The future of the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows aerobatic display team has been secured, with UK prime minister Tony Blair confirming yesterday that his government has “no plans to change the funding for the Red Arrows, let alone to disband them.”

Blair’s comments came in an early response to signatories to an ongoing e-petition which asked him to continue funding for the display team through a possible round of new defence cuts.

The campaign – which had been scheduled to conclude on 24 July – has so far drawn more than 57,000 signatures, making it one of the most popular petition topics ever hosted on the 10 Downing Street website.

“The Red Arrows have maintained public support for the Royal Air Force, encouraged recruitment, acted as ambassadors for Britain in the world and promoted British industry for many years,” says Blair. Describing them as “the world's premier aerobatic team”, he says: “it is a sign of the place they hold in the national affections that so many people have joined you in signing. This government fully intends to keep the Red Arrows flying.”

Blair says concerns over the potential scrapping of the Red Arrows were raised by “routine financial planning” within the UK Ministry of Defence. Spending on the team is expected to total £17.2 million ($33.7 million) over the next three financial years.

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