Red Arrows commander is suspended amid probe into relationship with colleague who ‘fell pregnant with his baby’
The Red Arrows suffered a major blow last night after their commander was removed from his post pending a probe into his relationship with a junior team member said to have resulted in pregnancy.
The world famous aerobatic team, already embroiled in the biggest scandal of its 60-year history, lost its leader, Wing Commander David Montenegro, yesterday.
In a move which stunned squadron members the married father-of-two was sent home from the Red Arrows’ high profile tour of Gulf states, where they are supporting British businesses and the UK Government.
Wing Commander Montenegro is the most senior and the highest profile officer suspended from his post since a probe was launched into sexual misconduct claims raised by more than 40 Red Arrows team members.
His sudden departure has raised further questions over the display team’s future.
The world famous aerobatic team, already embroiled in the biggest scandal of its 60-year history, lost its leader, Wing Commander David Montenegro, yesterday
The Red Arrows are already facing calls for disbandment by those who reported sexual assaults, sexual harassment, physical assaults and intimidation by the squadron’s pilots.
The victims have also demanded a public apology from the RAF’s most senior officer, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston.
The removal of Wing Commander Montenegro, whose official title is Officer Commanding the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team’s (OC RAFAT), comes days after Flight Lieutenants Damon Green and Will Cambridge were sacked for breaches of misconduct guidelines while they were Red Arrows pilots.
A further five male officers have been disciplined internally by the RAF based on the claims made by Red Arrows team members, many of whom were junior and inexperienced female personnel.
At a crisis meeting, top brass concluded that Wing Commander Montenegro could not lead the Red Arrows while his relationship with a female corporal was under investigation.
The dashing Wing Commander is aerobatics team’s highest ranking and highest profile member.
The Red Arrows are already facing calls for disbandment by those who reported sexual assaults, sexual harassment, physical assaults and intimidation by the squadron’s pilots
His Twitter profile has 32,000 followers and he frequently meets members of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales, and high-profile figures such as the Hollywood actor Tom Cruise.
Earlier this year he also wrote an official history of the Red Arrows which became a bestseller.
In recent days the squadron has performed high profile displays in Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, including escorting an Air Emirates passenger jet, flying over the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and attending official functions alongside UK ambassadors to the region.
Wing Commander Montenegro took part in many of these events prior to his shock departure.
When he met the female corporal in 2017 he was in a relationship with a woman who subsequently became his wife. At the time they had two children, both boys.
The affair with the woman is said to have lasted at least a year. At the time he was ‘Red One’, the most senior pilot in the Red Arrows and she was a member of the ground crew. She has now left the RAF.
Wing Commander Montenegro was apparently taken aback when the woman said she intended to have his baby. She later miscarried and their relationship ended, it is understood.
There is no suggestion he abused or harassed her. The RAF’s issue is that the relationship could have compromised operational effectiveness.
It is also potentially undermines Wing Commander Montenegro’s authority should he be called upon, as OC RAFAT, to adjudicate on disciplinary matters.
The RAF expects all its personnel to abide by its guidelines on ‘values and standards’. Officers bear an additional responsibility to lead by example.
Affairs between officers and junior ranks are frowned up irrespective of the size of a military unit.
In organisations the size of the Red Arrows, which is only 120-strong, it is considered that issues arising from such relationships are magnified.
Starting with a report in The Daily Mail in May, a disturbing picture of inappropriate behaviour in the squadron has emerged.
It has been revealed male officers bombarded female colleagues with requests for sexual favours and made inappropriate advances, often when drunk. When they were refused they frequently became abusive.
Their victims claim that RAF top brass supressed their claims for as long as possible, in a bid to avoid negative publicity.
Last night, the Ministry of Defence said: ‘All Royal Air Force personnel are expected to maintain the highest standards of behaviour.
‘The RAF is aware of historic allegations from 2017 that have been made against the current Officer Commanding the RAF Aerobatic Team (The Red Arrows) which will be thoroughly investigated.
‘Pending that investigation and without prejudice the individual has been removed from post. We will not be commenting further while the investigation is ongoing.’