Female Red Arrows officer ‘quit elite display team after complaining of bullying and harassment in toxic environment
- The female aviator in her 30s joined the elite RAF squadron earlier this year
- But after just six months she was forced to quit amid fresh claims of bullying
- The bombshell is the latest scandal to rock the famed aerobatic display team
- It is facing a major investigation over claims of sexual harassment and bullying
Britain’s scandal-plagued Red Arrows have today come under fire once again amid claims a female member quit the display team after being bullied and harassed.
The officer, in her early 30s, is understood to have joined the elite flying unit earlier this year.
But after just six months, she filed a complaint to top military brass about behaviour that made her feel ‘uncomfortable’.
A source within the RAF said the female aviator had lashed out over the ‘toxic’ environment within the famed air squad.
The claim is the latest bombshell to rock the Red Arrows, amid damning allegations that sexual harassment, assault, misogyny and bullying were rife within its ranks.
In August it was revealed several young female recruits were among more than 40 personnel who have given 250 hours of evidence to a ‘long-running’ inquiry into the ‘toxic pocket’ of the RAF.
The Red Arrows display team, the pride of the RAF, has been rocked by scandals, with the team accused of bullying and harassment. Pictured are jets at the 2014 Jersey International Airshow
In the biggest scandal to ever hit the top aerobatic team in its 57-year history, one anonymous source claimed that young females in the 130-strong squadron were like ‘fresh meat’.
Four personnel are now subject to an official probe by the RAF and could be sacked over the allegations.
Speaking of the latest development in the sorry saga, an RAF source told The Times: ‘Although things have happened since the last story came to light, the toxic behaviour is still going on and not enough is being done about it.’
Former intelligence officer Philip Ingram, who is part of the Independent Defence Authority supporting military personnel, said the latest claims were damning and posed huge questions for the unit’s chain of command.
‘It’s a simple failure in command. There’s toxic leadership enhanced by a feeling of elitism because of the organisation they’re part of,’ he told MailOnline.
‘Whenever they get someone who, for whatever doesn’t fit or they think doesn’t, they bully them out… They’re destroying people’s lives.’
Former intelligence officer Lt Col Philip Ingram (pictured) says it is ‘impossible to accurately assess how many Russian agents there are in the UK’
Mr Ingram added the Red Arrows’ scandal would be ‘top of the agenda’ for the RAF’s boss, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, to tackle.
The latest case comes just days after Parliament’s influential Defence Committee issued a fresh plea for evidence in its latest investigation into women in the armed forces.
Now the committee is seeking to quiz Sir Mike before Christmas over a ‘variety of issues’ relating to the RAF, which is expected to include the scandal plaguing the Red Arrows.
The Defence Committee prepares its latest evidence session on women in the armed forces, scheduled for November 8.
It comes after Tuesday’s bombshell revelation that up to 30 former RAF pilots had been hired by China on huge £250,000 salaries to teach Chinese top guns how to shoot down Western aircraft.
The team, which normally consists of nine pilots titled Red 1 to Red 9 with their supervisor as Red 10, as well as a ground crew and commanding officer, is now down to a skeleton team of seven. Flight Lieutenant Damon Green, pictured, who was a Red 8, left the team for ‘personal reasons’ in January
Flight Lieutenant Will Cambridge, 39 (left), who was a Red 4, was suspended after allegedly having an affair with a junior female colleague. Pictured right, squadron lead Nick Critchell, 36, resigned over a ‘toxic culture’
Former Armed Forces Minister and member of the committee, Mark Francois MP, told MailOnline the air force had a lot of questions to answer.
Speaking of next month’s evidential hearing, he added: ‘I cannot speak for the whole committee but I think it likely that events regarding the Red Arrows will crop up at that hearing.
‘In addition, the committee has also requested that the Chief of the Air Staff appears to give evidence, at some point prior to Christmas, on a variety of issues relating to the RAF, of which this would probably be just one.’
The display team is the pride of the RAF and the public face of the service, performing death-defying stunts, zooming over crowds producing perfect plumes of red, white and blue smoke at key British events and royal celebrations.
But an ongoing investigation launched by Sir Mike in December 2021 has exposed detrimental issues in a team already operating below strength.
One female staff member said: ‘The girls who join the squadron are basically considered fresh meat. All of [the men] are married and they just don’t leave them alone.
‘It’s a toxic environment… It’s all men in senior positions. It is run by misogynistic white male blokes,’ she told The Times.
She added that many women were ‘at risk’ because of the numerous ‘toxic pockets’ within the RAF but there is ‘no urgency to act’, noting that senior staff members ‘swept complaints under the carpet’ to keep the reputation of ‘untouchable’ people clean.
Alleged victims have reportedly been told for months that speaking up would lead to them being sent home or fired from the force.
Four Red Arrows personnel are under investigation over ‘inappropriate behaviour’ allegations, with Mr Ingram claiming this could be ‘just the tip of the iceberg’.
The ongoing investigation launched by Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston (pictured) in December 2021 has exposed detrimental issues in a team already operating below strength
The non-statutory inquiry has documented at least 13 alleged incidents of sexual harassment, assault and sexual assault, bullying, intimidation, indecent exposure, victimisation, ‘misunderstanding of consent’, misogyny and isolation.
This comes after Armed Forces minister James Heappey denied claims a ‘pause’ had been put in place on job offers for white men in favour of women and ethnic minorities, in order to hit ‘impossible’ diversity targets.
He said Sir Mike had asked the team to ‘pause’ offering all training slots while he and his leadership consider how they might take positive action to assist improving diversity levels on various training courses in the year to March 2023.
He stressed that no policy is implemented yet despite the RAF recruitment team receiving an order on August 2 from the chain of command, according to Sky News.
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’.
Mr Heappey told Times Radio he was confident that Sir Mike and his team were investigating the allegations.
He said: ‘The very highest of standards are demanded of our armed forces across the board, and 99.99 per cent of them deliver in spades.
‘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.’
Speaking of the latest allegation, the RAF told The Times ‘The RAF has a zero-tolerance approach to unacceptable behaviour and will complete thorough investigations into any allegations, and take appropriate action. However, we will not offer comment on the circumstances of individual personnel moves.’
Former colleagues slam RAF Top Guns who trained Chinese how to shoot down aircraft as ‘traitors’
by MARK NICOL, DEFENCE EDITOR FOR DAILY MAIL
Former RAF pilots teaching China how to shoot down Western aircraft were labelled ‘traitors’ last night by furious former comrades.
Up to 30 Top Guns, said to include former Red Arrows pilots, are passing on vital knowledge and experience to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in a serious threat to national security, according to defence officials.
They are not breaking current laws but came under fire from the UK’s armed forces minister, who said legislation will soon be changed to stop veterans aiding a foreign adversary, particularly one labelled our ‘No 1 threat’.
James Heappey, who fought in Afghanistan, said the pilots’ actions ‘did not match my understanding of service’ as China was ‘a foreign power which challenges UK interests’.
Up to 30 Top Guns, said to include former Red Arrows pilots, are passing on vital knowledge and experience to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in a serious threat to national security, according to defence officials
He revealed that those taking up the £250,000-a-year roles, plus perks, have been warned about the consequences of their actions.
Mr Heappey said yesterday: ‘We have had a grave concern for a while. Our counter-intelligence branch has been making sure they are clear on what they are doing.
‘We’ve approached the people involved and have been clear it is our expectation they would not continue to be part of that organisation [the PLA].
‘[The pilots] have chosen not to take that advice. We are going to change the law to make it illegal.
‘Once people have been given that warning it will become an offence to go forward and continue with that training. China is a competitor threatening the UK interest in many places around the world. It is no secret their attempts to access our secrets and their recruitment of our pilots – to understand the capabilities of our air force – is clearly a concern.’
Some former RAF pilots have been more open, detailing assignments on website LinkedIn. A file photo is used above
Reports suggest those recruited through a South African flying school could include former Red Arrows. They are acting as PLA instructors across China. Their pay packets are apparently supplemented with luxury accommodation, maids and fast cars.
As anger grew last night, retired Rear Admiral Chris Parry said: ‘These potential traitors should be named, shamed and shunned. I am disgusted people think taking money for services which improve a totalitarian regime’s ability to prevail against democratic countries is in any way right.’
Next week, Home Secretary Suella Braverman will unveil new laws compelling anyone acting for a foreign power to register with the UK government. Anyone failing to do so could face up to five years in jail.
But friends of the pilots sought to downplay the risks. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one said: ‘The guys don’t want to talk.
‘They have everything to lose – and being identified would bury them. The money was very large, life-changing. They don’t feel there’s a threat, obviously. The information they teach is very generic. But it is designed to improve the ability of the PLA pilots, so is far from ideal.’
Some former RAF pilots have been more open, detailing assignments on website LinkedIn.
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