, along with the matching pilot helmets and routine of formation flybys, would suggest that the three jets delivered today are intended for aerial displays.

The Kowsar is an Iranian-built derivative of the Northrop F-5F, which made its first flight in 2018 and is claimed to be a 4th generation fighter. However, one of the Kowsars delivered today is a 43-year-old modified F-5F, still wearing Northrop decals on the ejection seat, despite Iran insisting that the Kowsar is entirely indiginously produced.

 File:RoKAF Black Eagles Singapore Airshow 2014.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Almost identical: The new Iranian jets (left) and the Black Eagles (right). Photos: Iran_Newsroom and Alert5 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Aside from the knock-off F-5s, airshow enthusiasts will note several more bizarre elements of the new team. The paint scheme is remarkably similar to the design applied to the underside of the Republic of Korea Air Force’s Black Eagles team, even mirroring several minor details of the Black Eagles’ design.

Footage broadcast on Iranian television also shows the pilots wearing matching helmets, which very closely mirror the helmet design and logo used by the Italian aerobatic team, Frecce Tricolori. Again, even some minor details of the design have seemingly been copied.

 Aquile trentine nella storia delle « Frecce » - Storia delle ...
Spot the difference: The logo on the Iranian pilot’s helmet (left) is remarkably close to that of the Frecce Tricolori (right). Photos: @Iran_Newsroom and Frecce Tricolori.

While most teams strive to create an individual, recognisable brand and identity, Iran has a history of copying foreign aerobatic teams’ paint schemes. While flying the F-84G Thunderjet, the Golden Crowns’ paint scheme shared more than a passing similarity to that of the Thunderbirds. Upon graduating to the F-5A Freedom Fighter, and later the F-5E Tiger II, Golden Crown adopted a new scheme that was almost identical to that of the Thunderbirds, who were by this point flying the T-38 Talon.

6 Imperial Iranian Air Force F-5Es in an arobatic exhibit.jpg File:20141026 T-38 Talon Alliance Air Show 2014-7.jpg - Wikimedia ...
One image shows the Thunderbirds, one shows Golden Crown. It’s hard to tell which is which. Photos: Wikimedia Commons and Will Schlitzer (via Wikimedia Commons).

More recently, three HESA Saeqeh jets (modified F-5s, like the Kowsar) were painted in a near-replica of the US Navy Blue Angels’ paint scheme during test flights and flybys in 2007. The IRIAF even copied the Blue Angels’ famed cursive typeface, replacing the American team’s name with the words “Air Force”.

Unlike Golden Crown, neither the Blue Angels-livered Saeqehs nor the newly-delivered Kowsars appear to be fitted with smoke systems, on the basis of photos of the aircrafts’ tailpipes.

File:A HESA Saeqeh of IRIAF.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
A laughable likeness: Iranian jets (right) in a Blue Angels (left) colour scheme. Photos: Shahram Sharifi (via Wikimedia Commons) and David Leadingham (thisisflight.net).

It is extremely unlikely the aerobatic team will be seen outside Iran in the foreseeable future, but it’s probable that formation displays will be seen at domestic events such as military parades and the Iran Airshow in Kish. Iran’s claim that the fighters were domestically-produced will make the team a powerful propaganda tool, and senior officials have already declared today’s delivery as a sign of increasing strength in the face of international sanctions.

However, why the nation has, for over half a century, felt the need to repeatedly copy a selection of existing, seemingly-unrelated teams from around the world, rather than developing its onw unique team identity, remains a mystery.

When to catch the Republic of Singapore Air Force practicing for NDP

SINGAPORE | The RSAF have begun rehearsing their aerial display for National Day Parade, with further rehearsals scheduled roughly once per week until the 9th August.

NDP 2020 celebrates Singapore’s 55th year of independence, which would usually call for a larger-than-usual military parade and aerial display. However, the event is to be scaled back amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the size of the parade reduced by 90 per cent or more compared to last year.

Unlike most years, when displays are centered on Marina Bay or the Padang, events this year will be spread across the island. This will include the mobile column and an aerial display, with the latter featuring a five-ship formation of F-15SGs from 149 Squadron at Paya Lebar, as well as the traditional state flag flypast, featuring a Chinook and two Apaches. The Red Lions freefall team will also participate throughout the day, landing in the heartlands for the first time, although the precise location of the drop zones is not yet publicly known.

Prime Minister Ng Eng Hen said: “if Singaporeans cannot perform or come to the NDP, why not bring the NDP right to the homes of all Singaporeans across the island?

“SAF helicopters will fly our National Flag in the sky to the strain of Majulah Singapura sung by her citizens over many parts of Singapore. SAF planes will take to the air and fly past housing estates. Look out also for the Red Lions that will land in selected destinations in the heartlands.”

Rehearsals will take place most Saturdays until National Day Parade itself on the 9th August.

Date Time Event
Thursday 25th June 09:00-11:30 RSAF Internal Rehearsal
Saturday 4th July 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 1
Saturday 11th July 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 2
Saturday 18th July 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 3
Saturday 25th July 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 4
Saturday 1st August 09:00-11:30 Combined Rehearsal 5
Sunday 9th August 09:00-11:30 National Day Parade (morning segment)
Sunday 9th August 18:30-20:30 National Day Parade (evening segment)
Monday 10th August 09:00-11:30 National Day Parade (reserve slot)

The most intense aerial activity is likely to be between 10:30 and 11:00 during CR1, CR2, CR3, CR4 and the NDP morning segment.

Red Arrows will move to Waddington after closure of RAF Scampton

LINCOLN |The RAF Red Arrows’ new base will be RAF Waddington, less than 10 miles south of their current base at Scampton, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

RAF Scampton, which is expected to close in around 2022, has been the home of the Red Arrows since 1983, with a brief move to RAF Cranwell between 1995 and 2000. However, they continued to use the airspace over Scampton for training. Although Scampton is expected to be sold off for redevelopment, the Red Arrows will continue to use its airspace for training after their move.

Waddington is one of five front-line RAF bases, home to the UK’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) fleet. This includes aircraft such as the E-3D Sentry, RC-135 Rivet Joint and Sentinel R1. Waddington was previously named as the Red Arrows’ new home in 2008, but the move was cancelled several years later.

The closure of RAF Scampton was announced in 2018 as part of a major cost-cutting exercise. Two other RAF bases were considered as potential new Red Arrows bases: RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire and RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, however there was a strong local movement in Lincoln to keep the Red Arrows nearby.

The Ministry of Defence said it would look at ways to preserve Scampton’s “rich history”. During the second world war, Scampton was home to the infamous 617 Squadron, who staged the daring Dambusters raid in 1943. It was later a base for Vulcan bombers.

One dies as Snowbirds jet crashes into residential area in Kamloops, BC

KAMLOOPS | A CT-114 Tutor belonging to the Canadian Forces Snowbirds has  crashed into a house in Kamloops, British Columbia, killing one and injuring another.

Two a jets belonging to the squadron took off from Kamloops bound for Comox at around 11:30 on Sunday 17th May, but one quickly turned back towards the airport, entered a steep dive and crashed with two people on board.

The Royal Canadian Air Force said: “It is with heavy hearts that we announce that one member of the CF Snowbirds team has died and one has sustained serious injuries.”

The team’s Public Affairs Officer, Captain Jennifer Casey, was killed in the accident. Capt. Casey joined the RCAF in 2014 and previously served as PAO for the CF-18 Demo Team, and joined the Snowbirds last year. On social media, the Snowbirds described Capt. Casey as a “dedicated member” of the team.

“We are deeply saddened and grieve alongside Jenn’s family and friends,” said Lieutenant General Al Meinzinger, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force. “Our thoughts are also with the loved ones of Captain MacDougall. We hope for a swift recovery from his injuries.”

The second team member involved, Snowbird #11 Capt. Richard MacDougall, is the team’s advance pilot and coordinator, was able to eject and landed on the roof of a house. He was taken to hospital with serious injuries, but was not thought to be in a life-threatening condition, according to the RCAF.

There do not appear to have been any injuries on the ground.

The Snowbirds are Canada’s national aerobatic team and operate the ageing CT-114 Tutor, a former RCAF training aircraft which was retired from regular service in 2000. The team have recently been performing flypasts across Canada as part of Operation Inspiration, giving thanks to healthcare workers and boosting morale.

The team had been due to leave Kamloops for Kelowna, performing flypasts along the way as part of Operation Inspiration. However, low cloud forced a last-minute change of plan and the team instead announced they would be flying to Comox, from which they would later stage further flybys.

Last year, a Snowbirds aircraft crashed before the Atlanta Airshow following engine problems. The pilot was able to eject and survived with only minor injuries.

Australian International Airshow is first 2021 show to be postponed by coronavirus

AVALON | The Australian International Airshow has become the first 2021 airshow facing postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo: William Reid

Organisers are worried the show, originally scheduled for the 23rd-28th February, will face logistical problems and uncertainty about international travel, which they said would cause “unacceptable risk” to the trade portion of their event if the show were not to be rescheduled. Instead, organisers are considering holding the show in November 2021, with precise dates to be confirmed shortly.

With the show’s public days due to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force, it is important that the show goes ahead before the end of 2021, with the anniversary itself taking place on the 31st March. The Australian International Airshow is expected to be the largest airshow celebrating the anniversary.

The Royal Australian Air Force aways provide a strong mix of displays, featuring aircraft such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F-35A Lightning, KC-30 MRTT, C-17A Globemaster, BAE Hawk 127, C-27 Spartan and others, although their participation at the 2021 show is expected to be particularly spectacular. It is also likely to feature the first Avalon performance of The Roulettes in their brand new Pilatus PC-21s.

Thunderbirds seen with coloured smoke as flypasts with Blue Angels planned across USA

PENSACOLA | The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels are due to perform joint flypasts across the United States over the coming week to boost national unity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nine F-16s of the Thunderbirds arrived at the Blue Angel’s base in Pensacola on Monday 20th April, fuelling speculation that the two teams would be performing flyovers together. The teams flew together over Pensacola the following day, although the Blue Angels rebuffed reports that further flyovers were planned on social media.

The plans were confirmed on Wednesday at a White House press briefing. Operation America Strong will see both teams performing non-aerobatic flypasts over cities such as Washington DC, Baltimore, New York, Newark, Trenton, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Austin, according to the Washington Post, although an official list of locations has not been published at the time of writing.

Additionally, the Blue Angels will perform flybys of Miami, Tampa, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Kingsville and Corpus Christi. The Thunderbirds are due to be seen over San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, the Post said.

The announcement comes just days after the Department of Defense extended its ban on non-essential travel and public outreach activities from the 15th May until the end of June, including the cancellation of military-run shows and military participation in other events.

Also on Wednesday, the Thunderbirds were spotted trailing red and blue smoke over Pensacola. While coloured smoke is common among European and Asian aerobatic teams, and was used by the Thunderbirds in the 1960s, a previous attempt to use coloured smoke with the team’s F-16s were unsuccessful as the hot exhaust caused the coloured dye to burn.

The RSAF Black Knights attempted to use coloured smoke with their F-16s in 2007, but abandoned the plans after the red dye stained crops during a test run, forcing the Air Force to compensate farmers. Other teams have experienced problems with aircraft staining, and with dye clogging up the smoke system.

The use of coloured smoke has not been officially acknowledged by the team, and as a result, it is not clear if, or when, this feature will be seen in public, or whether it will be retained for regular airshows after the end of Operation America Strong.

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The Thunderbirds had already flown over Las Vegas and Colorado as a tribute to healthcare workers as both teams press ahead with their training, despite most airshows being cancelled at least until July.

Flypasts will not include aerobatic manoeuvres and will be planned to avoid areas where crowds may build up, in order to promote social distancing.

Royal International Air Tattoo cancelled amid coronavirus outbreak

FAIRFORD | This year’s Royal International Air Tattoo, known as the world’s largest military airshow, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus, the first July airshow to be hit by the disease.

The airshow had been due to take place from the 17th-19th July at RAF Fairford, with performers such as the Patrouille Suisse, Royal Danish Air Force F-16AM and US Air Force F-16C expected to take part in the flying display.

The airshow organisers said: “This decision has not been taken lightly and a significant amount of work sits behind this course of action.  The crisis, which is worsening by the day, and the implications of which are becoming more profound, has led us to conclude that the most prudent course of action is to cease any further planning to deliver this significant event.

“The Air Tattoo is reliant on the support of a wide range of stakeholders, not least the participation of international air arms, medical professionals, military security teams and our Emergency Services, many of whom are delivering a fundamental contribution to fighting this crisis. We believe delivery of our event would distract them from this.

“At the heart of this difficult decision is our firm belief that staging the Air Tattoo this year would not only run counter to the current Government advice but would also be beyond what we could reasonably ask of our supporters. We recognise that our decision will have a negative financial impact on our valued suppliers and traders, on the local economy that benefits so much from the large influx of people who arrive in the area for one week in July, as well as on our parent charity. For this we apologise.”

Although dozens of airshows have already been cancelled globally due to the coronavirus, the Royal International Air Tattoo 2020 is the only one so far beyond mid-June to be scrapped. However, given its reliance on international air arms, the event is particularly vulnerable to global pandemics.

It is the third UK airshow to be officially cancelled, after the Midlands Air Festival and Duxford Air Festival were pulled from the calendar earlier in the week. Schools are to close to most pupils today, and 1.4 million Britons with underlying health conditions are being advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks, starting over the weekend. Follow the latest news as the outbreak continuis to affect the airshow industry on our coronavirus live blog.

The next Royal International Air Tattoo will be held on the 16th-18th July 2021, and will celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. Remember if you want to re-live previous Air Tattoos, our 90-minute documentary on RIAT 2018 is available on our website!

USAF cancels all airshows and demo team appearances until mid-May

The United States Air Force will be suspending its outreach programmes due to uncertainty over the coronavirus outbreak.

After two days of individual show cancellations, the Brig. Gen Edward Thomas, the USAF’s director of public affairs, said: “The Air Force is committed to upholding the complete trust and confidence of Americans and our community engagement is the key to those connections. However, due to the uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and to protect our Airmen, their families and the communities that support us, the Department of the Air Force is suspending all outreach activities and support to community events through May 15.

“This includes, but is not limited to, on-base and civilian sponsored air shows, band performances and community engagements and meetings (speaking engagements, community meetings on installations, base tours, Pentagon visits, etc.).

“We will continue to support funeral flyovers on a case-by-case basis. The Air Force will continuously evaluate the situation and provide updates as needed.”

You can stay up to date on our LIVE BLOG.

WHICH SHOWS ARE IMPACTED?

USAF airshows in this period include:

  • Mar 14: Laughlin AFB Fiesta of Flight, TX
  • Mar 21-22: Luke Days Air & Space Expo, AZ
  • Mar 28-29: MacDill AFB Tampa Bay AirFest, FL
  • Apr 18-19: Maxwell AFB Beyond the Horizon Airshow, AL
  • Apr 18-19: JB Charleston Air & Space Expo, SC
  • Apr 25-26: Wings Over Columbus, MS
  • May 9-10: Beale AFB Thunder Over Recce Town, CA
  • May 9-10: Dyess Big Country AirFest, TX

Other shows still scheduled to go ahead will lose headline acts, such as the Fort Lauderdale Airshow, which was scheduled to host the Thunderbirds, Thunder Over Louisville, which was expected to feature USAF flyovers and solo demonstrations, and the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In, recently rescheduled to early May.