RIAT 2019 showcases U.S. commitment to NATO alliance

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jennifer Zima
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

The world’s largest military air show brought nations from all over the world to RAF Fairford for the Royal International Air Tattoo July 19-21. 

RIAT 2019 commemorated 70 years since the formation of NATO, and 50 years since the first manned moon landing. The three-day event saw more than 175,000 attendees and 245 different aircraft from 39 air arms, which represented 25 nations. From those nations, 48 air chiefs or their representatives attended the show.

RIAT represents a unique opportunity for the U.S., along with other military allies and partners, to showcase their leadership in aerospace technologies while supporting various procurement competitions taking place throughout Europe. 

“This is a great opportunity for us to get together here at RIAT,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “I want to thank our U.K., and particularly our RAF, partners for pulling this together…it’s a tremendous event. We look forward to this one and to next year, to increase, deepen and really work on this relationship that is critically important to us.”

U.S. Air Force assets on static display included the CV-22 Osprey, the F-15E Strike Eagle, the B-52 Stratofortress, the C-17 Globemaster III and many other aircraft. Others participated in the various flying demonstrations throughout the weekend, the most significant being a special NATO 70th anniversary flypast of aircraft from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and France. 

The first Air Tattoo was staged in 1971 at the North Weald airfield in Essex, with just over 100 aircraft taking part. From these small beginnings the show became the International Air Tattoo in 1976, and recognition of its unique status was granted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1996.

Today, the 501st Combat Support Wing co-hosts RIAT each year with the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust. The RAFCTE supports a range of projects and initiatives benefiting military personnel, cadets and other young people, including flying scholarships and investment in science, technology, engineering and math initiatives. 

“RIAT is one of the most inspiring events that I’ve been involved in in my career,” said Col. William Kale, 501st CSW commander. “The United States values RIAT just as much as the United Kingdom… it’s a great opportunity.”

RAF Fairford has hosted RIAT since 1985, and this year marks the installations 75th anniversary. In its 75 years, Fairford has enabled numerous bomber and reconnaissance aircraft to support combat operations around the globe. It has had pivotal involvement in Operations Desert Storm, Deliberate Force, Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom, and more. Today, the base operates as the premier bomber forward operating location for USAFE-AFAFRICA and the European theater.