THE 1999 Royal International Air Tattoo which took place during July 24-25 was hot…and we are not just referring to the temperature. The event attracted a record-breaking 483 aircraft, and crowds for the weekend reached 190,000. Easily attracting the most attention was the B-2A Spirit which was parked at the western end of the static line-up, and flew on both days.
Although the massed ranks of aircraft contained many regulars, there were also some very interesting items. How many people noticed that the Saab Viggen was an upgraded Block D variant, complete with four AMRAAMs? Only two squadrons will receive this upgrade — the 2nd Squadron at F17, Ronneby, is currently operational on the type, and the 1st Squadron should follow suit by late 1999.
The Polish Navy An-28RM Bryza-IR maritime patrol aircraft, delivered to 3 Squadron at Siemirowice on March 15, was making its UK debut. The aircraft is equipped with an indigenous ARS-400 maritime surveillance radar and LS-10 Leba data-link system. It is capable of surface search, SAR, and command and control — working with both shore stations and surface vessels. One Bryza 1R operated out of Bari during Operation allied force in support of naval activity in the
Adriatic. Two French Air Force Mirage 2000Ds were carrying the AS30 Laser supersonic air-to-ground laser targeted missile, this is believed to be the first time this configuration has been seen in public following its success over Yugoslavia.
Many of the aircraft that participated in allied force were seen sporting mission marks of one type or other, including a French Air Force Mirage 2000D and a German Air Force Tornado ECR, while the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16A J-063 sported a MiG-kill mark, having shot down a Yugoslavian Air Force MiG-29 (Balkan Action, June, p92) with the aid of AIM-120 AMRAAM. Of course, the USAF was not to be outdone. Although none of its aircraft arrived with special markings (see following pages), a number were seen carrying mission marks like the 28th BW B-IBs, 5th BW B-52H, 31st FW F-16Cs and 52nd EW F-16C. The F-117A Nighthawk won the prestigious Concourse d’Elegance title, while its stealthy cousin, the B-2A, was highly commended. Major Gyula of the Hungarian Air Force won the trophy for the best solo jet display and Captain Anders Eriksson won the award for the best overseas flying demonstration in the Saab Viggen. For the home team, Squadron Leader Cairns took the trophy for the best flying display by a UK participant in the Canberra T.4, painted blue to represent the prototype.
One of the special NATO events staged [ this year was the popular ‘Pit Stop’ challenge and the USAFE’s 48th Fighter Wing from RAF Lakenheath were worthy winners. As they had been re-arming aircraft for real during the Kosovo crisis, they were certainly well practised.
This year’s show also saw the use of more large screens. The audience got the chance to enjoy live footage of the flying as well as pertinent archive film during the NATO f anniversary section.
Unfortunately, the event was not without incident. On Sunday the Italian G222 suffered a bird strike during its display — this displaced a de-icing boot from a propeller which in turn punctured the fuselage. The crew performed a text book emergency I landing and vacated the aircraft quickly after I fire warning lights illuminated. Fortunately, r there was no fire although the emergency services were soon on the scene — the flying programme was only briefly interrupted. Added to this, the French Navy Crusader appeared to bounce down the runway on the Sunday evening — burst tyres being the only casualty.