RAF FAIRFORD, United Kingdom (AFNS) —
Department of the Air Force leaders joined the Royal Air Force and participants from more than 20 other nations for the Royal International Air Tattoo, July 14-16.
RIAT, hosted annually in July, usually at RAF Fairford, is heralded as the largest airshow in the world, typically attracting more than 150,000 spectators over the course of a weekend.
Throughout the event, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., and Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman met with U.S. and international Airmen and Guardians attending the event, conducted bilateral meetings with air and space chief counterparts and held various meetings with industry partners.
Participating in the annual airshow enables DAF leaders to engage face-to-face with allies and partners demonstrating the strength of the air and space forces’ global relationships and express appreciation for the DAF’s bilateral relationship with the RAF.
“Since the inception of the U.S. Air Force, we have always had a strong partnership with the Royal Air Force,” Kendall said. “Over the span of history, that bond now includes our Space Force. RIAT provides a key moment of fellowship and demonstrates our unity with other allies and partners who share our values and appreciate the strength of air and space power.”
While at RIAT, Brown presented a U.S. Legion of Merit medal to his outgoing RAF counterpart, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Wigston, for exceptionally meritorious conduct as RAF chief of the Air Staff.
“I was honored to present the Legion of Merit to my friend, Sir Mike Wigston,” Brown said. “We first met nearly ten years ago when he was serving as commander of British Forces Cyprus, and I was the commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Since then, we’ve enjoyed many years of collaboration,” he continued.
“As air chiefs, we signed a Shared Vision Statement that laid the groundwork for our forces to become integrated by design, and I am proud to say our partnership today is firmer than ever. His outstanding leadership as chief of Air Staff was instrumental in deepening and expanding ties between our air forces, and I cannot thank him enough for all the work he has done for both of our nations.”
The U.S Air Force sent numerous assets, including the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-46A Pegasus, in keeping with RIAT 2023’s theme, “SKYTANKER,” which recognizes the 100th anniversary of aerial refueling.
“RIAT is always a fantastic opportunity to showcase our Airmen, aircraft, and weapons systems,” Brown said. “This year is particularly significant as we recognize a century of achievement in aerial refueling and the benefits it has provided to allied airpower, an increasingly important capability in a changing world. I thank our friends in the RAF for continuing to host this annual celebration of Airpower.”
Saltzman, who arrived in the UK earlier in the week to provide keynote remarks at the Global Air and Space Chiefs Conference in London and participate in various multilateral engagements, seized the opportunity to encourage continued cooperation, coordination, and opportunities for interoperability with allies and partners at RIAT.
“I am extremely proud to be a part of this community of like-minded nations,” Saltzman said. “I very much look forward to continuing to build on our substantial relationships and ensure space operations are effectively integrated into our collective defense.”
While expressing his appreciation for the Space Force’s RAF counterparts, Saltzman emphasized that mutually beneficial partnerships will remain an unmatched asymmetric advantage as the U.S. and its allies work to keep space safe, secure, stable, and sustainable.