Jul 9th, 2019

The Red Arrows

Posted in Aviation News

The Red Arrows are the British equivalent of the United States Thunderbirds.  I displayed a photo of them under Cool Aviation photos for the 4th of July.  This is the story of the Red Arrows


The Royal Air Force (RAF) was the first separate air force in the world.  The RAF became its own branch of the military (apart from the Army and Navy) in 1918.  At the time, they were the most potent air power in the world

Although, the RAF was the first air force, the British lagged behind the Americans when it came to forming an aerobatic team.  The United States Navy spawned the Blue Angels in 1946.  A year later the Air Force became a separate branch of the US military and six years later, in 1953, the Thunderbirds were formed. 

Founding and First Jet

Folland Gnat T1

The British had a variety of demonstration teams flown by various squadrons up to 1964.  These efforts were unified and in late 1964 the Red Arrows were formed.  Seven was the initially number of jets on the team.  The Folland Gnat T1 Jet Trainer was less expensive to fly than the top line British fighters of the day.  It became the mainstay of the Red Arrows.

Famous Formation

Diamond Nine

In 1966, the Red Arrows added two jets bringing the total of the formation to nine.  This is a distinguishing mark for the Red Arrows vis-à-vis the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds.  Each of the American teams flies six aircraft in a show. 

As a result of nine aircraft, the Red Arrows signature move is the Diamond Nine formation.  This stunning formation is always a crowd pleaser.

Present Day

BAE Hawk

In 1979, the team transitioned to the BAE Hawk Trainer.  This nimble jet features upgraded engines.  There is also a device (using diesel fuel) in order to produce the trademark red, white, and blue smoke.  This contrasts with the US Thunderbirds who use only a white smoke. 

The Red Arrows perform in shows across Great Britain.  They also cross the Channel to perform in mainland Europe.  I recommend their website highly.  It contains great videos and more facts about the team.  Cheerio!

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