Filming with the Military

By Eric Huyton Posted at 12/11/2018 Aerial Filming

I wrote this after a long filming day with 47 Air Dispatch who were based at RAF Lyneham. We were on a tight schedule and had to fit in with last minute operational changes of aircraft so being absolutely ready to go at all times was essential. The reward was several low level sorties around the Wiltshire countryside.

With advice from Flt Tigs Douglas-Sim, Media Communications Officer, RAF Lyneham

RAF Hercules takes off in desert

There are occasions when film makers want to fly with military aircraft, either as transport to an area which is controlled by the armed forces or to film the aircraft itself.

Contact the Media Office

Generally, you will find the Royal Air Force helpful and they will usually do their very best to fulfil any reasonable request you may put to them. All filming requests should be presented in the first instance to the Station Media Office which you can find from the main switchboard or sometimes from the station’s website. For example, if you wish to fly with a Hercules Squadron, then you will probably be contacting the media office at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire


Be as clear as you can about what you want to achieve. Is it air to air, ground to air, do you want to film the aircraft landing or taking off, what environment or country are you thinking of, do you want to film tactical operations or manoeuvres, in fact it's the same checklist as for civil aerial filming.


Then it’s a question of budget. To hire a military aircraft solely for your own tailor made filming trip is possible but the costs may be prohibitive. For example a C130J Hercules will cost you around £ 10,000 per hour or a Puma helicopter around £ 3,500 per hour.

If you’re flexible with your wish list and don’t need to film immediately, it may well be possible to be included in an existing scheduled operation in the near future. Because the operation is already booked as a military sortie, you’ll find the cost of joining in is far more acceptable, even to the point of making a reasonable (substantial) donation to the RAF Benevolent Fund. Military sorties are usually planned up to 4 months ahead so your RAF contact will be able to let you know if a suitable operation is coming up.


The RAF can carry civilian passengers and are not subject to the same AOC as civil aircraft so the Public Transport or Aerial Work rules do not apply. With civilians on board, regulations dictate that the aircraft will not fly below 500ft.


You’ll need to be insured and able to show that your production insurance covers your crew for flying in military aircraft and the RAF will want to see proof of this. A typical insurance premium for operating in a war theatre is around £ 5,000 per person per week. Although the RAF have a duty of care, you or your equipment will not be insured by them.

Combat Camera Team

One way round the low flying and insurance issues is to use a camera operator from the RAF’s Combat Camera Team. The 500ft minimum no longer applies as there are no civilians on board. There is a fee for this service and this varies depending on what you require. Military camera operators are experienced in all sorts of aircraft and scenarios and will probably do a very good job on your behalf. They’ll also be able to show you examples of what they’ve done before to give you an idea of what can be achieved.

Almost always, they will film hand held from a shoulder mounted camera which means you won’t be able to use long lenses. The RAF have their own cameras although you can supply your own camera kit if you wish. Don’t forget you will have to insure it!

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Eric Huyton

I'm highly experienced in lighting for all genres of programming from observational documentary to drama and commercials. I'm comfortable with all formats from HDV through to High Definition and 4K and have extensive experience on 16mm and 35mm film. During my work for the BBC and National Geographic, I've travelled extensively in Africa, Australia, the USA, Far East and Canada and I'm no stranger to working in difficult and sometimes sensitive situations.

Clients include:

BBC 1, 2, 4   National Geographic, Discovery, Betty TV, Films of Record, Wall to Wall, RDF, Optomen, Olaus Roe, Hurricane Media

Goldman Sachs, Weatherford International, Saint Gobain, BT, Llloyds Bank, Goodyear

Just completed filming for BBC NHU "Green Planet" with David Attenborough in Costa Rica.

Excerpt from a Healthcare film for Simply Health. Shot on Arri Amira with Zeiss primes

Excerpt from "Churchill's First World War" Shot on Canon C300 with Zeiss primes

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