RAF Red Arrows take to the skies in cyberspace

An international flight simulator team got the chance to go toe-to-toe with the world-famous Red Arrows yesterday.

The 9 members of the Virtual Red Arrows team use flight simulation to recreate and fly the same breath-taking display as flown by the real Red Arrows.  Their challenge was to see if they could put on a show as good as the real Red Arrows, albeit in cyberspace. They flew alongside their real-life counterparts at the home of the Red Arrows at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

The Virtual Red Arrows fly using a hi-spec gaming PCs complete with aircraft seat, joystick, various control panels and a VR headset. The team practise together at least three times a week ready for their live displays streamed on the internet, watched by thousands.

Squadron Leader Martin Pert (Red 1) watching the Virtual Red Arrows Team Leader Petter Hovland from Norway.
Squadron Leader Martin Pert (Red 1) watching the Virtual Red Arrows Team Leader Petter Hovland from Norway.

“It’s a dream come true for me to be here at the home of the Red Arrows. I watch them display every year at the Swansea Airshow so it’s incredible that they are watching me display for them although in virtual reality of course.

“I was really nervous before the display but once we had started, l tried to forget that l was displaying for my heroes and just fly as best as l could.”

Dale Brewis, from Newport in South Wales

Dale is 'Red 5' in the virtual display team. He paired-up with his real-world counterpart Squadron Leader Steve Morris and taught him how to ‘fly’ the virtual jet. After the 'flight' Steve said: "That was a lot of fun but I fully appreciate how difficult it is to fly a virtual display. What they do is very impressive."

The Red Arrows groundcrew were fascinated to learn that the Virtual Red Arrows Hawk has been specially constructed for the team to match the real aircraft in every detail possible.

Members of the Virtual Red Arrows team talking with the Red Arrows groundcrew.
Members of the Virtual Red Arrows team talking with the Red Arrows groundcrew.

Squadron Leader Martin Pert, known as Red 1, led the Red Arrows for a full display in cyberspace. 

“Leading the team in virtual reality was very challenging. The Virtual Red Arrows rely on great teamwork and lots of practise. Just like we do.”

Squadron Leader Martin Pert
Red 1

The training that Red Arrow pilots undertake plays an important part in underpinning the wider pursuit of excellence for RAF aircrew. The finely-honed skills used to perform their moves will be put to operational use when they leave the team to resume their roles as combat pilots or instructors teaching the front-line aircrew of the future.

Some of the current team have recently served as part of the air-policing role in the Baltic where fighter jets protect the airspace of NATO countries from frequent Russian incursion.

Dale Brewis keeping formation in cyberspace.
Dale Brewis keeping formation in cyberspace.

The Red Arrows UK display season starts in June. Later in the summer the team will be jetting off across the Atlantic to fly the flag and thrill audiences in the USA and Canada.

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