About The Red Arrows

A Short History of The RAF Red Arrows

The Red Arrows were formed out of a series of display teams that had flown with the RAF through the 1950's and 1960's. These included The Black Arrows, The Firebirds, The Blue Diamonds, The Red Pelicans and The Yellowjacks.

The Black Arrows

The Black Arrows were formed in 1956 and flew Hawker Hunter F6 Aircraft. They were formed by 111 Squadron and had previously formed the unofficial display team of the Royal Air Force with Gloster Meteor F8 aircraft.

The Black Arrows had, as the name suggests, a black colour scheme. They first earned The Name 'The Black Arrows' in 1957 at the Paris Air Show that same year.

At the time they were flying a 9 ship, but after the event in Paris, they increased the number of aircraft to 22 when they displayed at Farnborough airshow in 1958. They broke the record for the number of aircraft to loop and roll in formation.

The Blue Diamonds

The Blue Diamonds flew Hawker Hunter F6 aircraft, and were first called 'The Falcons'. They were formed in 1961 and became The official Royal Air Force Aerobatic Display team. They flew 16 aircraft in total.

Part of their display was splitting into two formations of 7 and 9 aircraft, and then also four formations of four. They first used the 'Four Fours' split during their display at Furstenfeldbruck Air Base near Munich in September 1961.

The Four ships of four also joined up into a large diamond to perform a 16 ship roll and loop.

They also had a unique manoeuvre in the seven ship line abreast loop.

The Red Pelicans

The Red Pelicans were formed in 1962 by The Royal Air Force Central Flying School and were based at RAF Kemble. They flew Jet Provost T Mk 4's and were equipped with white smoke generators.

In 1963 they were painted bright red and received a further two aircraft, taking their ship to six. They performed in Belgium and France, and in 1964 became the official aerobatic team of the Royal Air Force. In 1964 The Red Pelicans displayed with The Yellowjacks, which were then the unofficial display team of the Royal Air Force.

The Firebirds

In 1963 The Firebirds became the official display team of The Royal Air Force, flying nine English Electric Lightning F.Mk 1A aircraft. They were formed by No56 Squadron at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk. All of the aircraft were mainly silver with a Red Tail, which had the Number 56 Squadron insignia containing a Firebird in a white circle.

They were probably one of the noisiest and fastest of the Royal Air Force display teams at the time, and were disbanded in 1964.

The Yellowjacks

The Yellowjacks were formed in 1964 and were the unofficial display team of the Royal Air Force. They flew Yellow Painted Folland Gnat Aircraft, and were formed at RAF Valley.

They were equipped with white smoke generators and flew throughout the 1964 display season.

They existed as a display team until 1965, when The Red Arrows were formed.

The Red Arrows

The Red arrows were formed in 1965 and became the official display team of The Royal Air Force. They were formed out of all the display teams that had previously existed throughout the 1950's and 1960's.

At the time, The Red arrows were flying Folland Gnats and were painted Red. These aircraft flew with The Red Arrows until 1979 when they were replaced with the current Hawk T1.

They fly nine aircraft, which splits into various sections during the display. Their main formation the Diamond Nine, with various other formations taking place throughout the display.

They also perform manoeuvre's with the Synchro pair, which involves two Hawk aircraft flying at high speed heading towards each other, although feet apart as they pass safely.

The Red Arrows are the current Official Royal Air Force Display Team.

Please note: All of these photographs and the content on this website belong to Nick Smith, and are copyrighted to myself ©Copyright Nick Smith. So I am asking everybody viewing these photographs to respect my copyright and not to use these without my permission.

If you need to ask anything regarding my products or photography work, contact me on 01472 350565 or email nick@theredarrows.co.uk

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