Team History

Into the Jet Age


The Vampire was flown by various teams until 1950, by which time No 72 Squadron was flying a team of seven. No 54 Squadron with a team of five Vampires became the first jet RAF formation team to trail smoke. Meteors eventually took over from the Vampires and No 66 Squadron developed a formation team of six aircraft.

The first team using Hunter aircraft appeared in 1955 when No 54 Squadron flew a formation of four aircraft. The following year the Squadron team adopted the name The Black Knights and all the pilots wore black flying suits. No 111 Squadron (Treblers or Treble-One) provided the official RAF team in 1956, and for the first time the aircraft bore a special colour scheme, an all-black finish. After a performance in France, they were applauded as Les Fleches Noires and thereafter were known at home and throughout the continent as The Black Arrows. They became the first team to fly a five Hunter formation and their polished performances included a formation landing.

By the 1957 Farnborough Display the Black Arrows Team had been increased to nine aircraft. Something of a sensation was caused by a formation loop and roll by nine aircraft - this had not been seen since the inter-war years. New manoeuvres and formations were added each year. In 1958 came the bomb burst, in which the aircraft break formation at the top of a loop, trailing smoke, and pull out in different directions. Perhaps the most noteworthy performance by the Black Arrows was the celebrated loop and barrel roll of 22 Hunters during the 1958 Farnborough Display week. This is the greatest number of aircraft ever looped in formation, and is still a world record today.

The Black Arrows Formation of 22 Hunters

Nine Hunters of The Black Arrows as seen in 1957 (top) and the Celebrated Formation of 22(!) Hunters as seen at Farnborough in 1958 (bottom)

             1. The Early Days                   2. Into the Jet Age

          3. A Plethora of Teams            4. The "Reds" Arrive

Team Photo Archives - 1965 to date

Countries in which the Reds have Displayed

Previous Red Arrows pilots

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