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Statement from the Chief of the Air Staff about the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team

Statement from Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton, Chief of the Air Staff:

We have today published two reports related to historical allegations of unacceptable behaviour within the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT) – the Red Arrows. Redacted versions of the reports were published on the RAF Website at 4pm today (links below). The reports have been redacted because the people who spoke to those doing the investigation were guaranteed confidentiality and to meet our legal obligations to protect personal data.

An Inquiry was commissioned in December 2021 at Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston’s request after three women approached him directly with serious allegations about the culture and behaviours on the Red Arrows. The inquiry, which considered evidence dating back to 2017, concluded last summer but led to a further formal investigation into the command, leadership, and management of the Squadron. I want to thank the investigators for their diligence and all the witnesses, who supported the inquiries.

Now that both investigations are concluded, the findings are being released publicly. I have accepted all the recommendations from both investigations.

I want first to say that I am sorry and offer my unreserved apologies to any individuals that were subjected to unacceptable behaviours during their association with the Red Arrows, particularly the three women who felt they had no option but to raise their complaints directly with my predecessor.

The reports show that during the period investigated, unacceptable behaviours were widespread and ‘normalised’ on the Red Arrows. These included sexual harassment, bullying and an alcohol-focused culture. The situation was compounded by a ‘bystander culture’, meaning people did not challenge what was happening. The behaviours described by witnesses in the reports have no place in the Royal Air Force – or anywhere else. The findings of the investigations are clear. Actions have been taken against a number of individuals, up to and including dismissal from the Service.

I was appalled when I read the investigations’ findings. The behaviour of a minority of individuals has harmed the Squadron’s reputation and that of the Royal Air Force. Like my predecessor, I am intent on rebuilding public trust in one of our highest profile units. I know that the current team is working hard to do just that. The leadership, air and ground crews of the Red Arrows have undergone many changes since the period covered by the investigations, with few still serving on the Squadron from that time. I have confidence in the command and people of the current Squadron.

More broadly, I would like to make it very clear today that where appropriate, I will not hesitate to use the most severe sanctions available to me to deal with those whose behaviour harms others.

Anyone who has experienced, or witnessed unacceptable behaviours where they work can raise their concerns with their command chain. If, however, they prefer to remain anonymous, there are confidential helplines available to service personnel and organisations that can help if you have been a victim of workplace bullying or harassment. We will take any complaint seriously and it will be thoroughly investigated, in line with the MOD’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy.

Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team Non-Statutory Inquiry Report

Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team Command, Leadership and Management Report

It can be hard to know how to step in and help or what to do if you witness or experience behaviour that is unwanted, damaging, or unlawful.

  • It might be emotional, physical or sexual.
  • It could be words or actions.
  • It might take place at work, in the mess, in your accommodation or in social settings.
  • It could be in person, online or through technology, from a colleague, manager, friend or a group.  

Whatever form it takes, it has no place in Defence – STOP, CHALLENGE, EDUCATE, and if necessary, REPORT situations where someone is behaving in way that is unwanted or makes someone feel uncomfortable, demeaned, frightened or distressed.  

Every time you take action, you are playing your part to change our workforce for the better.