The Red Arrows as we know them today first displayed to the public in 1965 after they were created from an amalgamation of the existing display teams in the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Their name and colour scheme are attributed to ‘the Black Arrows’ and ‘the Red Pelicans’ respectively. Initially they flew the Folland Gnat, also used by the Yellow Jacks which were considered a pre-cursor to RAFAT, but in 1980 they re-equipped with the familiar BAe Systems Hawk T Mk1 that is still in use today.
The RAF Red Arrows signature formation is formed by Reds 1-9, and showcases the highest standards of formation and display flying in the UK and abroad.
So how do they do it?
Winter training typically starts in late autumn and takes place at their home base of RAF Scampton. The famous red Hawks can often be spotted in the Lincolnshire skies in odd-looking part formations as they work up for the up-coming season. The team also use simulators based at RAF Valley to keep their pure flying and emergency handling skills up to scratch.
Training at RAF Scampton is a ‘building block approach’ and involves many sorties using a different combination of jets and formations as they progress through what is formally known as the ‘work-up’.
As well as the all important flying training, the team also take part in numerous Public Relations and charity based events across Lincolnshire, the UK and abroad and are a wonderful advert for the UK. Public visits are not allowed on the base at Scampton however sponsors, charities and other connected organisations may be lucky enough to be granted access from time to time. We have been fortunate enough to be granted such opportunities.
Alongside chatting to members of the team, we saw that each sortie is followed by an intense de-brief, usually led by RAF Red 1. This is a gruelling and sometimes brutal period of time that looks at footage of the flight and each pilot is responsible for identifying their own errors.
The culmination of the pre-season training is Exercise SPRING HAWK. Weeks of flying in the guaranteed fine weather of Greece. The 2018 Red Arrows team left for Spring Hawk recently but what actually happens during this time?
5 Facts About EX Spring Hawk
- Historically Spring Hawk took place in Cyprus at RAF Akrotiri but owing to the RAF’s involvement there with operations over Syria and Iraq, the team have been travelling to Greece for the last 3 years where the blue skies are equally as prevalent.
- They use the military base at Tanagra, 35 miles north of Athens.
- Alongside training, the team will welcome up to 9 current RAF fast jet pilots who are hopeful of becoming part of the team next year. Applicants are put through their paces for 1 week and are tested at every single turn. They go through a rigorous interview, social events and of course the flying test to see if they’d ‘fit in’. Applicants will find out their fate a week or so after the process however the announcement is made to the public in the autumn.
- The culmination of the training will see Air Offer Commanding (AOC) 22 Group witness and assess the team’s performance. The Public Display Approval that he grants allows the team to officially begin the season and don their signature red (and blue) suits.
- The Red Arrows are due back in the UK on June 3rd and will display at Torbay for their first public appearance for the 2018 season.(correct at time of publication)
Why is summer training done away from the UK?
- Distraction free flying! The team can fly up to 3 sorties a day without the distraction of home, media and UK life. Focus is the order of the day.
- The weather. As we know the climate in the UK can be unpredictable and just 2 or 3 days of poor visibility or cloud bases can push back the training schedule considerably.
- The team can practice displaying at different venues using different lines and headings. This variety is distinct from the familiarity of RAF Scampton and allows them to broaden their display flying ability.
- The exercise brings the entire team of pilots and engineers together for a sustained and very intense period of time. This results in an even stronger unit built to tackle the unique demands of being the Red Arrows.
- The role of Red 10 during the exercise is subtly different to winter training. He is required to visit the display location prior to the display and report back to Red 1 on the weather and also monitor the team’s progress from the ground.
Unlike years ago when we would rely on knowing someone ‘in the know’ to learn more, modern aviation fans can keep abreast of what the team are up to via the wonders of social media. Follow us for the best picks over the season!
APRIL 2022 UPDATE
We are pleased to be supporting the team once again this year and recently delivered their set of personalised luggage tags for both the Pilots and Circus team. The team left for Croatia where they will spend some time before heading out to Greece to complete their work-up. The team are due to return at the end of May and we eagerly await their display at the Jubilee!