Defense

July 11, 2016
 

New era of airpower exhibited at world’s largest air show

A1C Zachary Bumpus
RAF Fairford, England

An F-35A Lightning II flies alongside a P-51 Mustang during a heritage flight at the 2016 Royal International Air Tattoo, at Royal Air Force Fairford, England. The air show took place from July 8-10, 2016. RIAT 16 afforded an opportunity for new aircraft, like the F-35, to be displayed with crowd favorites and provided a weekend of fun and entertainment for the projected 160,000 visitors.

For a moment there is relative quiet, only the buzz of conversations and laughter of children.

Then, once again, sound falls like a hammer as another jet begins to throw itself into the sky, trailing colored smoke as it strives to impress the crowd of eager onlookers. The 2016 Royal International Air Tattoo is in full swing.

The RIAT is the world’s largest military air show, with 32 air arms represented and a projected 160,000 attendees over the course of the weekend. Among the aircraft present were the newest additions to American airpower, the F-35 Lightning II A and B variants, as well as the F-22 Raptor and numerous legacy and special mission aircraft from U.S. forces.

More than just a spectacular show, RIAT 16 demonstrated the deterrence capabilities of the U.S. and its allies.

“I hope that there is concern about what this coalition is capable of,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, who attended RIAT 16. “We as a nation greatly value allies, partners, and coalitions. As we get together, I hope those who contemplate what is acceptable will take notice.”

RIAT 2016 also marked the first time that the F-35 has been displayed overseas, with the F-35A variant being displayed by the U.S. Air Force and the B variant being jointly displayed by the U.S. Marine Corps, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. For the first time partner nations could experience the culmination of their efforts in the F-35 program.

“Fifth-generation aircraft are what we’ve aspired to for a long time,” said Gen. Frank Gorenc, the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. “The F-35 isn’t just an aspiration for the U.S. but for our partner nations as well, and this is the first time the other countries got to feel the power of their purchase.”

For most people who attended, RIAT 16 wasn’t complicated by thoughts of strategy or purchasing programs, they came to have fun, see exciting new aircraft alongside favorites from the past, and to be amazed by aerobatic feats.

With a weekend full of fantastic displays of pilot skill, mixing of air forces leadership, and a debut performance RIAT 16 was a show to be remembered.




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