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New era of air power at RIAT 16

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Bumpus
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

For a moment there is a 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 Royal International Air Tattoo 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 providing a spectacular show however, the United States presence at RIAT 16 afforded a chance to demonstrate the deterrence capability of the U.S. and it’s allies.

“I hope that there is concern about what this coalition is capable of,” said Gen David L. Goldfein the Air Force Chief of Staff, 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-35 Lightning II A 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, Commander U.S. Air Force 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.”

But 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.