JETS from the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team have returned to the United Kingdom after completing a global tour seen by hundreds of millions of people.
Red Arrows pilots, engineers and support staff landed at the display team’s Lincolnshire base, RAF Scampton, earlier today to be met by waiting families.
The flight was the final leg of a major two-month tour to the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions – the largest and most wide-ranging undertaken by the Red Arrows in a decade.
The deployment contributed to the Government’s GREAT campaign, supporting UK interests across business, trade and education and promoting the best of British innovation, technology and creativity.
Covering 20,000 miles, the tour took the Red Arrows to 17 countries – including visiting China for the first time in the Squadron’s 52-season history. It is estimated the team’s activities were seen by a global audience, in person or through media channels, of up to one billion people.
The Red Arrows tour was part of a wider RAF deployment, known as Exercise Eastern Venture, which also saw Typhoon fast-jets visiting other parts of Asia.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “We can be very proud of all the RAF personnel who made this exercise a success. This historic Red Arrows tour has highlighted Britain’s ability to project ‘soft power’ across the world.
“The RAF have flown the flag across Asia and the Middle East and shown how Britain is stepping up internationally.
“Along with our RAF Typhoons flying side-by-side with international partners, this tour has underlined not only Britain’s defensive strength but also our export potential.”
Leaving the UK in late September, the Red Arrows tour featured more than 20 displays and flypasts, together with extensive ground activity and events.
As well as China, performances were also completed in Bangladesh, Bahrain, India, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Singapore and the UAE. Among the high profile moments were flypasts over the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands – both on the same day.
A fuel stop in Vietnam was also the first time British military aircraft had landed in the country.
Speaking after the jets arrived at RAF Scampton, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Turner, Air Officer Commanding, 22 (Training) Group – the RAF group within which the Red Arrows are organised – said: “Today's return of the Red Arrows to RAF Scampton signals the end of a remarkable two-month Royal Air Force deployment to the Far East and Middle East.
“The Asia-Pacific and Middle East exercise saw the Red Arrows, Typhoon fast-jets, Voyager tankers, C130 Hercules and C17 transport aircraft project UK influence right across the globe and promote British prosperity with leading UK businesses in important capitals through the GREAT campaign and by demonstrating British excellence at its finest."
The Red Arrows are ambassadors for the UK, with the displays in China taking the number of countries in which the team has performed to 57, since its first season in 1965.
The team’s British-built Hawk jets were flown to and from China, involving 42 transit flights in total.
Group Captain Fin Monahan, Commandant of the Central Flying School, which the Red Arrows form part of, said: “The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team returns to the UK having completed one of the most highly visible and complex deployments for a decade.
“In nine weeks the team, and by inference the UK and Her Majesty's Armed Forces, has been seen by approximately one billion people. It was a collective endeavour, drawing in expertise from a variety of roles across Defence.
“The tour to Asia and the Middle East validates the RAF's credentials as a capable expeditionary force with truly global reach.”
Wing Commander Martin Higgins, Officer Commanding of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said: “The 100-strong detachment of Red Arrows pilots, engineers and support staff, augmented by other key roles from within the RAF, has overcome incredible challenges on the Asia-Pacific and Middle East tour.
“The team visited China for the first time in its history, having travelled more than 11,000 miles through 14 countries before reaching Zhuhai, which is the home of Airshow China and largest of its type in the country, in October.”
In addition to performing nine aerobatic displays in six days at Zhuhai, members of the team visited mega cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to carry out ground engagement.
The events focused on the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths and saw the Red Arrows deliver talks, meet with students and deliver presentations to business leaders – many from the aerospace and engineering sectors.
Wg Cdr Higgins said: “Through teamwork, selfless determination and professionalism, the team and supporting staff have promoted the very best of British across the world.
“Aviation is a truly global language and it is our hope that we have inspired the next generation of engineers, scientists and aviators.”
Winter training for 2017 – the Red Arrows’ 53rd season – will begin in six days.
Eastern Venture also included the deployment of RAF Typhoons. Their participation in a Five Powers’ Defence Arrangements (FPDA) exercise alongside Australian, Malaysian, Singaporean and New Zealand forces underlined the depth of the UK’s continuing commitment to the FPDA.
They subsequently made history with the first ever joint exercises in Japan and the Republic of Korea between the RAF and Japanese Air Force and Republic of Korea Air Force as well as flying alongside US Air Force allies in both countries.
The whole deployment was supported by Voyager air-to-air re-fuelling, C-17 Globemaster, C-130J Hercules and A400M Atlas transport aircraft.
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