Formed in 1965, the Red Arrows were originally different display teams (The Red Pelicans and The Black Arrows) combined into one, bringing the best parts of each: aerial prowess, technical ability, and world-class showmanship.
Whilst originally piloting seven Folland Gnat planes, the Red Arrows switched to the BAE Hawk in 1979, a modified version of the RAF’s fast jet and weapons trainer craft. The Hawk T1 is a two-seater jet used for pilot training. The Red Arrows version of the aircraft is powered by a single Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour Mk 861 turbofan which produces 5,200 pounds of thrust. This enables the Hawk to travel at an impressive maximum speed of 645 mph, and whilst diving, the Hawk can reach a top speed of Mach 1.2.
A key difference in the build of a Red Arrow jet compared to other planes is the auxiliary tank, which contains both diesel fuel and coloured dyes. The red and blue dyes are held in separate compartments, so can be selected to be fed through the system and out the rear exhaust to create the smoke trail left by the plane.
Currently, around 40% of a new Hawk is manufactured at the company’s site at Brough, East Yorkshire, and the rest at Warton and Samlesbury in Lancashire. The total cost of just one plane is around £5 million. On top of that, the Red Arrows cost around £6 million to run and maintain annually, with a ground crew of 85 people.
Despite making its debut more than 40 years ago, upgraded versions of the Hawk have continued to dominated international markets as a fast jet trainer and light combat fighter.
The Hawk is also used by the RAF’s 100 Squadron in an aggressor role where it simulates enemy forces to provide training for front-line units.
With Red Arrow replacement jets not needed until 2030, the squad will continue to flow in its signature Diamond nine formation.
On the global stage, the Red Arrows provide a benchmark for aerobatics displays, demanding 1,500 hours of flight time and a stellar rating before even accepting an application to the team. Every year over 40 pilots apply for just three spaces in the team, whose membership lasts three years. Of those 40 applicants only nine will be invited to train in Cyprus, at the Red Arrow training facility.
The world-famous Red Arrows are a uniquely British institution, seen and enjoyed by millions of people, and a symbol of Aerospace & Aviation excellence in both technical skills and aerobatic mastery.
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