FREEDOM’S THUNDER A LOOK AT OUR MODERN MILITARY AT AIRVENTURE 2018
Every year AirVenture always pulls together a fascinating array of modern military aircraft and 2018 was no different. There were aircraft representing the United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, United States Army, United States Customs and Border Protection and NASA (National Air and Space Administration). The United States Navy Blue Angles and their Boeing FA-18 Hornets opened the Tuesday airshow with a surprise appearance. The Blue Angels dropped in while enroute to an airshow in Fargo North Dakota. Two of the major themes for AirVenture 2018 including a Salute to the Aerial Refueler and the 70th anniversary of the United States Air Force Reserve Command. Air Education and Training Command provided an C-17 Globemaster III which flew a spirited display in the daily airshow. Air Combat Command offered the General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon which flew a mini demo as well as a part of the United States Air Force Heritage Flight.
The Year of the Tanker theme featured examples of several of the current front line Aerial Refuelers. Examples of the Boeing KC-135R, Boeing KC-10A, Lockheed HC-130P/N, Boeing FA-18F Hornet, and the now retired for active military service the Lockheed S-3B Viking now flown by NASA. Examples of these aircraft were on static display the entire week, with different examples being featured in the daily airshow. The Saturday airshow did feature most of these aircraft which flew several passes in different refueling configurations.
The United States Air Force Reserve Command celebrated its 70th birthday this year. The United States Air Force Reserve Command was formed in 1968 and comprises approximately 450 aircraft and around 70,000 Servicemen and women currently serving. The three numbered Air Forces that are part of the Reserve component fly everything from A-10’s to F-22’s, MQ-1’s to HH-60’s, and C-130’s to B-52’s. The Reserve Command has played a vital part on many conflicts including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force, Operation Enduring Freedom and, Operation Iraqi Freedom. AirVenture 2018 featured Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers 63-8302 and 58-0076 based at Grissom Air Force Base Indiana and are part of the 434th Air Refueling Wing. KC-10A Extender, 79-1946 from the 60th Air Mobility Wing based at Travis Air Force Base California, also from 60th Air Mobility Wing was Lockheed C-5M Super Galaxy 86-0026. HC-130 P/N Hercules, 93-2105, flies with the 39th Rescue Squadron and is based at Patrick Air Force Base Florida. One of the biggest highlights of the Saturday airshow was a series of fly-bys of Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 61-1017 with the 307th Bomb Wing based at Barksdale Air Force Base Louisiana.
Global Strike Command provided Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-135, and flies with the 7th Bomb Wing based at Dyess Air Force Base Texas. This aircraft was on static display, parked on Boeing Plaza for the first part of the week.
Air Combat Command brought the noise with a pair of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors, 05-084 and 05-093, based at Tyndall Air Force Base Florida. These Raptors fly with the 95th Fighter squadron, and flew in the Saturday airshow making several low passes.
A little less noisy but equally as important was KC-10A Extender 85-0034. This aircraft is based at McGuire Air Force Base New Jersey and flies with the 305th Air Mobility Wing, which is part of Air Mobility Command. This aircraft flew in the Saturday airshow,
Air Education and Training Command was very well represented this year with both trainers and fighters. The 479th Flying Training Group based at Naval Air Station Pensacola had a pair of aircraft on static display. Raytheon T-1A Jayhawk 92-348 and Raytheon T-6A Texan II 99-549, which wears a special D-Day type color scheme. The 89th Flying Training Squadron based at Shepard Air Force Base Texas brought Raytheon T-6A Texan II 05-775 for static display. Three aircraft were on hand from Luke Air Force Base Arizona this year. General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon, 84-1294, from the 309th Fighter Squadron was parked on Boeing Plaza the entire weekend. Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II’s, 13-5076 and 14-5095, arrived on Thursday afternoon. Both of these aircraft are part of the 62nd Fighter Squadron and each flew three low passes on arrival.
The Air National Guard also had aircraft on static display and featured in the airshow. The Wisconsin Air National Guard had Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker 62-3512 on display all week. Also from the Wisconsin Air National Guard was Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker 59-1516, which flew in the airshow on Friday dragging a pair of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors. Both of these tankers are part of the 128th Air Refueling Wing, based at General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee Wisconsin. The 115th Fighter Wing is based at Truax Field Madison Wisconsin and had General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon, 87-294 on display all week. The 115th Fighter Wing is also part of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. The Michigan Air National Guard had Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II, 81-994 on display. This A-10 is part of the 107th Fighter Squadron based at Selfridge Air National Guard base Michigan. This A-10 proudly wears a special color scheme to honor the units 100th anniversary. The 159th Fighter Wing is part of the Louisiana Air National Guard, based at Joint Reserve Base New Orleans LA provided two Boeing F-15C Eagles, 78-539 and 82-009. These two F-15’s flew several low passes each on arrival.
The United States Navy played a major part of AirVenture 2018. A total of six Hornets descended on AirVenture this year for static display. Three Hornets from VX-9 based at Naval Air Station China Lake California were on hand. Boeing FA-18E Hornet, 166980 flew in on Friday along with Boeing EA-18G Growlers 169218 and 169214. Oceana Virginia based VFA-27 contributed a pair of Boeing FA-18F Hornets, 166678 and 166454 which arrived on Friday. A specially painted FA-18E Hornet, 165801, from VX-23 based at Patuxent River Maryland rounded out this years “Nest” of Hornets. Two very welcome visitors were a pair of Northrop F-5E Tiger II’s based at Naval Air Station Key West Florida and are part of VFC-111. These F-5’s wore different camouflage schemes, 761557 wears a tan and brown scheme while 761571 wears a blue scheme. Trainers were represented as well with a pair of Raytheon T-6 Texan II’s from TAW-6. These Texans, 165987 and 165998 are based at Naval Air Station Pensacola flew in on Friday. Boeing T-45C Goshawk, 165459 is part of VT-7 which is based at Naval Air Station Meridian MS was on display over the weekend.
The United States Army also provided both fixed and rotary wing aircraft for static display all week. Boeing AH-64D Apache 10-05619 was on display all week long. Also Boeing manufactured was MH-47D Chinook, 10-03788, which is part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment based at Fort Campbell Kentucky. Rounding out the trio is Beechcraft MC-12W 07-61013 of the 204th Military Intelligence Battalion based at Fort Bliss Texas. This modified version of the King Air 350 is used as an Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platform.
The United States Coast Guard had both of their Search and Rescue Helicopters at AirVenture 2018. On display was Eurocopter HH-65A Dolphin 6588 which is based at Coast Guard Air Station Detroit Michigan. Sikorsky MH-60T Jayhawk, 6048 is stationed on the other side of Michigan at Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.
Another very special visitor was the NASA (National Aerospace and Space Administration) Lockheed S-3B Viking, N601NA. This is one of 188 S-3’s built and was the last off the production and is also the last one flyable in the world. N601NA is based at the Glenn Research Center and is used for research purposes.
Not to be forgotten was United States and Custom and Border Patrol’s Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk 79-23350, which flew several passes down the flight line on Saturday.
Airshow highlights this year also included a demo flown by Air Mobility Commands Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. The C-17 for this years demo was aircraft 04-4135 which is part of Air Education and Training Commands 97th Air Mobility Wing based at Altus Air Force Base Oklahoma. A total of 279 C-17’s were built from 1991 to 2015 when production ended. The C-17 is a strategic and tactical airlifter that replaced the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter. The C-17 can carry 170,900#’s of cargo with an operating range of 2,785 miles. The C-17 is powered by four Pratt and Whitney F-117 Turbofan engines that give the aircraft a top speed of 515 miles per hour. The C-17 flew a spirited display that highlighted its maneuverability and short field capabilities.
Since its creation in 1997, the United States Air Force Heritage Flight has performed at thousands of airshows. AirVenture 2018 featured featured a Heritage Flight with the General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon. The F-16’s for this years Heritage Flight came from the 55th Fighter Squadron based at Shaw Air Force Base South Carolina. Two different F-16’s flew Heritage Flights , 00-221 and 93-0540 with F-16 Demo Pilot Major John “Rain” Waters flying. The F-16 first flew in January 1974, with 4,588 produced so far. The F-16 is powered by either a General Electric F-110 or Pratt and Whitney F-100 After burning engine. This multi-role fighter has a top speed of 1,320 miles per hour ,and is flown by many air forces around the world. The F-16 flew a mini demo before joining with a Douglas A-1E Skyraider and a North American P-51 Mustang or Mustangs depending on the day. The mission of the Heritage Flight is to give airshow audiences a rare glimpse into the history of American Air Power with vintage aircraft flying in formation with modern military aircraft.
Current military aircraft are and will continue to be a key component of AirVenture every year. Freedom’s Thunder rang proudly once again this year in the skies over Oshkosh. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”