Vegas Strong 2017


Article and all photography © Steve Lewis/

This year, being the 70th anniversary of the United States Air Force, and with the recent tragic shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, Nellis Air Force Base painted up two aircraft in very special paint jobs in honor of both for their annual Air and Space Expo.


A static F-15 had one side painted in commemoration of the USAF 70th anniversary, while the other side was in honor of those that had fallen in the mass shooting on October 1st.

A Nellis AFB Weapons School F-16 was also given a special look honoring both events as well. Kicking off the show each day and immediately following our national anthem, this F-16 performed multiple flybys for all in attendance. While in knife edge flight, you could see the words “VEGAS STRONG” stenciled across the top of the aircraft’s wings with the city skyline in between. My hat goes off to the personnel that designed and painted the special markings on both beautiful aircraft.

Warfighter demo 2 (683)

The home based “Warfighter” demo was the best I have ever seen. A MI-24 Hind and two Aggressor F-16Cs started the display by roaring over the airfield simulating an attack on the base. Two F-15Cs were quickly scrambled. The Eagles thundered into the sky to intercept the invading forces and performed several air to air maneuvers while chasing the bandits. Both the F-15s and F-16s popped flares periodically to simulate defensive capabilities during an engagement. Once the skies were clear of opposing forces, two A-10Cs and two F-35As streaked in, performing Close Air Support (CAS) for friendly forces on the ground. As the attack aircraft pounded the enemy with simulated bombing and strafing runs, a pair of Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) HH-60 Pavehawks swept in low to rescue injured ground forces. Once the scenario was complete, all participating aircraft did a pass in review.

Texas Legends 2 (61)

The Texas Flying Legends put on an incredible display of World War II air power with their B-25 Mitchell, F4U Corsair, P-51Mustang, TBM Avenger, P-40 Warhawk, and Mk IX Spitfire. After a few large formation passes, they broke off and made individual high speed low altitude passes. Also performing for the crowd were: the Ace Maker T-33, Smoke-N- Thunder jet car, Arrow Electronics’ Corvette C7, the Red Bull Team, the Red Eagles Yak-52s, Vicky Benzing in her 1940 Stearman, Jerry Kerby in his RV-8, the mighty F-22 Raptor, the USAF Heritage Flight (with the F-22, a P-51, and two A-10Cs), and of course, the always impressive hometown team, The United States Air Force Thunderbirds.


On display, there were several aircraft you don’t get to see at just any show. On the south side of the ramp were multiple bombers including the B-1, B-52, and B-29, as well as an E-3, a Privateer, and an EA-18G. On the north end, a C-5, MH-60, AC-130W, and a U-2 also drew plenty of interest.


In all, the show was amazing once again. The Nellis Air and Space Expo always seems to be able to put together a phenomenal event to showcase America’s warfighters and their awesome capabilities.


Steve Lewis

Steve is a Southern California based photographer living in the Los Angeles area.

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