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Royal International Air Tattoo 2023 shines despite the weather

The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) took place this weekend at RAF Fairford and despite the best efforts of the British weather, there was plenty of flying and great displays, both in the air and on the ground.

Friday and Saturday were both hit with delays and cancellations due to wind and rain but Sunday wrapped the show up with an almost complete flying programme.

The Air Tattoo isn’t just an airshow, it’s a chance for military aviators from around the world to come together and this year was no different with 253 participating aircraft from 25 different nations. 48 Air Chiefs from countries all over the world also attended.

RAF Eurofighter Typhoon display at RIAT 2023 (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

Reflecting on the weekend, Chief Executive Officer for Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises, Paul Atherton said: “We’ve had another tremendous year, it was amazing to see so many people join us this year and as always, it was spectacular to have such a large number of interesting aircraft participate.

“Work is already underway for next year’s Air Tattoo but before that, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who made this year possible and an even bigger thank you to those who visited.”

One of the stars of the show was the World War II Meschersmitt Me262, the first-ever jet military aircraft. The Me262 took to the skies on Sunday for its first-ever display in Britain.

Messerschmidt Me262 (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

The Red Arrows attended of course with the unusual 8-ship display, it is expected to return to 9 aircraft next year. Along with the UK’s Red Arrows, Display teams from Spain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also put on shows.

The Red Arrows at RIAT 2023 (Image: Max Thrust Digital)
Hawks of the Saudi Arabian display team (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

The theme of this year’s show was Sky Tanker celebrating 100 years since the first air-to-air refuelling mission. Crowds were treated to air-to-air refuelling formations from an Airbus A330 MRTT Voyager which flew in formation with a Finnish F/A 18 and also a Swedish Saab Grippen.

Airbus A330 Voyager and Saab Grippen formation (image: Max Thrust Digital)

A German Airbus A400M also flew in air-to-air refuelling formation with two Luftwaffe Tornados.

Lufwaffe A400M and two Tornados (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

Hover power was also shown off this weekend with Spanish EAV8 Harrier II’s flying in formation with modern VTOL aircraft, the Lockheed Martin F35B Lightning II.

Harrier II and Lightning II (Image: Max Thrust Digital)
Spanish EAV8 Harrier II hovering for the crowd (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

Other highlights included an Italian Search and Rescue helicopter demonstration, a B52 Stratofortress flypast and multiple Saab Grippens.

Italian Search and Rescue Display (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

Boeing B52H Stratofortress (Image: Max Thrust Digital)
Saab Grippen (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

There was also plenty to see on the ground too with static displays of a vast range of aircraft from U2 Spyplanes through to a Hyrdrogen powered Islander.

A U2 spy plane at RIAT 2024 (Image: Max Thrust Digital)
Saudi Arabian A330 MRTT Voyager (Image: Max Thrust Digital)
Hydrogen powered BN Islander (Image: Max Thrust Digital)

Head of Air Operations at Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises, Peter Reoch said: “Despite the weather, thanks to the efforts of our amazing volunteers, we have delivered a full and varied line-up of aircraft which were enjoyed by our visitors.

“We extend our sincere thanks to all the aircraft operators who joined us this weekend with their aircraft, which allowed us to Inspire the next generation of pilots, engineers and aviation professionals.”

Next year the Air Tattoo will return on 19th, 20th and 21st July and will celebrate 50 years of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

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