Today the Royal International Air Tattoo has a global reputation for delivering the world's most spectacular showcase of modern military aviation and providing unique engagement opportunities for the world's air forces to meet annually at RAF Fairford. To date, 56 nations from across the world have participated at the Air Tattoo, sending aircraft for our visitors to admire. However, the Air Tattoo grew from humble beginnings, with the first event held at North Weald Airfield in 1971 having around 100 aircraft on display.
Through enthusiasm, skill and determination, many great things have been achieved throughout the Air Tattoo's illustrious history, with particular highlights including the static line-up of 25 Hercules at the show in 1979 to celebrate the type's 25th anniversary, the first appearances of Warsaw Pact aircraft types such as the MiG-29 Fulcrum and MiG-23 Flogger in 1991, followed by the first public appearance in the West of the Russian Tu-95 Bear in 1993. In 1995, the show was the focal point of the commemorations marking 50 years since the end of the Second World War, an emotional 'Victory Salute' concluding the flying display with a runway line-up of modern aircraft overflown by vintage aircraft. Two years later, the show saw history in the making with the first landing of the United States Air Force's B-2A Spirit on British soil. To this day, RIAT 2003 holds the Guinness World Record for the largest military airshow, with 535 aircraft present at the event to celebrate 100 years since the Wright brothers' first powered flight.
Since then the show has seen a number of exciting debuts such as the Airbus A400M in 2010, the first ever participation of an aircraft from the Japan Air Self Defense Force in 2012, and the first appearance from the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II at RIAT 2016. RIAT 2018 was the largest event in recent years, with over 300 aircraft coming together for the international celebration of the Royal Air Force's centenary.
Sadly the global Coronavirus Pandemic preventing us from celebrating the Air Tattoo's 50th Anniversary to full effect in 2021, however as we look onwards to our next half-century our ambition remains for the Royal International Air Tattoo to maintain it's stature of the world's greatest airshow, with over 150,000 visitors expected to be entertained by the best aviation action the world has to offer.