RIAT 2022 - Western Europe

24/07/2022

Austria

For me personally, the highlight of the flying display came from the Austrian Air Force who put on a jaw-dropping performance with their Quick Reaction Alert Demonstration. The Austrian C-130 departed and circled clear of the airfield, and about 15 minutes later, sirens came blaring over the radio as 2 Austrian Eurofighter Typhoons taxied for departure. They were cleared to depart and form up on the 'unidentified' aircraft. Moments later, a roar came from RAF Fairford runway 09 and next thing you know a Typhoon was pulling vertically to join the C-130. The departure made for some incredible photos, but naturally, I missed the shot. It was just as incredible to watch, however! The second Typhoon stayed some distance behind the C-130, but close enough to get some cool shots of the 3 aircraft. Following a couple of passes, the C-130 was cleared to land and taxi to park. The Typhoons then spent the second half of the display performing a dogfight demo, with plenty of afterburner and hard maneuvers. 

Austrias 3 C-130 aircraft all formerly operated with the RAF, with 8T-CB being XV291. They fly out of Linz. They also operate 15 Typhoons out of Zeltweg Air Base. 

Unfortunately, Austria has declined to attend RIAT 2023. It is a great shame, but, they are welcome to return with this magnificent display any time they like!

Belgium

Another stand-out display from RIAT 2022 was the Belgian Air Forces F-16 demo team, flown for the next 3 years by Steven De Vries in his jet, nicknamed the 'Dream Viper'. This scheme looks fantastic on the jet. Throughout the entire show weekend, the Dream Viper was broken, so, Captain De Vries was flying the spare jet, an equally great-looking aircraft known as X-Tiger! Naturally, the Dream Viper was fixed for departure day so I guess I can't complain as I did technically get a chance to see it move under its own power! 

Belgium also sent a pair of F-16s for the static park. 

France

Making their debut at RIAT 2022 was the French Air Forces Mustang X-Ray Tactical Display Team, consisting of 2 Pilatus PC-21s. It certainly wasn't a bad display, and they showed off just what the PC-21 is capable of. The PC-21 only entered service with France in 2018 and it is intended to replace the nations fleet of Alpha Jets. 

Currently, France operates 25 of these aircraft, with a further 5 on order. They all fly with the 315th Air Force Test Pilot School out of Cognac-Chateaubernard Air Base. The blue scheme looks great on the aircraft!

The French Navy also came along with one of their Xingu aircraft. These are frequent visitors to the UK, often seen at RAF Waddington.

Germany

Germanys participation at RIAT 2022 really excelled my expectations, as they came with all sorts of bits and pieces, from heavies to helicopters. 

The German Air Force sent along 1 of their 2 Airbus A340s, a pair of Tornado ECRs, a pair of Typhoons, a CH-53 King Stallion, an A400M, and a H145M. The stand-out items to me were certainly the A340 and the CH-53, as to my knowledge, Germany had never sent one to RIAT. They are soon to be retired as well as they are being replaced by far newer Airbus A350s. The CH-53 returned for the first time since RIAT 2010, which was coincidentally my first RIAT. The size of this chopper is remarkable, it's always a mighty impressive sight. 

Both Tornadoes sent to the show came from TLG 51 'Immelmann' out of Schleswig Air Base. The pair were also both ECR variants, with ECR meaning Electronic Combat/Reconnaissance. To still have Tornados in European skies is such a treat, but, like many other countries as you'll read below. Germany has chosen to replace their aging Tonkas with F-35s. Germanys' Typhoons also made a welcome return with a pair of jets coming from TLG 73 at Laage Air Base. 

The A400 and H145M were also great aircraft to see at the show. The Germans fleet of A400s flies with LTG 62 out of Wunstorf. The H145s fly with HSG 45 from Laupheim. 

The German Army came with their NH-90TTH demonstration team, yet another RIAT debut! This team is returning to Fairford for RIAT 2023. 

The German Navy brought a P-3C Orion and Westland Lynx. Unfortunately, the German Navy has declined to attend RIAT 2023, which is an even greater shame considering they've just painted a Lynx up in a special scheme, and it looks stunning! The Navy is also slowly phasing out their P-3 Orions as they have ordered much more modern P-8A Poseidon aircraft. You can't beat a P-3!

Netherlands

The Dutch Air Force participated with a pair of F-16s and the Dutch Navy with a NH-90 helicopter. It is expected that the Netherlands will retire their F-16s in the not-to-distant future, as they are being replaced with F-35s. With this in mind, it was great to see their F-16s again at RIAT, with one wearing a special tail celebrating 70 years of 312 Squadron. 

The Dutch NH-90s are seemingly becoming much more regular visitors to our shores, but that doesn't mean they aren't welcome visitors to the Air Tattoo. Despite having various problems, with one nation even going so far as to cancel their order of the NH-90, this chopper is one of my favourites and is always a pleasure to see. The Dutch operate 19 NH-90s with 860 Squadron out of De Kooy. 

Switzerland

The Swiss F-18 demo is an incredibly powerful display and one that is always a welcome sight at an Air Tattoo. As you can imagine, 2022 was no different. Similarly to the Dutch, the Swiss have ordered F-35s as replacement aircraft for their F/A-18s. To see every Air Force starting to standardize on one type is a shame, airshows will certainly lose their variety in terms of fast jets in time to come. The F-18s for RIAT 2022 came from Payerne Air Base. 

Along with the F-18s, Switzerland brought their PC-7 display team. Whilst slower prop aircraft aren't necessarily my thing, following a 2-year RIAT hiatus I was happy that anything turned up. There's no denying that the Swiss push those PC-7s to their limits. As seems to be the standard with Swiss displays, the demonstration started with the F-18 in formation with the PC-7 team, before the Hornet broke out of the formation and tore up the skies above Fairford. At the time of writing this, neither the Swiss F-18 nor PC-7 team is attending RIAT, and it would certainly be odd not to have any participation at Fairford. 

Swiss support for the show came as a Bombardier Challenger 600, one of 2 they operate from Dubendorf.