The 2018 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow held as usual at the famed Willow Run International Airport just outside of Ypsilanti Michigan celebrated its 20th birthday. This annual airshow never fails to impress, the 2018 event brought together several different warbirds and modern military aircraft. The 2018 headliner was the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. In this article we take a look at the modern military aircraft that the United States Air Force and United States Navy that brought the “Thunder” to the show.
The United States Navy brought trainers in mass in the form of 3 Beechcraft T-6 Texans II and 3 Boeing T-45C Goshawks. Beechcraft T-6’s 166181,166185, and 166757 are part of Training Air Wing 5 (TAW-5) and are based at Naval Air Station Whiting Field Florida. Training Air Wing 5 trains aviators from the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard and trains approximately 1200 students a year. Training Air Wing 2 (TAW-2) had Boeing T-45C Goshawks 165640,165641, and 167092 in the static display. Training Air Wing 2 is based at Naval Air Station Kingsville Texas and produces 50% of the United States Navy’s Tailhook Pilots. These aircraft departed during the Sunday afternoon Airshow.
Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 120 (VAW-120) provided Grumman E-2C+ Hawkeye 164111 for static display. VAW-120 is based at Naval Air Station Norfolk Virginia and is responsible for training E-2 crews. The Hawkeye is an Airborne Early Warning and Control platform, with this version featuring improved avionics and electronics.
Patrol Squadron 30 (VP-30) brought Lockheed P-3C AIP (Anti Surface Warfare Improvement Program) Orion163290 from its base at Naval Air Station Jacksonville Florida for static display. VP-30 was established in 1960, with its primary mission being to train pilots and flight crews prior to reporting to the fleet. Approximately 100 Orion’s remain in service with this version featuring enhanced electronics.
The United States Air Force and Air National Guard had fighters, tankers and transports on static display. Air Combat Command’s 75th Fighter Squadron based at Moody Air Force Base Georgia has Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II, 78-0649 on display. The 75th can trace it’s history back to World War II, with their aircraft wearing the same Shark’s Mouth that the famed Flying Tigers wore on their aircraft.
Air Education and Training Command’s 58th Fighter Squadron based at Eglin Air Force Base Florida had a pair of Lockheed Martin F-35A-1B Lightning II’s, 09-5002 and 09-5003 on display. The block 1B Lighting features enhanced software and warfighting capability. The mission of the 58th is to train United States Air Force operators and maintainers on employment and maintenance of the “A” model of the F-35.
The United States Air National Guard had five aircraft on static display. These included General Dynamics F-16C Block 42 Falcon 89-082 serving with the 112th Fighter Squadron. The 112th is part of the Ohio Air National Guard and is based at the Toledo International Airport. The 112th was formed back in World War I as the 112th Aero Squadron. The Block 42 F-16 is an improved model which can carry a LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting at Night) Pod which give the F-16 a night fighting capability.
Also with the Ohio Air National Guard was Lockheed C-130H Hercules 74-1659 which arrived on Friday for static display. This Hercules serves with the 164th Airlift Squadron, part of the 179th Airlift Wing and is based at the Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base in Mansfield Ohio. The 164th was formed in 1942 and became part of the Air National Guard in 1946. This Hercules is named “Spirit of Ashland” with these titles placed above the main crew entry door.
A pair of Boeing F-15C Eagles, 81-036 and 82-010 serving with the 159th Fighter Wing arrived on Friday and departed during the airshow on Sunday. The 159th is part of the Louisiana Air National Guard and is based at the Joint Reserve Base (JRB) New Orleans Louisiana. The 159th is one of the original National Guard Observation Squadrons of the United States Army formed before World War II.
The last aircraft the United States Air National Guard had on display was Boeing KC-135T Stratotanker 60-0346. This KC-135 is based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, located near Mount Clemens Michigan, and serves with the 127th Air Refueling Group. The KC-135T was originally designated the KC-135Q, which were the only KC-135’s modified with two separate fuel systems to be able to refuel the legendary Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird.
Our friends to the North in the shape of the Royal Canadian Air Force had a pair of British Aerospace CT-155 Hawks 155203 and 155205 in the static display. These are Hawks are based at Canadian Forces Base Moose Jaw Saskatchewan Manitoba Canada are part of the NFTC (NATO Flight Training in Canada) the purpose is to train NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and allied air forces pilots.
The airshow headliner was the United States Air Force Demonstration Team, the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds flew their first demonstration 66 years ago and currently fly the General Dynamics F-16 C/D Block 52 variant of the Fighting Falcon. The Thunderbirds are currently based at Nellis Air Force Base Nevada and are part of the 57th Wing.
Those who attended the Saturday show were given an extra special surprise opener to the afternoon air show. Kalitta Airlines Boeing 747-4B5F, N702CK, departed and made a spectacular flyby down Willow Run’s Runway 5 Right. This 747 departed Willow Run for Chicago O’Hare on an ferry flight and gave the crowd a great presentation of how agile an empty 747-400 is.
Despite less than ideal weather conditions the entire weekend, Thunder Over Michigan 2018 was still a resounding success. This annual airshow is must see for an Aviation Enthusiast. Until next time, “Blue Skies to All!”