Red Arrows visit Albania for the first time

22 March 2016

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Jets from the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team performed a flypast over Tirana, Albania – the first time the Red Arrows have visited the country.

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, perform a flypast over Tirana, Albania

People watched the distinctive red Hawk aircraft as they flew over Mother Teresa Square on Friday March 18.

The Red Arrows had stopped in Albania overnight, refuelling the jets before the second-leg of a flight from their base at RAF Scampton to Greece, where the aerobatic team will conduct annual pre-season training.

The opportunity to transit via Tirana allowed the team to meet officers from the Albanian Air Force and senior officials and dignitaries.

One of the roles of the Red Arrows is defence engagement and the visit further developed relations between the UK and another NATO partner.

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, parked at Tirana, during a visit to Albania.

Squadron Leader David Montenegro, Team Leader of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said: “The Red Arrows were delighted to visit Albania for the first time, where we were made to feel very welcome.

“It is always an honour for the team to fly to new locations, to represent both the Royal Air Force and the United Kingdom and further strengthen links with partners.”

During their overnight stay in Tirana the British Embassy held a reception in honour of the Red Arrows, where the team met Minister of Defence Kodheli, Deputy Minister Koçi, and Albanian military personnel.

Squadron Leader David Montenegro, Red 1 and Team Leader of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, meeting a young fan of the Red Arrows at Tirana, after arriving in Albania. Stephen Hickling, British Charge d’Affaires, emphasised the very good bilateral cooperation on defence and security between the United Kingdom and Albania.

Defence Minister Kodheli spoke of the UK and Albania facing future challenges as confident NATO partners.

And UK Defence Attaché Lieutenant Colonel Richard Parry noted the opportunities for Albanian cadets to study and train in the foremost UK military colleges, such as the Royal Navy College Dartmouth, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Royal Air Force Cranwell, and the Royal Marines Commando Centre.

For the next five weeks, the Red Arrows will operate from Tanagra, an Hellenic Air Force base, as they prepare for the 2016 season.

This annual training is known as Exercise Springhawk.

The overseas location provides the better weather which is essential to enable the team to practice consistently and polish the 2016 display, which will be seen by millions of people this summer.

It will be the Red Arrows’ 52nd display season since the first in 1965.

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, parked at Tirana, during a visit to Albania.Exercise Springhawk is the final part of the pre-season preparation and is also when senior Royal Air Force officers assess the team and decide whether to give approval for the Red Arrows to display in front of the public – known as Public Display Authority (PDA).

It is hoped the Red Arrows will attain PDA at the end of April before returning to the UK.

The team consists of nine display pilots, all of whom are from frontline squadrons and are experienced officers in the Royal Air Force.

Visit www.raf.mod.uk/reds for more information on the Red Arrows, to see a list of 2016 display dates and venues, or follow @rafredarrows on Twitter or RAF Red Arrows on Facebook.

Editor: Andrew Morton

Photographs: Roland Tasho / Corporal Steve Buckley

© MOD Crown Copyright 2016

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