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Red Arrows - toxic culture

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Red Arrows - toxic culture

Old 1st Nov 2023, 16:29
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Red Arrows - toxic culture

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-67287479An investigation into a toxic culture in the RAF's Red Arrows display team has found predatory behaviour towards women was "widespread and normalised".

Examples included unwanted physical contact, sexual texts, invitations to engage in sexual activity, and women being seen as "property". A "bystander culture" meant such behaviour went unchallenged, it found. Chief of the air staff, Sir Richard Knighton, said he was appalled by the findings and "unreservedly" apologised.

The non-statutory inquiry was launched in 2021 after three women went to the then head of the RAF about complaints they had made which had not been addressed by their chain of command. The inquiry covers a period dating back to 2017. The RAF admitted part of the problem may have been a view that members of the display team were "special". The RAF said the "high profile of the team, their regular exposure to VIPs, celebrities and an admiring public… promotes the view among some personnel that they are special and that normal rules and behaviours do not apply to them".

Air Chief Marshal Knighton offered his "unreserved apologies" to anyone who experienced unacceptable behaviour - and in particular the three women. He admitted the reputation of the Red Arrows had been damaged as a result by a "minority", but said few of its leadership, air and ground crews from that time were still serving on the squadron. He said there were no plans to disband the elite flying display team and that a change of culture, leadership and safeguards had been implemented to address the widespread and normalised "unacceptable behaviours" uncovered.

They included unwanted physical contact, unwanted text messages of a sexual nature, unwanted invitations to engage in sexual activity and "male sexual entitlement" towards women, who were "being viewed as 'property' of either individuals or the Squadron".

here were two incidents of exposure of genitals, the RAF said. Many of the specific examples, along with all names, have been redacted. The RAF said many examples of sexual harassment were not challenged. The inquiry found there "was a bystander culture... and an unwillingness to take action that could be viewed as unpopular". It noted a "high propensity of extra marital relationships between serving personnel" which may have contributed to a "low opinion of female service personnel". The inquiry highlighted a drinking culture - with so called unacceptable behaviours by male members often fuelled by alcohol. Alcohol was seen as a mitigating factor but should have been treated as an aggravating factor, the RAF said.

The RAF said women had normalised the behaviour they experienced, and "many said they had 'got used to it'", with some modifying their own behaviour to reduce the risk of experiencing such actions. It noted there was a sense of loyalty, with incidents dismissed because people did not want to ruin someone's career or disrupt the squadron. It said: "All of the females expressed their concern, without solicitation, that they were not showing moral courage by not speaking out and they could be enabling the situation to happen to other women, but they had to balance this against the reality that they felt likely to suffer a detriment on a day to day basis and they had worked hard to get where they were and they did not want to sacrifice their position."

Two pilots serving with the Red Arrows were dismissed from the team and the RAF following an initial investigation in 2022. Five other members of the team, which includes ground staff and totals 120 personnel, have faced "administrative actions". A separate military police investigation concluded that none of the allegations highlighted between 2017 and 2021 met the threshold for criminal charges.

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7th Nov 2023, 05:41
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Disclaimer - I'm not a flyer or forces, so forgive me for posting it here. I thought it was relevant to the thread.

Narcissism, immorality and lack of empathy: the dark psychology that can poison elites

Sexism, harassment and bullying plague the Red Arrows, the UK Royal Air Force’s display team. This revelation was the outcome of investigations into complaints of bad behaviour in this elite organisation. Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton said that “behaviour that would be classed as unacceptable was widespread and normalised on the squadron”.

To me, the Red Arrows have always represented discipline, precision, skill, bravery and professionalism. They are the real-life Top Guns. Now, I’ll never be able to look at red, white and blue trails in the sky in quite the same way.

As a psychologist, I should perhaps be less shocked. Many of us suffer from a particular cognitive bias that involves projecting the characteristics of a role onto the people who play that role. But just because the Red Arrows display discipline and professionalism doesn’t mean all individual members of the team will have those same characteristics.

Lack of self-doubt

Elite groups, be they military or otherwise, present with a particular set of psychological challenges. One is that they often play by different social rules to everyone else. In their entrenched macho culture, women in the Red Arrows squadron were viewed as “property”.

Elites are, by definition, highly selected both in terms of skills and psychological characteristics.

In a military setting, such traits include mental toughness, which can also come with a certain emotional coldness. This helps an individual to stay calm under pressure and to focus on the task in hand rather than on other people. Other people’s wellbeing may therefore not be a major priority in a highly competitive, survival-of-the-fittest situation.

Those selected have to be able to operate at the highest level. There is always jeopardy. The top, after all, can be a narrow ledge – precarious and anxiety-producing. As I’ve shown in a recent book, emotional displays and expressions of self-doubt are likely to be highly discouraged among elites.

Bottling up emotions can be psychologically damaging, though. It may reduce our ability to empathise with others. Several studies have also shown that people who have a good grasp of their emotions, noticing them and thinking critically about them, often make better decisions. People who ignore their feelings can, counter-intuitively, end up being more driven by them.

If we don’t realise that we have feelings of fear or self-doubt, because we are discouraged from doing so, we may act out in anger when that uncomfortable sensation hits.


Elites also know how special they are. They are told so endlessly. This will feed any inherent narcissistic tendencies.

There may be a genetic component to narcissism, but narcissism can develop within an individual over time – and within a culture. Narcissists will need to be at the centre of attention in all spheres of life – not just up there in the sky with the public gaping up at them.

They will require narcissistic attention, accolades and validation in other aspects of life, including their relationships. Narcissists are more likely to switch partners because new partners are always better at giving attention and complimenting them than existing partners.

It seems there was a “high propensity” to engage in extramarital relations in the Red Arrows. This was no doubt partly down to opportunity and the undoubted glamour of the role, but perhaps also attributable to this narcissistic need.

As Colonel Bernd Horn, Deputy Commander of the Canadian Special Operation Forces Command points out in the Canadian Military Journal, elites also breed an in-group mentality that can become “dangerously inwardly focused”. Elites trust only those who know the score and who have passed the same rigorous selection tests that they have.

They therefore become harder to influence from the outside, where behaviour may be perceived more objectively. Objectivity, however, is very important in life.

Moral confusion

Being in an elite group grants access to resources and opportunities others may not have. This, of course, creates a sense of entitlement and privilege, which can further stoke egos of narcissistic people and affect moral decisions.

The belief that you deserve special treatment and are exempted from certain moral obligations can lead to a skewed perspective on right and wrong. The boundaries can become blurred after a while.

Elites are also in a position to prioritise their own interests, driven by this desire, conscious or unconscious, to maintain their status and protect their privileges. Their insularity means that they are often surrounded by like-minded people who share similar values and perspectives and encourage this.

These social circles can influence their moral compass by reinforcing certain beliefs and behaviour, without the necessary critique.

Those of us who are not part of an elite group may also play a part. Some of us may recognise the elite’s position, power and privilege and be unwilling to sanction them because of their perceived importance (in the case of the Red Arrows as iconic representations of national identity). Knighton described this as “bystander culture”, though a better term here might have been “bystander apathy” .

It’s important to keep in mind that these are issues that affect all elites – from politicians and people who went to top schools to social media influencers. Personalities, fed and developed by attention and accolades until they’re dependent on them, may become trapped in an echo chamber of shared values. This often comes with an immunity to criticism from those outside the group who could never understand the pressures of the elite.

So while elites can be very special, it’s not necessarily always in a good way. We should all do our best to call out their bad behaviour.
Old 1st Nov 2023, 17:29
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Is the report available?
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Old 1st Nov 2023, 17:45
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Originally Posted by downsizer
Is the report available?


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Old 1st Nov 2023, 19:42
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Well having just read the whole thing, it just looks like ‘words’ riddled with buzzwords and acronyms!

Clearly there was wrong doing here and in all my dealings with RAFAT during a 25 year career, I am not the least bit surprised. On a ‘normal’ squadron (if there actually is such a thing) there are always incidents that occur and these are often dealt with within the chain of command. Crucially if serious enough they can always be escalated up to the wider station level to ensure that occurrences are dealt with properly and away from the squadron’s influence. As a SNCO I have had occasion to send a drunken pilot off to bed with a “Sir, I think you had enough and should leave now” which on that particular FJ squadron I could do because the Boss would back us in keeping his squadron in a good place.
The difference here is that RAFAT have always done things ‘their way’ and the pilots considered beyond reproach. The engineering side similarly view themselves as being in some way ‘the best of the best’ and have often been caught out doing things outside of that mandated in operational and maintenance documentation (their recent incidents have brought this to light but to no avail), because they are in some way special or unique. This has tragically led to the loss of two of two members of RAFAT. Add to that they were living in their own little ‘bubble’ at Scampton and you can see how this situation came about.

Any other squadron would have been disbanded long ago for less than this. One hopes that now they are at Waddington they will learn to conform to the ‘norms’ of service life and follow a better path.
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Old 1st Nov 2023, 20:00
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I have not yet read the report, been very busy, BUT:

at a guess "lessons learned" and "steps to ensure such will not happen again" might just figure in it.
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Old 1st Nov 2023, 21:34
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Back in the day, I did have some dealings with the RAFAT and I think it would be fair to call them a ‘Marmite’ organisation. People come and people go but in my experience the pilots were either really good guys you would want to share a beer with or absolute as*****s who never ceased to tell everyone how good they were at the first opportunity. I think the concept of ‘The Scampton Bubble’ has a degree of merit and I would agree that the move to Waddington could help the healing process.
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Old 1st Nov 2023, 21:48
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Red Arrows - toxic culture

Red Arrows: Predatory behaviour widespread and normalised - RAF - BBC News

So now the Reds have been disgraced yet again is it time to disband them and replace with something new?
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Old 1st Nov 2023, 22:49
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Sorry, Red2, but no. This is a report into what happened last year. A very bad year for the Reds, but they have been restructured, and the new team is getting on with doing it properly, on the ground as well as in the air.
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Old 1st Nov 2023, 23:04
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Originally Posted by Herod
Sorry, Red2, but no. This is a report into what happened last year. A very bad year for the Reds, but they have been restructured, and the new team is getting on with doing it properly, on the ground as well as in the air.
That reads like a “line to take” from senior leadership. And just as convincing.
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Old 1st Nov 2023, 23:44
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Sorry, Red2, but no. This is a report into what happened last year. A very bad year for the Reds, but they have been restructured, and the new team is getting on with doing it properly, on the ground as well as in the air.
To quote from the Times report:

…Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton, the chief of the air staff, apologised to the victims and said he had been left “appalled” by the report.

He admitted that “a handful” of those who had served in the Red Arrows during the period from 2017 to 2021 when sexual harassment was normalised remained on the team but he denied the inquiry amounted to a cover-up.

The Times understands there are three people still on the team who served when unacceptable behaviours were “widespread and normalised”…..

Victims said they were left “furious” by the RAF’s heavily redacted report and one said it was “utter nonsense” they had not been offered a meeting with Knighton.

​​​​​​​“I haven’t heard anything from them. I haven’t been offered a face to face. I lost my career because of this,” said one.
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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 00:27
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Reds Breakdown

Whenever the report mentions ‘The Red Arrows’ I am sure that the public just thinks of the pilots.Two pilots got kicked out but 9 other ‘members’ of the unit were disciplined.
I do acknowledge that as some of the pilots were behaving poorly morally, that may have been seen by other members of the unit to be acceptable behaviour =Leadership failure.

Do personnel join the Reds for the ‘right’ reasons…..?
What are the ‘right’ reasons?
Would you want to and for what reason?…………….
What questions would you ask aspiring members and would you believe their answers…?

If you put the team on a pedestal, tell them they are ‘the best’ and let them live and operate separately to the rest of the service this will lead to a elitist view of themselves- something the Service itself used to actively encourage.
That culture permeated throughout the unit and led to a lax attitude to the Service ethos and lo and behold it spread to other areas of behaviour…When faced with temptations normal self discipline can start to weaken and then the behaviours as reported are a natural consequence.

I met members of the public at Airshows who didn’t even know the team were in the RAF as “they don’t wear military uniform” ( yes, really).
Why not put them back into service uniform and flying suits: ‘The RAF Arrows’ anyone?
But they would just look like any other members of the RAF then….and perhaps begin to behave in a more disciplined and less entitled manner.

I am very sad to see the damage this report has and will cause to the RAF as a whole.
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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 00:39
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Part of a bigger team…

Get rid of the Red Suits and Blue overalls; wear standard RAF uniform.
But then they would be indistinguishable from ‘ordinary’ RAF personnel…? 👍
Might prick the bubble of separateness elitism and disregard of service norms, discipline and ethos.
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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 05:12
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A statement from the Chief of the Air Chaff.

Statement from Air Chief Marshal Sir Rich Knighton, Chief of the Air Staff:

We have today published two reports related to historical allegations of unacceptable behaviour within the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team (RAFAT) – the Red Arrows. Redacted versions of the reports were published on the RAF Website at 4pm today (links below). The reports have been redacted because the people who spoke to those doing the investigation were guaranteed confidentiality and to meet our legal obligations to protect personal data.

An Inquiry was commissioned in December 2021 at Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston’s request after three women approached him directly with serious allegations about the culture and behaviours on the Red Arrows. The inquiry, which considered evidence dating back to 2017, concluded last summer but led to a further formal investigation into the command, leadership, and management of the Squadron. I want to thank the investigators for their diligence and all the witnesses, who supported the inquiries.

Now that both investigations are concluded, the findings are being released publicly. I have accepted all the recommendations from both investigations.

I want first to say that I am sorry and offer my unreserved apologies to any individuals that were subjected to unacceptable behaviours during their association with the Red Arrows, particularly the three women who felt they had no option but to raise their complaints directly with my predecessor.

The reports show that during the period investigated, unacceptable behaviours were widespread and ‘normalised’ on the Red Arrows. These included sexual harassment, bullying and an alcohol-focused culture. The situation was compounded by a ‘bystander culture’, meaning people did not challenge what was happening. The behaviours described by witnesses in the reports have no place in the Royal Air Force – or anywhere else. The findings of the investigations are clear. Actions have been taken against a number of individuals, up to and including dismissal from the Service.

I was appalled when I read the investigations’ findings. The behaviour of a minority of individuals has harmed the Squadron’s reputation and that of the Royal Air Force. Like my predecessor, I am intent on rebuilding public trust in one of our highest profile units. I know that the current team is working hard to do just that. The leadership, air and ground crews of the Red Arrows have undergone many changes since the period covered by the investigations, with few still serving on the Squadron from that time. I have confidence in the command and people of the current Squadron.

More broadly, I would like to make it very clear today that where appropriate, I will not hesitate to use the most severe sanctions available to me to deal with those whose behaviour harms others.

Anyone who has experienced, or witnessed unacceptable behaviours where they work can raise their concerns with their command chain. If, however, they prefer to remain anonymous, there are confidential helplines available to service personnel and organisations that can help if you have been a victim of workplace bullying or harassment. We will take any complaint seriously and it will be thoroughly investigated, in line with the MOD’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy.
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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 05:27
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Page 15 article F.

You have to be kidding me, there is NO excuse for working on or operating aircraft and carrying out safety critical tasks while under the influence of alcohol under ANY circumstances, and to significantly reduce that is NOT addressing the problem, it needs to be stopped completely. Random breath tests for all ranks comes to mind.

“Action is taken to ensure RAFAT personnel access alcohol responsibly and that the risk of those engaged in safety critical task whilst under the influence of alcohol is significantly REDUCED.”


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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 06:17
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The Mail running with this:
RAF faces £1million payout to former head of recruitment after being ordered to discriminate (dailymail.co.uk)
I hope she gets every penny...
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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 07:11
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Originally Posted by ORAC
…Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton, the chief of the air staff, apologised to the victims and said he had been left “appalled” by the report.
What stone has he been under for the last 20 years?

The cast of Yes Minister are long dead, but we all know what they meant when they were "appalled" - "it's appalling" - "I'm appalled"

Was he appalled by the report or the actions which required its writing?

Originally Posted by DogTailRed2
So now the Reds have been disgraced yet again is it time to disband them and replace with something new?
43 Squadron sans the 'Fighting'?
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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 07:26
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Originally Posted by Hueymeister
More tax money paid out
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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 07:43
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It's hardly a new broom with the new Red One as he seems to have made a career out of the Reds. Now he is the boss he will have to make sure his eyes are open all the time!
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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 07:50
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I am trying to think how they could have possibly generated worse publicity for themselves, at a worse time?

it stinks of privilege and total arrogance.

They do a lot of good for GB Ltd, but this gives ammo to those who think they should form part of the next defence cuts.
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Old 2nd Nov 2023, 08:43
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Originally Posted by Deep Throat
More tax money paid out
Originally Posted by Hueymeister
But that’s a report in the ghastly Mail, with a fair chance of gross exaggeration.
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