The bi-annual Arctic Thunder Event held at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) up in Anchorage a couple of weeks ago and was attended by approximately 225,000 people between the two days.

The headline acts for the show was the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and the F-22 Raptor Demo team. JBER was a must do for the F-22 team as the base houses the 525th and 90th Fighter Squadrons that both fly the F-22 Raptor.

The base also brought the Historic Flight Foundation up with its B-25 “Grumpy” that flew in formation with the Commemorative Air Force Japanese Zero showing a scene that may have been seen back in World War II bringing mixed emotions from fans at the base.

“It is a great honor to be invited to Arctic Thunder 2012. We were very excited for the opportunity to fly with the Zero and the other Warbirds to give people the experience of witnessing these historic aircraft first hand,” said Historic Flight Foundation Volunteer James Polivka,“ It was a sight to behold with Grumpy and the zero together knowing the history of the two types, with the Doolittle Raid in 1942 and the agile performance of the Zero.”

The show started off with a bang as the US Army Golden Knights parachute team opened the show on both days jumping out and demonstrating what are paratroopers do including a daring act where one jumper purposely cut from his main shoot and brought out his back up to show what would happen in war if the paratrooper was to lose that main shoot for any reason!

In the next act the base had flybys of all the aircraft that are based at there, including two F-22 Raptors, two C-130 Hercules, one C-17 Globemaster III, one E-3A Sentry and a C-12 Huron. Fans looked to the skies to see what all the base houses.

We then got to see the first civilian act of the day in Skip Stewart take to the skies and show acts and moves that kept airshow goers at the edge of their toes as he stalled the plane and did other things that you wouldn’t normally do.

Following all of this we were then treated to the two C-130’s that came back in and dropped 40 paratroopers in about a half mile stretch.  After that we had a short intermission, following the intermission it was the B-52 Buff’s turn in the box and boy does that thing still got some moves. If you have never seen one of these fly, it is something that will leave your jaw dropped.

This was followed by a couple of civilian acts before we got to the Alaska Joint Forces where troops were dropped on the field from helicopters along with a hummer and gun, after the area was semi secure a C-17 came in and did a tactical approach and stopped in a couple thousand feet and dropped its back door to let another hummer out and join the fight. That wrapped up that act however and it was time for the main event.

Everyone quickly got on their feet and pushed their way forward to the crowd line while Air Combat Command F-22 Demo Pilot Henry “Schadow” Schantz taxied his F-22 down the taxiway to the end of the runway. Silence took the crowd as the microphone was handed to the narrator Ambrose “BO” Brewer who started talking about the Raptor and it capabilities. From a review stand point I can’t even describe what an amazing act that the F-22 puts on, I have seen it many times and still to this day just look at it in shock and disbelief that this aircraft is doing what it was. If you have never seen it I recommend finding a local show that may have it and go even just for that. You will be floored and your jaw will be on the ground. The day that this aircraft goes to war the enemy will never know what even hit them.

Following the Raptor act some people left and didn’t even wait for the final act in the Thunderbirds that started with the normal ground show that if it is your first time seeing them could be seen as fascinating, but being an air show goer it gets tougher and tougher to sit through, though the photograph opportunity’s with it can pay off. I keep trying to find other angles to capture it and had a good opportunity here on the Friday practice show where there were not many people on base to keep you from getting to the show line.

Once the ground show was over all six ships took to the skies and wow many children and parents who haven’t seen the Thunderbirds at JBER since 2008. As always fans were wowed by tight formations, knife edge passes and oh-so-close crossovers at show center. The sneak pass, as always caught members of the unsuspecting audience by surprise.

As an added bonus to the show, on Friday and Saturday we were treated to F-22’s from Langley in mission status departing the base to go trans-Pacific to meet with a tanker. One pilot took off and opened his bomb doors to show that they were fully armed and ready to fight if they had to!

We would like to thank Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for putting on a great show and are looking forward to 2014 for the next one!


Brandon Farris

Brandon Farris is an avid aviation photographer who spends his weekends off traveling across the country taking pictures of both civilian and military aircraft. He uses Canon as his main camera. The body he currently uses is the T2i combined with the 100-400MM. When not traveling Brandon resides in Seattle, Washington.

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