STRICTLY Come Dancing star Ricky Whittle and forces sweetheart Nell McAndrew launched this year’s Royal International Air tattoo at Fairford.

Ricky, who shot to fame in Hollyoaks, and model Nell joined military aircraft from the past and present at RAF Fairford last Wednesday ahead of the world’s largest military show next month.

Several top aircraft from Britain and the USA touched down at the air base including the US Air Force’s first jet-powered refuelling tanker KC-135, a Harrier GR9 and a Tornado GR4.

Ricky swooped in on board a Griffin chopper piloted by his father Harry, a helicopter instructor at RAF Shawbury.

He said it was the first time they had flown together.

"It is a privilege to be here because I always wanted to be in the RAF as a child but sadly I didn’t have the eyesight for it," he added.

"Members of the RAF are true unsung heroes and they are the reason this country is great. It is an honour to be able to raise the profile of the good work they do and charities they help."

Also in attendance was Sandra Keen from Cirencester who, in 1973, was among the first batch of female Air Cadets in the country.

RIAT, which runs from July 17-18 and raises funds for the RAF Charitable Trust, will feature around 300 aircraft from around the world. Among this year’s highlights will be a display by a US Air Force F-22 Raptor, the world's most advanced jet fighter.

The show will also commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Tim Prince, chief executive of the RAF Charitable Trust said this year’s show would be the biggest and best one yet.

For more information, visit