Red Arrows facing 'major changes', says aviation expert

After two tragic deaths in three months, Jamie Coulson assesses what the future might hold for the famous Red Arrows display team.

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The Red Arrows will evolve into a completely different kind of display team over the next decade, an aviation expert has predicted.

British production of the aerobatic team's Hawk T1 planes is being stopped and a replacement has yet to be named.

Leading industry magazine Jane's Defence Weekly said propellor-driven or even frontline planes like the Typhoon might be used.

It also predicted cuts in defence spending could affect the team.

In September, BAE Systems announced it would be ending production of the Hawk T1 at its factory in Brough, Yorkshire, over the next few years.

'Big problem'

The Ministry of Defence said the Hawk T1 would remain in service until 2020 and the Red Arrows, based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, would operate the aircraft until 2018.

Tim Ripley, from Jane's Defence Weekly, said as one of the roles of the Red Arrows was to promote British manufacturing, the MoD faced a difficult decision in choosing a replacement plane.

He said: "There will not be a factory in the UK which makes jet trainer aircraft, which is a big problem for a display team which is supposed to showcase British industry to the world.

"If the Red Arrows are to continue it will be a very different kind of flying display.

Decision point

"It will either be a propellor-driven plane - the RAF is about to buy some to do a different part of training for their student pilots - or even a frontline plane like the Typhoon

"That would be another way of offering a display team - drawing on an existing frontline squadron to provide the display.

"We are approaching a bit of a decision point for the Red Arrows - not only in the type of aircraft but in how they are funded and what they actually do for the RAF and for the nation.

"British defence is undergoing a major change at the moment with cuts in the budget and we are at a point where the Red Arrows we have come to know and love will evolve into something completely different."

Mr Ripley said the changes had nothing to do with the recent deaths of two Red Arrows pilots in separate accidents.

An RAF spokesman said: "There are no plans to disband the Red Arrows at this time.

"Additionally, it should be noted that under current plans, the Red Arrows will continue to operate their current aircraft (Hawk) until 2018.

"With respect to possible replacement capabilities, it would not be appropriate for the MoD to comment on the potential cost ahead of any contract being signed, as to do so might compromise the department's commercial position."

See more on Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, first broadcast on Monday, 21 November at 19:30 GMT. The programme can be seen on the BBC iPlayer nationwide for seven days afterwards.

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