The Royal Navy's helicopter display team the Black Cats will make a welcome return to the Air Tattoo this summer - seven years after its last appearance at RAF Fairford.
The Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy will be contributing its helicopter display team to the Royal International Air Tattoo for the first time in seven years when it appears at the 2016 event.
The Black Cats have undergone a major change since the team's last RIAT appearance. Back then, it flew two Westland Lynx HMA8 helicopters from 702 Naval Air Squadron. Reflecting the major changes in the Navy's maritime helicopter community, it is now equipped with a pair of Wildcat HMA2s, pilots and aircraft being drawn from 825 Naval Air Squadron. The team is based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset. It puts on a precise display of rotary-wing flying, demonstrating something of the versatility of this potent new machine.
The Wildcat may look somewhat like its Lynx predecessor, but under the skin is a very different beast, being more powerful and equipped with more advanced systems. It is a multi-role platform able to operate from the decks of the Navy's frigates and destroyers. The type's tasks include anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare, ship protection, casualty evacuation, battlefield reconnaissance and utility duties. A different version of the Wildcat is also entering service with the Army Air Corps.
The Black Cats, named after naval slang for one-upmanship - 'black-catting' - started life as the Lynx Pair before adopting their current name and becoming the official Royal Navy helicopter display team. After a couple of transition seasons while the Wildcat was introduced, including solo Lynx displays and a combination of Lynx and Wildcat, the team is now entering its second full year as a Wildcat pair.
The two pilots for 2016 are Lt David Lilly in the lead and Lt Chris Rebbeck as number two.
On display in the Air Tattoo's static aircraft park will be a Royal Navy Hawk T.1 aggressor aircraft from 736 Naval Air Squadron and a RN King Air Avenger observer trainer from 750 NAS.