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Sky News go ‘Inside the Red Arrows’ exploring sexual harassment, sleaze and bullying

Sky News Security and Defence Editor, Deborah Haynes

Sky

Sky News go ‘Inside the Red Arrows’ exploring sexual harassment, sleaze and bullying

Sky News Documentaries presents Untouchable: Inside the Red Arrows, is described by the channel as ‘a powerful one-hour film exploring sexual harassment, sleaze and bullying in the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT), better known as the Red Arrows.’ For the first time on camera, victims of the toxic culture speak exclusively to Sky News about the scandal that has shamed a national treasure.

The documentary, voiced by Sky News Security and Defence Editor, Deborah Haynes, hears the stories of four former members of the Red Arrows, who describe a toxic pocket of predatory behaviour in the world-famous aerobatic display squadron. The victims, whose words are voiced by actors to protect their identities, spoke to Sky before and after a Royal Air Force investigation found that unacceptable behaviours were widespread and normalised in the Red Arrows.

Air chiefs had hoped their non-statutory inquiry – published in November this year – would draw a line under the crisis. But the victims criticise it as a travesty of justice because of a complete lack of transparency – they have not even received an unredacted version of their own evidence.

In this film, three women and one man raise concerns that the toxic culture impacted flight safety. One victim claims the RAF even considered grounding the Red Arrows last year. They say they have no faith in the air force to ensure promised change and are urging other victims of unacceptable behaviours across the armed forces to speak out. The RAF inquiry looked at a period between 2017 and 2021. The air force says it is working hard to change the culture on the squadron, including with new training and leadership.

The victims describe a toxic pocket of predatory behaviour on the world-famous aerobatic display squadron that a Royal Air Force investigation has confirmed was widespread. They say that have no faith in the Air Force to ensure promised change and are urging other victims of unacceptable behaviours across the armed forces to speak out. The three women and one man also raised concerns that the toxic culture impacted flight safety. One victim claims the RAF even considered grounding the Red Arrows last year.

One woman, called Kate, at the heart of the film, was a young officer in training when she joined the Red Arrows a few years ago. She says she was harassed and pestered by a pilot and then failed by her chain of command when she tried to raise the alarm. Kate ended up leaving the RAF, with her mental health badly damaged and made a serious attempt on her life. But as she regained strength she decided to “go big” and report her concerns about the Red Arrows to the then head of the air force, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston. Her effort triggered the non-statutory inquiry.

It also prompted other victims to speak out.

This includes a second woman who we are calling Lucy. She describes being sexually harassed on the squadron. She also talks about how she had a consensual relationship with the then lead display pilot, known as Red 1. The non-statutory inquiry also explores the impact of consensual sexual relationships on the operational effectiveness of the team.

A third woman in the film, who we have called Rachel, joined the Red Arrows as the inquiry was underway. She joined as the squadron was undergoing corrective training on tackling unacceptable behaviours – but says she overheard misogynistic comments even then. Rachal claims her time on the squadron was miserable. She alleges that she was unfairly criticised and that a male team member then pestered her. Rachel ended up leaving the RAF but submitted two complaints about her experiences that she is still contesting.

Finally, Sky speak to a man whom they name James. He was on the squadron more than a decade ago and says he experienced bullying – even for calling out flight safety breaches. He was not contacted by the inquiry to give evidence because investigators only looked into unacceptable behaviours between 2017 to 2021 – something that the victims see as a lack of curiosity and a failure to try to find out how far back the toxic culture went.

Untouchable: Inside the Red Arrows will premiere on Wednesday 27th December at 9pm on Sky News – Freeview channel 233, Virgin 603, BT 313, Sky 501.

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