Story and photos by Scott Jankowski
The US military and EAA have always enjoyed a close partnership with all branches typically providing assets for the static and flying display. 2023 was no different with air assets present from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and the U.S. Coast Guard. In this article we will take a closer look at what could be found on the ground and in the air at AirVenture 2023.
The U.S. Air Force had several aircraft present in both the afternoon air shows and on static display. This year’s flying display featured Air Combat Command’s F-22 Raptor Demo Team commanded by Captain Samuel “Razz” Larson. The Raptor Demo Team is part of the 1st Fighter Wing based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis Virginia. The F-22 flew several different maneuvers including the Power Loop, Tail Slide, and the High-Speed Pass.
The Maryland Air National Guard had four Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II’s in the flying display. These A-10C ‘s are part of the 104th Fighter Squadron based at Warfield Air Force Base, Middle River Maryland. These four A-10C’s put on a spirited demonstration routine which highlighted the A-10C’s low level maneuverability in the close air support arena.
The Air Education and Training Command was represented by two aircraft, the first being the veteran Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker flown by the 97th Air Mobility Wing based out of Altus Air Force Base Oklahoma. The 97th Air Mobility Wing has flown the KC-135 since 1982 and put on a display highlighting the aerial refueling capabilities of the aircraft.
The 97th Air Mobility Wing also had another Boeing product in the air show, in the form of the Boeing C-17A Globemaster III. The 97th Air Mobility Wing is responsible for training air crews on the KC-135, KC-46, and the C-17 aircraft. This demo displayed the extreme maneuverability of this large transport aircraft.
*Please note the above two images are from Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport where the demo team was based for the weekend air show.
Two very unique demos, never seen before at AirVenture, included a simulated NORAD intercept with the Lockheed Martin/General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon from the 148th Fighter Wing based out of Duluth MN and a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron 58. This demo simulated what an intercept of an unknown aircraft would look like if it strayed into restricted airspace and was not answering repeated communication attempts by air traffic control. This simulated intercept included a series of maneuvers used to get the pilots’ attention, advising them to land at the nearest airport immediately. The F-16C used in this demo flew with a typical load of training missiles (live weapons would naturally be used in the event of an actual mission) that would be used in an actual intercept mission.
The second very unique demo was an Airpower Demonstration put on by the Wisconsin Air and Army National Guard. It featured air assets from several of the Wisconsin units including the 128th Aerial Refueling Wing with the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker, the 115th Fighter Wing with the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, and the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment with the UH-60A Blackhawk. This capability demonstration also included infantry troops and artillery from the Army National Guard. We will take a closer look at this demo in a future article.
On Friday, the venerable Boeing B-52H Stratofortress performed a fly over in honor of the Veterans of the Vietnam War. This B-52H is based out of Barksdale Air Force Base Louisiana and is part of the 307th Bomb Wing. The B-52 flew a total of nearly 114,000 sorties over Southeast Asia from 1965 to 1973.
The U.S. Air Force also had several aircraft in the static display this year including several frontline fighters. These included the Boeing F-15C Eagle from the 173rd Fighter Wing Oregon Air National Guard, the Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon from the 148th Fighter Wing Minnesota Air National Guard. This F-16C wore the units special 75th anniversary color yellow and blue color scheme. The Madison Wisconsin based 115th Fighter Wing had one of its newly delivered Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II’s on static display as well.
Trainers were well represented this year with examples of all three primary U.S. Air Force trainers on display. These included the Turboprop powered Raytheon Textron T-6A Texan II, the Beechcraft T-1A Jayhawk, and the Supersonic Northrop T-38C Talon. Several different Air Education and Training Command units were represented with all aircraft wearing special commemorative color schemes.
Finally helicopters, tankers, and transports round out the U.S. Air Force assets that were on static display. The Boeing V-22 Osprey was on display again this year, with its unique tilt-rotor design. The Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker, which is an annual visitor, was on display and came from the 128th Air Refueling Wing based at Milwaukee WI. The Boeing C-17A Globemaster III that was on display is based at Altus Air Force Base OK and is part of the 97TH Air Mobility Wing. A pair of Lockheed products complete the static display this year in the form of the Turboprop powered Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules from the 314th Air Mobility Wing based at Little Rock Air Force Base AR. The other Lockheed product is the second largest aircraft in the world, the C-5M Super Galaxy based at Travis Air Force Base CA and is part of the 60th Air Mobility Wing.
The U.S. Navy once again had a large presence at AirVenture, once again with three of single ship demo teams in the flying display this year. The first being the Boeing EA-18G Growler Demo Team which is a part of VAQ-129 better known as “The Vikings” and based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island WA. The EA-18G replaced the Grumman EA-6B Prowler in the Electronic Warfare role and has been in service since 2009.
The 5th Generation Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Demo Team based at Naval Air Station Lemoore CA and part of VFA-125, better known as the “Rough Raiders performed at AirVenture again this year. The “C” model F-35 features a much larger wingspan and robust landing gear over other models which makes it a great platform in which to operate off aircraft carriers.
The Boeing F/A-18F Rhino Demo Team also made an appearance this year, also based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore CA and is part of VFA-122 also known as the “Flying Eagles”. The specially painted F/A-18F Super hornet wore a special high visibility color scheme and performed a non-aerobatic demo on Saturday.
On Thursday there was a special dedication to the 2022 movie Devotion and VF-32, the unit that Ensign Jesse L. Brown (the first Black American Naval Aviator) and Lieutenant (JG) Thomas J. Hudner Jr. flew with during the Korean War. Several F-4U Corsairs took part in this dedication and flew in the afternoon airshow. Joining them in the air was a modern-day Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet which is part of the current day VFA-32 better known as “The Swordsmen”, they also had a specially painted Super Hornet in the static display as well.
Another welcome addition to the static display this year was an appearance by the Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion which is in the twilight of its service. This four engine turboprop aircraft first flew in 1959 and is currently assigned to VX-30 known as “The Bloodhounds” and based out of Naval Air Station Point Mugu CA.
The U.S. Army also had a very sizeable presence at AirVenture 2023 with no less than five different rotary wing assets on static display. Single examples of the Airbus UH-72A Lakota, Sikorsky UH-60A Blackhawk, Boeing CH-47D Chinook and AH-64D Apache and the MH-6 “Little Bird” which was making its AirVenture debut.
Finishing off his years static display was a U.S. Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk. This example of the multi-mission twin engine helicopter is flown out of U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City MI.
The EAA and the U.S. Military has long enjoyed a partnership that has spanned many years. Each and every year this partnership grows stronger and ensures that several different and unique front line military aircraft will be part of Air Venture for years to come. Look for additional AirVenture articles to come. Until next time, “Bue Skies to All!”