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RAF Centenary stamps and Red Arrows too!

Cotswold RAF Red Arrows Minisheet FDC

March sees the release of the long awaited Centenary of the Royal Air Force stamps and with them a set dedicated to the Red Arrows.

The stamps feature paintings by the renowned aeronautical artist, Michael Turner and feature The Sopwith Camel, Hawker Hurricane MK1,Vulcan B2,Lightning F6, Nimrod MR.2 and Typhoon FGR4.

Here are the details of the stamps;

Lightning F6—The English Electric P1 first flew on 4th August 1954. Development of this prototype led to the Lightning F1, which entered operational squadron service as an all-weather interceptor capable of flying at twice the speed of sound (Mach 2) in July 1960. The Lightning equipped ten squadrons in the UK, Germany, Cyprus and Singapore. The final version—the F6—was powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon 310 engines with afterburner. Its spectacular rate of climb and supersonic speed allowed it to intercept aircraft at heights in excess of 50,000 feet (15km), and the aircraft played a key part in policing UK airspace for two decades, frequently intercepting Soviet Air Force bombers.

Hurricane MK1—The single-engine Hawker Hurricane powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine first flew in November 1935 and saw service with the RAF in the disastrous campaign in France in the first year of the Second World War.  Within months, it was to achieve immortal fame during the Battle of Britain, equipping 33 squadrons.  It went on to serve as a fighter and a ground-attack aircraft in every theatre of war and with numerous air forces.  It was capable of withstanding extensive battle damage.  Hawker Hurricane PZ865 was the last of 14,533 Hurricanes built and named The Last of the Many.  It now flies with the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Vulcan B2—The unique delta-wing Avro Vulcan was the second of the RAG’s v-bombers designed to carry a nuclear bomb. It first entered RAF service in 1957, with the more powerful Mk2 following three years later, and eventually equipped nine squadrons.  The force formed part of the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent until 1969, when the role was passed to the royal Navy’s Polaris submarine fleet.  Two squadrons serv3ed in Cyprus and were assigned to the Central Treaty Organization.  As a conventional bomber, the Vulcan carried up to 21 1,000lb (450kg) bombs. The aircraft’s only operational missions were during the Falklands War in May 1982, when the Black Buck raids were made against the airfield and radars at Stanley.

Typhoon FGR4—The RAF’s latest combat aircraft, the extremely agile single-seat, twin-engine Typhoon first entered squadron service in March 2007.  It was initially operated in the air defence role, but the latest version, the FGR4, has a multirole capability and has been deployed to the Middle East for operations over Libya, Iraq and Syria.  The aircraft’s sophisticated electronics and suite of precision-guided weapons allows it to attack pinpoint targets with great accuracy.  Typhoon squadrons continue to police UK airspace and in recent years have been deployed to Eastern Europe and the Baltic for NATO air defence operations.

Sopwith Camel F1—The Sopwith Camel was a single-seat biplane fighter which entered service on the Western Front in May 1917.  By the end of the first World War, almost 5,500 had been produced, and it had become the most successful Allied fighter, being credited with shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft. The Camel was also used in the ground-attack role.  Powered by a single rotary engine, it was extremely manoeuvrable but difficult to handle for inexperienced pilots.  It was flown by some of the most famous pilots, including Captain AR Brown of No. 209 Squadron, who was credited with shooting down Baron con Richthofen, the ‘Red Baron’.

Nimrod MR2—The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod MR2 was modified from the de Havilland Comet 4 airliner. The long-rage maritime patrol and anti-submarine Nimrod entered RAF service in 1969. Powered by four Rolls-Royce Spey engines, it had a cavernous bomb bay that could hold a variety of weapons and sensors. With its long range, it could operate well north of Iceland and to mid-Atlantic, and at an even longer range with air-to-air refuelling. Its crew of ten or so had a wide array of sophisticated sensors to track submarines and surface ships. Three aircraft were equipped with special electronic equipment for intelligence-gathering missions. Nimrods played a crucial role in recent conflicts in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan. The MR2 was withdrawn from service in 2010.

RAF Centenary

What’s it like training with the Red Arrows?

As soon as the display season ends in October, training for the next year begins. The team aims to fly three sorties each day, initially in small formations as the new pilots settle in. Two of the most experienced pilots form the Synchro Pair and practise their separate routine.

The nine aircraft first fly together in March, before leaving in April for Greece and Cyprus to take advantage of the better weather. Training is complete at the end of May, when the Air Officer Commanding views the new display and authorises the team to perform the public – and another season of thrilling flying begins.

The Red Arrows demonstrate the excellence and capabilities of the Royal Air Force and the service’s skilled and talented people. The team of 120 includes pilots, engineers and essential support staff, and competition to join it is fierce.

Did you know?

  • The Vulcan’s four engines produce 16 tonnes of thrust and it can reach speeds of 645mph!
  • The Red Arrow pilots always fly in the same place in the formation, and if one is unwell, they they fly in an eight-man formation. However, if the lead pilot is unable to fly, then the team’s performance is cancelled.
  • In 2010, Flt Lt Kirsty Moore became the first female Red Arrow pilot.
  • During WW2, the RAF had the largest casualty rate, in part due to Britain’s bombing campaign against Germany. With 55,000 air crewmen dying on these bombing missions, the RAF’s loss rate was the highest of any of the British armed forces during the war.