The U.S. Air Force sent 11 aircraft and more than 100 Airmen to participate in the Royal International Air Tattoo at Royal Air Force Base Fairford, United Kingdom, July 15-17.
The event allowed the Air Force and U.S. Air Forces in Europe–Air Forces Africa to integrate and engage with hundreds of Airmen from 31 nations, and about 200,000 visitors during the three-day military air show.
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, and USAFE-AFAF Commander Gen. James Hecker were able to engage numerous counterparts from across the globe as well.
“I’ve had the opportunity to talk with several of our allies here, because they are all coalesced in one area here at RIAT,” Hecker said. “We need to continue to work together to ensure our systems are designed to share information. As allies and partners, we need to be able to operate off a common operating picture.”
“My biggest priority is to continue to build our partnerships across Europe and Africa,” Hecker continued. “Here in Europe, the F-35 is poised to be the backbone of many allied nations’ air forces and that provides great avenues for integration in the defense of our common values.”
A U.S. F-35 Lightning II from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath was on display while a U.K. F-35 performed for the crowd, highlighting the importance of F-35s to interoperability in Europe. Currently, there are approximately 120 F-35s in Europe across six countries. By the 2030s, it is expected that there will be more than 600 F-35s integrating together from more than 10 countries across the continent, including two full U.S. F-35 squadrons at RAF Lakenheath.
“It’s great to be able to fly the F-35 alongside our partners,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. David Bown, 495th Fighter Squadron F-35 instructor pilot. “I’ve had the opportunity to fly with Norwegian, UK, Italian and Dutch F-35s. As more F-35s come into theater, we will have a very integrated air combat capability in Europe.”
The Royal Air Force also highlighted and celebrated the U.S. Air Force’s 75th Anniversary this year with a showcase of U.S. Air Force fighter aircraft including the F-35, two F-16 Fighting Falcons, and an F-15E Strike Eagle from bases across Europe. USAFE is also celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, calling back to the start of USAFE’s predecessor Eighth Air Force in 1942 in the U.K.
Also standing out at the air show was an E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, which provides highly survivable command, control and communications for U.S. military leadership to be able to direct military action through crisis. Its presence at RIAT marks the first overseas airshow the E-4B has ever joined.
Also participating were two U.S. refuelers, a KC-135 Stratotanker and a KC-46 Pegasus, as well as two special operations aircraft, the CV-22 Osprey and the MC-130J Commando II. Lastly, the U-2 Dragon Lady was on display highlighting its longevity.