The Black Knights are the official aerobatic team of the Republic of Singapore Air Force. Although only active around once per decade, they are among Asia’s best-known aerobatic teams. They last flew in 2015, flying six F-16C Fighting Falcons at the time.
Active: 1973-1981, 1981-1990, 1994, 2000, 2008, 2014-2015
Country: Republic of Singapore
Home base: Tengah Air Base
Operator: Air Force
Size: 7 aircraft (6 in display)
Hawker Hunter (1973-1981)
F-5E Tiger II (1981-1989)
A-4SU Super Skyhawk (1990-2000)
F-16A Fighting Falcon (2000)
F-16C Fighting Falcon (2008-present)
The Black Knights were formed in 1973 under the name Osprey Red, flying four Hawker Hunters. The name was changed to Black Knights in 1974 as the original name was not considered aggressive enough. The name is based on the knight in chess, which is considered to be the most aggressive and flexible piece.
The team finally made their public debut in 1976. In 1981, the RSAF set up a second aerobatic team flying five F-5E Tiger IIs, under the name Flying Tigers; following the retirement of the Hunter, the Flying Tigers took on the Black Knights’ name and branding.
In 1990 and 1994, they appeared as a six-ship team flying the A-4SU Skyhawk. It had been intended that the Black Knights fly the F-16 in the year 2000, but too few aircraft had been delivered. The team therefore flew a display comprising four A-4s and two F-16As. The F-16s produced red smoke – the only occasion where the Black Knights used coloured smoke.
The Black Knights returned in 2008 with six F-16Cs for three performances in Singapore and one in Thailand. Their second stint on the F-16C was in 2014 and 2015, when they flew at two displays in Singapore (including one celebrating the nation’s 50th anniversary) as a six-ship team and two foreign shows (the Australian International Airshow and LIMA) as a two-ship team. They were temporarily disbanded in the summer of 2015.
The Black Knights’ display begins with all six jets splitting into individual elements, following which the two solo pilots perform a sequence of opposition manoeuvres. The jets then re-join for several minutes of formation aerobatics before splitting down again for more dynamic solo, two-ship and four-ship manoeuvres. This includes the Double Inverted Wrap – the Black Knights are the only team in the world to attempt this in fly-by-wire aircraft. All six aircraft reform for the final few manoeuvres of the display. Highlights include:
- Opening Curtain (six-ship downwards bomb burst)
- Classic Hit (one vs. one opposition pass)
- Aileron Crossover (one vs. one opposition aileron rolls)
- Line Abreast Loop to Diamond Twist Cut (four-ship line abreast loop with formation change to diamond, and sneak pass)
- Criss-cross (four-ship opposition break, then two-ship opposition Derry turns)
- Palm Split (four-ship upwards bomb burst)
- Twinkle Rolls (four-ship simultaneous aileron rolls)
- Double Heart (two simultaneous hearts)
- Seashell (four aircraft pitch up and roll towards the crowd individually)
- Way of the dragon (four aircraft pitch up and roll individually)
- Double Inverted Wrap (two aircraft fly inverted, two more barrel roll around them)
- Twist and Shout (two pairs of rollbacks in a six-ship Delta formation)
- Salute to the Nation (five-ship bomb burst and solo spiral climb with flares)