A STAR-SPANGLED display of truly monumental proportions will be at the heart of this weekend's Royal International Air Tattoo as the US Air Force marks its 70th anniversary year.

And to get the event off to a flying start McFly pop rock singer and guitarist Tom Fletcher arrived at RAF Fairford in a Thunderbirds F16, part of the US Air Force aerobatic display team.

The air arm will dominate the skies above RAF Fairford with one of its largest series of flypasts for many years at the world’s largest military airshow, to which it has close connections.

A heritage flight will unite aircraft that helped liberate Europe in World War Two with the latest front-line fast jets.

The ‘then and now’ aerial parade will span more than seven decades of American aviation history with a P-51D Mustang from the war era forming up alongside a Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor.

Dan Friedkin, a leading Texan warbird pilot, will be at the controls of the restored Mustang during the heritage flight at its only performance In Britain this year.

Maj Dan 'Rock' Dickinson of the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, will fly the F-22.

The Thunderbirds demonstration team will also tear through the skies above Gloucestershire and Wiltshire while another USAF display will demonstrate the power and precision of its combat aircraft based in Europe.

The formidable gathering of aircraft and helicopters, together with displays by US Navy aircraft, also celebrates the relationship between the USAF and the event, which begins today (FRIDAY).

Air Tattoo spokesman Richard Arquati said: "The US Air Force has played an important role in our history and has helped us become the greatest military airshow in the world. We're both committed to ensuring that the anniversary celebrations continue to be both memorable and exciting for what will undoubtedly be another sell-out airshow."

The RAF’s presence will include the Red Arrows painting the skies red, white and blue with a new high-octane display refined in Greece.

The nine fast jet pilots will leave their signature colours above the crowds as they perform their ‘Wall’ move. First displayer last year with only white smoke, the G-force-inducing manoeuvre involves the Hawk jets transforming into a ‘nine arrow’, drawing as close as 6ft apart while flying a huge loop.

Crowds will also be treated to a new version of the ‘Tornado’ move, where two of the pilots will twist around the lead section’s coloured jet exhausts.

The tribute was first introduced last season to celebrate 25 years of continual service by the RAF’s Tornado force.

The thrilling displays expected on all three days will headline a considerable RAF presence both in the air and through static displays on the ground.

Up to 200,000 people are expected at the mammoth event, which hosts eight hours of flying displays on Saturday and Sunday, and four on Friday.

Non-stop entertainment will also be provided on the ground, with a chance to meet the crews and get close to static aircraft.

The showground includes a Techno Zone, Vintage Village and an autodrome. Behind the action is RIAT’s mission to support the RAF Charitable Trust, set up in 2005 to support the wider RAF family.

Mr Arquati said: “It’s going to be a vintage Air Tattoo with some incredible displays planned over the three days from fast jets and heavyweight transports to classic warbirds and rotary aircraft - and there’s still a few surprises to come.”

Aviation crews from across the globe arrived in exuberant fashion as they shared pictures on Twitter yesterday. A Swedish pilot displayed his country’s flag in the cockpit of a Gripen fighter plane as he headed to Gloucestershire.

The Hellenic Air Force also displayed flags after touching down at the RAF base, while the Red Arrows were resplendent flying in tight formation in pictures released by the air show ahead of the event.

  • RIAT takes place on all three days this weekend. For more information visit www.airtattoo.com