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2019 RIAT, NATO Military Chief ‘Gala Dinner’ Address and Sir Michael Marshall By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.








Organised by the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust and held once again at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire over the three day period July 19th to 21st,  the 2019 Royal International Air Tattoo was yet another superbly organised event enjoyed by the many thousands of visitors who were treated to a spectacular flying display of aircraft from air forces all over the world and on static display.

Raising money and awareness for the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust (RAFCT) and which in turn working with the family of charities helps promote recruitment to and efficiency of the Royal Air Force, suffice to say that the work of RAFCT inspiring air mindedness and an interest in aviation amongst young people, in educating and training children and young people, people with disabilities and in providing grants to individuals, organisations and other charitable activities is not only to be described as fantastic but second to none.

Taking place on the week that we celebrated 50 years since the successful Apollo 11 moon landing the theme of the show – Air & Space: Inspiring the Next Generation Air Force – followed an announcement in 2018 that the Royal Air Force will be taking command and control of the UK’s space operations. This not only reflected on the growing importance of space in ensuring successful military operations around the world but was also recognition that next century of operations will see air activities increasingly stretched beyond earth atmosphere. Attended by the majority of in excess of fifty air force chiefs from all over the world that had been in London for the Chief of the Air Staff’s Air and Space Power Conference and including the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force General David Goldfein the theme of the 2019 Royal International Air Show had been built under the title of Air & Space: Inspiring the Next Generation Air Force.

The Royal International Air Tattoo works hard to inspire young people and the fantastic ‘Technology Zone’ supported by many large companies from all walks of aviation was a perfect example of how to inspire and motivate young people to think about careers in the aerospace wold. The RAF Village demonstrated all aspects of RAF life is another brilliant example of how to inspire young people into careers in the Royal Air Force.

A very special thank you to all the many hundreds of volunteers, air cadets and members of University Air Squadrons and other who work so hard to make the Roya International Air Tattoo such a great success. Thank you also to the organisers who work so hard to make RIAT the success that it is and to the United States Air Force whose base the event is held.    

An underlying theme of the Royal International Air Tattoo this year was recognition of this year being the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Washington Treaty which gave birth to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on the 4th April 1949.

To that end, RIAT marked the occasion with a number of special events including a significant flypast of various Alliance air forces aircraft. At the superb Gala Dinner held on Friday evening Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Chairman of the Military Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation provided the main address. Emphasising the vital importance of NATO and of how NATO has survived all challenges by continually adapting and changing to meet the conditions it faced, this was a superb address – short, sharp and very typically to the point.

What follows is a personal transcript from me of main elements of the address given by Air Chief Marshal Peach:

Lord Lieutenant, Ministers, Excellences, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen – first of all on behalf of the alliance, can I thank the Royal International Air Tattoo for making NATO 70th a theme for tonight – we stand beneath the flags of 29 allies, we celebrate the win in new competition today of our crews from dial incursion and of course, for almost 50 years of the 70 years of our alliance, we have been participating as NATO air forces in this tattoo – first in North Wield, then at Greenham Common where I first participated in 1980, and for many years here at RAF Fairford”. So, thank you for all those that went before and that are here today”.

In the foresight that our leaders had in 1949 to create the Washington Treaty, twelve of nations flags flying above me here and that committed to mutual defence, collective defence and that throughout the history of the alliance has been embodied by the spirit of this Tattoo – by air forces and air power working and flying together.

“During the Cold War we saw technology thanks to the sponsors aeroplanes – we heard a great story tonight about Apollo throughout the ‘cold war’ companies here represented and their forbears developed the technology that allowed NATO air forces to be ready and prevail. So, it’s not just about thanking you for your sponsorship it’s about thanking you for your teamwork through the seventy years of the alliance.

After the ‘Cold War’ we faced new challenges, and the products, the airmen and women and, then after 9/11 and the only time in the history of the Alliance that our collective defence clause Article 5 was invoked in defence of the United States, we saw NATO adapt”.

“Since then we have been in Afghanistan for two decades and we pay tribute [tonight] to all those that have lost their lives in pursuit of that mission. And we have continued in the advancement of air power, air warfare and through the men and women of the alliance and we continue to push the boundaries – to be ready for the next generation of platforms and for the integration of space, for challenges of cyber and the and realty of hybrid war – we continue to adapt”. 

It would be wrong to pick out air forces out of the 34 here present, 29 of which are allied air forces, but I want to pay a particular tribute not just to General Dave Goldfein, the man as Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force and that I think this is his last Royal International Air Tattoo in that role, but to all members of the United Stated Air Forces in Europe who have been with the alliance since its birth and those bases, and we are on a United States Air Force base in Europe here tonight, have been the backbone of our fighting spirit and importantly, to the Royal Air Force which had contributed to EVERY single NATO mission since the birth of the Alliance in EVERY single air power role”.

So, there is a lot to think about as we turn 70. Tonight, I would also like to add to the very long list of anniversaries a very happy 70th birthday to the Republic of Korea Air Force [applause]  

And every year we manage to unearth more anniversaries don’t we so 70 years is a milestone   but as Jens Stoltenberg (Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – NATO) was given the rare privilege of addressing both Houses of Congress in the US earlier this year – NATO has survived all the challenges, NATO has adapted to the challenges we face now and in the future, we will continue to adapt and continue to be ready to grow .

The Republic of Macedonia is in the accession process which, when complete, will bring us up to 30 allies – we continue to be ready in the air as an aerospace force and on the ground and on the seas.

And of course, we work with our partners, many of them in the room tonight and the men and women of the alliance set an example to all air forces

So on behalf of the Secretary General I would like to thank the Royal International Air Tattoo on behalf of the alliance for helping us mark our birthday, But above all, I would like to thank the brave airmen and women of the alliance who are operating tonight all over the world and who continue to operate on behalf of peace and freedom representing for one billion people. Thank you for the opportunity.  


Sir Michael Marshall 

It was with great sadness that the death of Sir Michael Marshall, highly respected long-time Chairman of Marshalls Of Cambridge whose sudden death on Saturday whilst on holiday in Spain was announced by his family on Sunday. As I had been, Sir Michael was also present at the Gala Dinner of the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) ten days ago when Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart Peach gave the above address.

Having enjoyed several conversations with him during the three days of RIAT and having had the real pleasure of knowing Sir Michael for over thirty years and I am very saddened by the death of a true gentleman who was universally respected right across the defence and aerospace industry. I know that those who knew him will join me in sending our condolences and best wishes to his wife Sybil and to his son Robert and all other members of the family at this very difficult time. RIP

CHW (London – 30th July 2019)  

Howard Wheeldon FRAeS 

Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,

M: +44 7710 779785

Skype: chwheeldon


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