23rd November 2022
The RAF’s elite display squadron, the Red Arrows, has been back in the news again for all the wrong reasons. Back in August the team’s displays were reduced from nine aircraft to seven as it tried to sort itself out against a background of alleged sexual harassment and bullying which resulted in the sacking of two pilots and it being called the “Poisoned Arrows” by the Times.
Now it transpires that the team’s commander, Wing Commander David Montenegro, has been sent home from the team’s tour in the Middle East after reports emerged that he allegedly had an affair in 2017 which is reported to have resulted in the colleague’s pregnancy. That the colleague was a junior member of the team with the rank of Corporal has just added to the scandal.
Now, individuals in uniform having affairs is nothing new, and sadly such matters are hardly unusual in today’s society in general. However, within the hierarchical structures of the armed forces they are frowned upon, especially those between senior and junior ranks, as they can affect team spirit and esprit de corps.
What is quite unacceptable, of course, is if any of the allegations of bullying or sexual harassment prove to be true. There is no place for that in any organisation never mind an elite military one. It is not a good sign that reportedly the aerobatic display team received “unacceptable behaviours and active bystander training” after more than 40 personnel, including young female recruits, gave evidence to an inquiry.
As I have said so many times before, the main reason for such lapses in discipline is usually bad leadership, coupled with a reluctance in the chain of command to interfere with the running of so-called elite units. Clearly a tipping point has now been reached with the Red Arrows, and the dismissal of the team’s Officer Commanding – a non-flying role – is the result
Calls for the Red Arrows to be disbanded have grown in volume after this latest development, but I still think this is unlikely. It would be a crushing blow to the RAF’s image and morale. But if much more scandal emerges in the near future then perhaps such calls will become irresistible.
Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a Defence Analyst and a former Army officer, author & broadcaster – sign up to his podcast at defencereview.uk
Have you signed up for the Defence Review Podcast? https://open.spotify.com/show/4vHJsYgxfrDyTkKgMpGlqs
Lt Col Stuart Crawford’s latest book Tank Commander (Hardback) is available for pre-order now