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Head of RAF says addressing bullying and sexual harassment is “priority”

The Red Arrows in formation with an Airbus A400M (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

The Red Arrows in formation with an Airbus A400M (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

Head of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Chief of the Air Staff Sir Mike Wigston has written to all personnel saying that he will address concerns around recruitment, bullying and sexual harassment as a priority after a spate of recent high-profile resignations and allegations.

Earlier this month a senior female recruitment officer resigned her post over the force’s policy on ethnic minority and female targets and more recently, whistleblowers have told of a bullying environment in the RAF’s flagship aerobatic team, the Red Arrows leading to three leaving the team.

An RAF Red Arrows hawk

According to reports, one of those pilots was suspended and two resigned in protest of the “toxic culture” of misogyny, sexual harassment and bullying leading to the team flying with less than their normal 9 aircraft for the rest of the display season.

Sir Mike Wigston told staff: “You will be well aware of the ongoing focus on the Royal Air Force in the media and on social media, on a number of topics, over the past weeks.

“I am acutely conscious that the coverage affects us all – whether regular, reserve, civil servant, or contractor – as well as our families and loved ones; and there are legitimate questions being asked which I am determined we will address as a priority.”

The first RAF P-8A Poseidon taxiing to its parking bay after landing at NAS Jacksonville. © Crown copyright 2019

He also reminded staff that grievances should be put through the chain of command rather than through the media.

The RAF has set a diversity target of 40% female recruits and 20% ethnic minorities by 2030 leading to many white male candidates being rejected prompting some to suggest that recruitment has effectively been paused for that group of applicants although the RAF issued a statement at the time of the allegations to say that wasn’t the case but did say that it was doing “everything it could to recruit under-represented groups.”

Sir Mike added that “unacceptable behaviours have no place in our service”.

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