The US Air Force put on an astounding show at one of the biggest military airshows in the world, the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Held each year at RAF Fairford in England, the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) invites air forces for three days of air displays showcasing world class flying and aircraft. The event also raises money for the RAF Charitable Trust.

The theme this year honored US air power, recognizing the seventy years of the US Air Force (USAF).

The United States featured a formidable air power with a wide range of outstanding aircraft and pilot talent including USAF KC135 Tankers, F-15 Strike Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Participants had the chance to see other amazing American aircraft including the F-25 Lightning 2 Fifth Generation fighter jet and the F-22 Raptor with its vectored thrust that drew astounded responses from the crowds.


The Thunderbirds performed in their F-16s, showcasing American precision and top flying talent with extraordinary high speed passes, with a thunderous response from the crowds.

And it was a rare opportunity to see some American aircraft that seldom make appearances, like the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.

Here are three of the exciting aircraft featured this year: the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-2 Stealth Bomber and the U-2 Dragon Lady.


The B-2, aka the “Stealth Bomber” or “Spirit” brings massive firepower to a fight. It can unleash both conventional and nuclear munitions.

Made by Northrop Grumman, the B-2 Spirit is a multi-role heavy bomber. It can deliver that firepower rapidly all over the world undeterred by enemy defenses.


The aircraft possesses ultra “stealth” and this allows it to penetrate deep into enemy territory undetected. It can overcome advanced air defenses and decisively strike heavily defended areas.

How is it so stealthy? Much of that is classified, but a combination of its iconic shape, advanced materials and a special coating all play a role in making it undetectable by the enemy.


The B-52 can unleash the widest array of weapons, including powerful options like cluster bombs, gravity bombs, cluster bombs and precision guided missiles.

In fact, like the B-2, this aircraft can unleash both nuclear and precision guided conventional ordnance.

Dubbed the Stratofortress, the B-52 has been a strategic bomber for the U.S. for more than 40 years.


It can fly at high subsonic speeds and at high altitudes up to about 50,000 feet.

Made by Boeing, the B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber that the U.S. military uses for a range of missions.

For example, in a mere two hours, two B-52s can scan and monitor 140,000 square miles of ocean surface – that is some serious reconnaissance and surveillance.

All B-52s can be equipped with two electro-optical viewing sensors, a forward-looking infrared and advanced targeting pods to augment targeting, battle assessment, and flight safety, thus further improving its combat ability.

For night operations, B-52 pilots often wear night vision goggles (NVGs).


The U-2 is an epic spy plane. Made by Lockheed Martin, it can fly along the edge of space. It flies so high (around 70,000 feet) that U-2 pilots wear suits similar to astronaut suits.

During the Cold War, the first U-2A was built in utter secrecy by the legendary Lockheed Skunk Works. It first flew in 1955 and now more than 60 years later it is still used for critical missions today. It is an ultrahigh altitude reconnaissance aircraft.


It is often described as the most difficult plane to fly in the world. One of the reasons for this is that it has a very unique, and extremely challenging, bicycle-like landing gear.

Whether day or night and in good or bad weather, the U-2s can deliver high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance. It delivers important imagery and other data in real time to teams on the ground.

Once a crucial tool during the Cold War when it flew over Soviet space to gather information, U-2s are now used for a range of purposes from aerial eavesdropping  to saving American military lives by surveying areas in Iraq and Afghanistan and identifying dirt patterns that reveal where IEDs are hidden.  

Allison Barrie is a defense specialist with experience in more than 70 countries who consults at the highest levels of defense and national security, a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees, and author of the definitive guide, Future Weapons: Access Granted, on sale in 30 countries.  Barrie hosts the new hit podcast “Tactical Talk”  where she gives listeners direct access to the most fascinating Special Operations warriors each week and to find out more about the FOX Firepower host and columnist you can click here or follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie and Instagram @allisonbarriehq.


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