In addition to the many hours of flying displays and lengthy lines of aircraft to view among its sprawling static display, the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) also gives manufacturers a chance to put their products in the shop window each year.
With air force chiefs from around the globe and some of the aerospace industry’s most senior executives now routinely putting a RIAT visit in their diaries each year, the event represents a strong opportunity to showcase current and new aircraft types to prospective buyers.
As an example of the show’s influence, while the UK Ministry of Defence and Team Tempest industry grouping unveiled their concept for a sixth-generation fighter on the opening day of last year’s Farnborough air show, select RIAT visitors had already been shown another mock-up housed within a secretive exhibit outside the chalet row in Fairford, Gloucestershire several days earlier.
Tempest will again be among the products showcased by BAE Systems at RIAT, but this time in full public gaze. Show visitors will get the opportunity to see the potential future Royal Air Force (RAF) asset up close, and even sit in the futuristic fighter’s cockpit. The company and its Team Tempest industry partners Leonardo’s UK business, MBDA and Rolls-Royce, will be using the concept and its supporting technologies to hopefully inspire a new generation of aerospace engineers, designers and pilots.
BAE will also be highlighting the success of a major Project Centurion update, which enabled the RAF to seamlessly transition from conducting precision-strike tasks in Iraq and Syria with the now retired Panavia Tornado GR4 to its enhanced Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s.
Leonardo, meanwhile, will have a full-scale replica of its M-346 Master advanced jet trainer and light-attack aircraft on display near the chalet row, in addition to its Falcon Shield counter-unmanned air system technology.
Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer records a global active fleet of 70 M-346s, with the twin-engined type operated by the air forces of Israel, Italy, Poland and Singapore.
At last month’s Paris air show, Leonardo and the Italian air force outlined plans to expand their International Flying Training School, adding Decimomannu air base in Sardinia to its infrastructure at Lecce-Galatina. Once services are established in 2021, up to 22 examples of the locally designated T-346A will operate from the new facility. Leonardo’s M-345 basic trainer will be employed from the Lecce site.
For Northrop Grumman, this year’s show represents an opportunity to display its innovative Firebird intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Being offered to potential customers in piloted, optionally piloted or fully unmanned configurations, the modular design was also exhibited at Australia’s Avalon air show earlier this year.
With a rugged landing gear that makes it suitable for operations from unprepared strips, the aircraft was designed by Northrop’s Scaled Composites unit and is now in production in Mojave, California. Other attributes include the ability for sensor payloads to be swapped within as little as 30min, the company says.
Northrop will display a flight-test example in optionally piloted guise and hopes to build on an order from undisclosed US government customers by attracting international buyers that might otherwise be unable to afford or secure approval to acquire more expensive unmanned platforms.
In fully unmanned configuration, Northrop says the Firebird has a flight endurance of 30h when operating at around 25,000ft.