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The Royal Air Force (RAF) celebrated its centennial anniversary Tuesday by formation-flying 100 aircraft over Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth praised the RAF for the “tenacity, skill and gallantry” the force had displayed in its “remarkable contribution to defense” over the past century. “I remember the Battle of Britain being fought over the skies above us,” she said, “and we shall never forget the courage and sacrifice of that time.” (Then-Princess Elizabeth was 14 in 1940, when the Battle pitched British fighters against German planes, and resulted in the RAF likely stopping a Nazi invasion.)
The airshow began with nine helicopters leading the fleet. The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, also known as the Red Arrows, brought up the rear of the armada. The sightings included three of the RAF’s new F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters in their first public appearance, as well as 22 Typhoon fighters which formed a “100” number over the palace.
Members of the Royal Family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, were on-site to witness the historic event, along with thousands who gathered to watch the parade and airshow. Prince William, who is a qualified RAF pilot, wore his uniform and his RAF wings; Prince Harry, who flew military helicopters in Afghanistan, was also on hand.
The RAF didn’t trot out one of its newest planes and one that would have been a familiar sight to TPG readers, one they have probably flown on a few times: an Airbus A330, except in its military form, the Voyager flying tanker.
The United Kingdom is one of just seven nations flying the Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports, modified from the commercial version to refuel military aircraft in mid-air. Six other countries have ordered or operate A330 MRTTs: Australia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Singapore and South Korea.
The RAF operates two versions of the A330 MRTT: one is an air-refueling tanker, the other is adapted to serve as VIP transport for high-ranking personalities. An additional four countries utilize A330-200s for transporting their heads of state: France, Kazakhstan, Qatar and Turkey.
Photo courtesy of Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
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