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28 October 2014

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International Air Display

The Red Arrows
Red Arrows perform the Apollo Pull up.*

The Red Arrows

Acknowledged as one of the world’s premier aerobatic teams, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team is the public face of the Royal Air Force.

The Red Arrows exists to promote both the RAF’s corporate image and recruitment to the RAF, contribute to Defence Diplomacy, and support wider British interests through the promotion of British industry overseas. 

The Team is but a small part of a large organization, much of which is engaged on overseas operations defending British interests, making the world a safer place and acting as a force for good. 

The Red Arrows were officially formed on 1st March 1965.

The Red Arrows
Cor! That's a bit close.*

In the early 1960s many RAF display teams existed, putting unnecessary strain on front line operational squadrons.  As a consequence, the Royal Air Force took the decision to disband existing teams and form the first full-time, professional aerobatic display team; The Red Arrows.

Led by Flight Lieutenant Lee Jones, the 1965 Team flew 40 public displays using 7 Folland Gnat training aircraft.  In 1966 the number of aircraft in the display was increased to 9, and since then the classic Diamond Nine formation has become the Team’s trademark.   In 1979 The Red Arrows converted to the BAE SYSTEMS Hawk following its introduction as the Royal Air Force’s advanced fast-jet training aircraft.


This is the 40th display season in which The Red Arrows have demonstrated the professional excellence of the Royal Air Force to millions of people both in the UK and worldwide.

Commanded by Squadron Leader Carl ‘Spike’ Jepson, The Red Arrows consists of more than 100 officers and airmen drawn from throughout the RAF. The Team has now performed over 3700 displays in 52 different countries. They are based at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire.

All nine Red Arrows display pilots are fast jet pilots from front-line RAF squadrons.

In 2004, the Team has pilots from all four front-line fast jet types; Jaguar GR3, Tornado GR4, Tornado F3 and Harrier GR7. 

To apply for selection to The Red Arrows, pilots must have amassed a minimum of 1,500 flying hours, one front-line tour and be assessed as above average in role.

The Red Arrows
Sun shines behind the Red Arrows.*

Each year competition is stiff; between 35 and 40 pilots apply for the three vacant positions on the Team.  On completion of their three-year tour with The Red Arrows, the pilots either return to front line, instructional or staff duties.

In 2004 The Red Arrows are scheduled to perform over 85 displays in the UK and Europe between May and September. 

Their 2004 display will include both new manoeuvres and some which commemorate the Team’s first display season.  "2004 is a very special year for us," said Team Leader, Squadron Leader Spike Jepson.  "We will be both looking back on the achievements of the past, and forward to the future.  We hope that the British public will celebrate with us at the many airshows we are attending across Britain this summer."

The Team

Reds 1 to 5 form the front section known as ‘Enid’, and Reds 6 to 9 are known as ‘Gypo’.

The Synchro Pair, Reds 6 and 7, perform the highly popular, dynamic manoeuvres during the second half of the display sequence.

There is one other qualified Hawk pilot: Red 10, who flies a 10th Hawk to display venues ready for use in case one of the other nine becomes unserviceable.

Red 10’s two primary roles on the ground at every display are acting as the Team’s Safety Officer, maintaining two-way radio contact with the Team Leader throughout the display and as Team Commentator.

Efficient planning and organisation are vital if ten aircraft, support staff and equipment are to arrive safely and fully prepared at a display venue.

Apart from the pilots, there are two Engineering Officers, a Team Manager, an Adjutant, a Public Relations Officer (the only civilian on the Team), and approximately 85 ground technicians and administrative staff known collectively as ‘The Blues’.

The Blues represent 11 out of 72 RAF trades.  Before each display the Team Manager and Adjutant will have provided the organiser with a document showing timings, transit routes, personnel involved and equipment required.

The Junior Engineering Officer and nine technicians known as the ‘Circus’, fly in the rear seats of the Hawk aircraft to display locations so essential servicing can begin before the main support team arrives.

Typically, more than 300 requests for Red Arrows’ displays are received annually but only about 90 can ever be fitted into the programme. The Team also complete many flypasts each year as they transit from display to display.

Picture Rights

*Pictures copyright EJ van Koningsveld

last updated: 09/09/04
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