New manoeuvres and old favourites: what will the 2021 Red Arrows display look like?

TANAGRA | With the Red Arrows conducting their traditional pre-season training in Greece, Red 5 David Simmons said the fair weather was allowing the team to practice “full displays and new manoeuvres.” But what will the 2021 Red Arrows display look like?

Thanks to lockdown measures in place through most of the winter training season, we have much less of an idea what the team’s new performance will look like than in normal years. However, by piecing together small snippets of video and images posted by spotters and on the team’s social media accounts, we have been able to establish most of this year’s sequence.

This year’s display will start with the “Wall Arrival” – a large, spread-out formation last used by the Red Arrows in 2017. Arriving from the rear with coloured smoke, the team will then pull up into a loop, changing to Nine Arrow formation as they do. This will be followed by a barrel roll in Short Diamond, on-crowd loop in Swan and barrel roll in Big Vixen.

The Wall Arrival in 2016. This year, as in 2017, it will include coloured smoke. Photo: Alex Prins

The first half of the display will include the usual mix of nine-ship formation aerobatics, featuring formations such as Phoenix and Diamond. The most popular first half manoeuvre is Tornado; created in 2016 but much improved over the next two seasons, this popular move sees seven jets fly directly towards the crowd while two more fly barrel rolls around their smoke trails. The formation will then turn away from the crowd, with two jets continuing to roll.

Tornado being performed in 2018. The 2021 version of the maoeuvre will be the same. Photo: Alex Prins

Starting the second half of the show will be the Hammerhead Break, a little-used manoeuvre that featured briefly in the team’s display in 2016. The team will pull up into a quarterclover in the intricate nine-ship Hammer formation before splitting apart on the way down.

In the flat and rolling shows, the Hammerhead Break will be replaced by the Detonator, which has occupied this slot in the flat and rolling shows for well over a decade. It was also used in the full show during 2010 and in the simplified 2020 performance.

The Hammerhead Break in 2016. Photo: James Connolly

The second half of the show will feature many familiar manoeuvres, and at least three new or modified ones. The team have been seen practicing the Gypo Pass, Heart, Rollbacks, Slalom and Gypo Break, all of which have been consistently part of the show over the last few decades. A new, flatter version of the Heart, known as the Rolling Heart (and seen in the video below), will now allow this crowd-favourite shape to feature in the rolling display, too – although the iconic full-height heart will be retained in the full display.

Making a return this season after a lengthy absence is the Mirror Roll. Red six will roll inverted while Reds seven, eight and nine will fly erect, and the complete formation will execute a barrel roll as they fly past the crowd. It is being reintroduced to the display for the first time since 2015.

In the case of the flat display, the team will perform Mirror Flat, a simple four-ship mirror pass that was included in the display as recently as last year.

At least one more new manoeuvre will be featured: a new Synchro Pair move featuring two opposing passes, seperated by a Half Cuban. Cockpit footage of the manoeuvre, which has not been publicly named, has been posted to the team’s Twitter page. It seems this move may replace the Carosel, which saw Reds six and seven perform opposing minimum-radius turns. It has been rumoured that Carosel can no longer be performed within UK airshow regulations, although we haven’t seen any specific changes that would prohibit such a move.

Getting an upgrade this year is Python, a pair of barrel rolls flown with the first directed at show centre, and the second flown away from the crowd. This year, Reds eight and nine will join Enid to increase the size of the formation beyond the usual five-ship Leader’s Benefit shape (see below post, photo three). The team have been seen flying Python both as a six and seven-ship manoeuvre, perhaps suggesting that it may be a struggle for one of the Gypo jets to join up with Enid in time.

Several popular manoeuvres have not appeared this year; Corkscrew, performed most years by Gypo in the second half, and the previously-mentioned Carosel appear not to be included. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its similarities to the Hammerhead Break, the seven-ship Vertical Break is also not featured. The display will end, as usual, with the Vixen Break.

The Gypo Break will return to full July 2019 glory, rolling back simplifications made for the team’s North America tour and simplified 2020 sequence. Photo: Alex Prins

Typically released at around this time, the Red Arrows’ 2021 display schedule is yet to be announced. Assuming training progresses on a normal timescale, the team should be display-ready by late May or early June, but few major UK airshows are scheduled until at least July.

Last year, the team were able to perform at only two public airshows, neither of which were on the UK mainland. This, combined with the team’s North America tour in 2020, means most Brits will have faced at least a two-year gap between Red Arrows displays by the time the team return to the circuit this summer.