Last weekend saw the annual Royal Interational Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. Although still the worlds largest display of military airpower, attending aircraft numbers were noticeably down due in part to commitments of the various air arms that attend, as well as budgetary constraints.
Nevertheless, there were still were still some 200 aircraft in attendance with participants from the UK, USA, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland. Amongst those, 4 countries, (UK, France, Jordan and Switzerland) had their display teams present.
Its difficult to say what the "best" aircraft was...personally for me it was the Sukhoi Su-22M (photo above) from Poland, largely as its (a) Russian manufactured and (b) its rarity. Whereas I have seen Su-22's before, a Polish one is definitely a first. And these aircraft won't be around for much longer...Poland plans to retire its remaining fleet within the next 2 years, which will leave few, if any Su-22's operational in Europe.
Other "stars of the show" include the F-22 Raptor from the US (above) plus 2 aircraft which go right back to the days of the Cold War; the B-52 Stratofortress, still in front line service with the USAF after more than 50 years (and they plan to keep them flying for at least another 20 years), and the recently restored, but civilian owned, Avro Vulcan delta-wing bomber which dates back to the 1950's (below)
Most numerous aircraft present was the F-16 Fighting Falcon (above). This highly acclaimed fighter has been in constant production since the late 70's, with various upgrades over the years and is in service with many NATO and several non-NATO air forces. A Royal Netherlands Air Force example is pictured above.
To appreciate the real power of such aircraft, a good place to be is, as I was, at the point that they start their take off run close to the end of the runway. The noise of the afterburners can be quite deafening though, as this departing RAF Tornado adequately demonstrated!
But its not all fast jets, there were several transport aircraft, trainers and helicopters present. Above a German Navy Sea King helicopter is seen hovering just prior to its departure. Below a French Army Gazelle is hover taxiing to the departure point.
More pictures from Fairford to follow soon.