The Ministry of Defence said it remains “committed to supporting the Red Arrows” despite a recent report suggesting that it can no longer afford to finance the Royal Air Force’s aerobatic display team.
The Red Arrows have reportedly been ‘saved from the axe’, but a senior defence source told The Express that the “clock is ticking” for the display team to find more funding.
The source said: “Given the financial challenges which the RAF and, indeed, all services are facing, and anticipating no sudden upsurge in budget, funding the team is becoming challenging to the point that we must consider either finding a new, additional and substantial stream of income or letting go.”
The team is currently based at RAF Scampton and once that closes they will move to RAF Waddington. No exact date for the closure has been finalised, but the initial plan was for it to be shut by 2022.
However, there are no plans to change the Red Arrows’ funding and an MOD spokesperson told The Lincolnite: “We remain committed to supporting the Red Arrows who inspire the next-generation of pilots and are a great source of national pride.”
There is a five-year contract for High Intensity Strobe Light support, with a value estimated at £4 million including VAT. The contract provides for technical support, repair and purchase of new lights.
This covers lights that are used on a number of platforms such as Hawk (including the Red Arrows), Typhoon, Gazellel, Merlin and Chinook, so this isn’t specific to just the Red Arrows.
The recent report comes as the Royal Air Force awaits the impending defence section Integrated Review, which is expected to be published later this month.
The Express reports that commanders are already facing increasing costs to maintain the ageing Hawk T1 jets used by the Red Arrows, now estimated at £15 million a year.
An urgent safety directive costing around £5 million will add to that cost.