A scathing report revealed women would attend events as a group, forming a “shark watch” to catch their predatory male colleagues targeting them.

And they would stop drinking on social engagements to make sure their allegations would not be dismissed if they were attacked.

The female pilots and staff also changed what they wore to avoid attention.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton said: “I apologise unreservedly to those who felt they have been subjected to those unacceptable behaviours.

“I am absolutely appalled at some of the behaviour we have been. I am extremely sorry to those who have experienced these unacceptable behaviours.”

Two pilots have been thrown out of the RAF after three women came forward to report allegations of sexual harassment and bullying.

Another nine members of the Red Arrows have been told off by RAF chiefs – but they are not expected to be demoted.

One of the three female victims has left the RAF – while the other two are no longer in the Red Arrows.

A heavily redacted report – published this afternoon – revealed investigators were concerned “that the squadron was not a safe environment for females and that it was highly likely that females would be subject to unlawful harassment because of their sex.”

The Non-Statutory Inquiry into the Red Arrows said female members of the elite group had a “sense of loyalty both to individuals” and the RAF.

They did not want to “ruin someone’s career over a behaviour that they had become used to managing or they did not want to disrupt the operational output of the squadron.”

Investigators found evidence of a drinking culture within the Red Arrows and warned “almost all of the unacceptable behaviours of a sexualised nature occurred either during an event where alcohol was consumed or following such an event.”

But a shocking section of the report revealed how female aviators were desperately trying to avoid the sexual harassment they were regularly enduring.

It said: “Female service personnel naturally supported each other and reported modifying their behaviours to reduce the risk of being subject of unacceptable behaviour or ensuring that they would be believed if they needed to report an incident.

“The modification of their behaviour included going to social situations as a group with ‘shark watch’ in operation within their cohort, limiting the amount of alcohol consumed in order to be able to respond effectively if they were subject to unacceptable behaviour and to ensure their account would be believed and not dismissed due to consumption of alcohol and modifying what they wear.”

Male personnel joked of a colleague’s attitude to a female aviator: “he would be lurking in the corridor outside her room”, “he followed her around like a lovesick puppy” and “no-one took it seriously – look at him”.

Chiefs were so concerned about the amount of alcohol being consumed by the unit that they organised “volleyball tournaments or visits to local sights” so the pilots “were not just spending the day drinking in the hotel bar.

The culture of the Red Arrows was dominated by trysts, including affairs, investigators found. The report revealed: “The visibility of these relationships has undermined the rank structure of the squadron due to the poor view of behaviours.

“The high propensity of extra-marital relationships between service personnel serving on the squadron may also contribute to a low opinion of female service personnel generally”.

But Sir Richard said he did not consider disbanding the Red Arrows and insisted the troubled elite squadron is beginning to turn itself around.

He said shows would include nine aircrafts next year, up from eight this year.

Commenting on the reports, Chair of the Defence Committee, Robert Courts MP, said:

“The report of the Non-Statutory Inquiry (NSI) outlines multiple instances of shockingly inappropriate – and sometimes predatory – behaviour within the Red Arrows. Clearly, there are serious cultural problems running deep within the unit, including a bystander culture, where individuals feel unable to call perpetrators out.

“It is particularly concerning that the investigators warn that the Squadron was not a safe environment for females, concluding that it was ‘highly likely’ that women would be subject to illegal sexual harassment. No Service personnel should be made to feel unsafe by their colleagues. These are the very people who should protect them.

“It is also shocking that despite the NSI review, deep-rooted problems persist, with a subsequent Commanding Officer’s investigation into leadership failings at RAFAT finding that the required change in culture had still not been delivered. This must be addressed with urgency.

“The unacceptable behaviours and leadership failures laid out in these reports have no place in any professional environment – let alone in the Armed Forces, where the standards must be highest. The Defence Committee will continue its scrutiny of this area and will raise these issues in our upcoming session, following up on our work on the experiences of women in the Armed Forces.”

Chair of the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces, Sarah Atherton MP, said:

“These are disturbing reports that reveal the extent of the unacceptable behaviour, bullying and sexual harassment within the Red Arrows, and the management failings that enable them. The NSI report shows that misconduct is pervasive within the team, with poor and even predatory behaviours so commonplace they have become normalised.

“As the report acknowledges, victims of harassment often feel unable to speak out, for fear that they will hurt their career, or the careers of their colleagues. Women often feel at risk of being stereotyped as sensitive or hysterical and perpetrators hide behind ‘banter’.

“The lack of progress between the two investigations speaks to just how embedded these behaviours are in the culture of the Red Arrows. We need fundamental change. I look forward to raising this with the Government again as we continue our follow-up work on Women in the Armed Forces”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *