UK's Red Arrows members investigated over alleged inappropriate behaviour

Some alleged victims have described the world-famous Royal Air Force team of pilots as 'toxic'

The Red Arrows team performs over RAF Odiham in Hampshire. PA
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Britain’s Royal Air Force has been engulfed in a sexual harassment, bullying and misogyny scandal, which has led bosses to suspend several members of the Red Arrows from taking part in displays pending an investigation.

More than 40 personnel, including female recruits, are reported to have provided 250 hours of evidence to an inquiry which began this year. Some have described the aerobatics display team as “toxic”.

Alleged victims of misogyny, bullying and sexual harassment were told if they spoke up they risked being sent home or kicked out of the RAF, The Times has reported. Senior leaders were said to have “swept complaints under the carpet” for years to protect the reputations of figures considered “untouchable”.

A source at the Ministry of Defence confirmed several members of the Red Arrows were the subject of an investigation into inappropriate behaviour but said none had met the threshold for criminal charges.

Members of the Red Arrows, based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, have also been accused of drunkenness, but an RAF spokeswoman said the allegations were “unfounded”.

The Red Arrows, famed for their colourful entertainment from the skies, are a fixture of British summer events. In June, they conducted a flypast over Buckingham Palace as tens of thousands gathered to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee. The daredevil pilots brought their high-flying stunts to Abu Dhabi in October for a display to mark the 50th anniversary of the formation of the UAE.

The Red Arrows perform a flypast over Buckingham Palace to mark Queen Elizabeth II's platinum jubilee. AP

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told Times Radio that some had been removed from the display team for this season in light of “very concerning” allegations. He said he was confident that Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston and his team would investigate the allegations thoroughly.

“The very highest of standards are demanded of our armed forces across the board and 99.99 per cent of them deliver in spades,” he said.

“Those who have the privilege of serving in an organisation like the Red Arrows have, I think, an even greater responsibility because they are so much in the public eye — and the allegations that have been made are very concerning indeed.

“The Royal Air Force have taken, I think, the right action in that they have got those against whom these allegations have been made under investigation.

“I’m confident that the Chief of the Air Staff and his team are investigating these allegations ― they’ve taken action to remove them from the display team for this season.

“We’ll wait until those investigations are complete before the individuals responsible are held to account.”

The probe’s full report is with RAF leaders for their consideration, an MoD source said.

It is understood that no pilot currently on the team is accused of wrongdoing.

An RAF spokeswoman said the force had a “zero-tolerance approach to unacceptable behaviour and takes action wherever wrongdoing is proven”.

“Following allegations of unacceptable behaviour within the Red Arrows, the RAF commissioned a thorough and far-reaching investigation,” she said. “We will not be commenting further on the individual circumstances of specific personnel moves, which have been made without prejudice and are the result of both personal and professional reasons.

“The allegations of Red Arrows pilots flying while intoxicated are unfounded.

“All RAF pilots, in the Red Arrows or otherwise, are subject to strict regulations on alcohol consumption before conducting any flying.

“Safety remains paramount and any pilot found to have breached those regulations would simply not be permitted to fly, and would face disciplinary action.”

Updated: August 24, 2022, 12:22 PM
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