Published on March 31st, 2018 | by Gabriel Desmond


US Military Might on Show

The US airshow season opened late March with some of the newest aircraft of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps on display. 

El Centro show day  – rain and mud.

Naval Air Facility El Centro, California is the winter training home of the Blue Angels because of its usually reliable sunshine. However the rain and red mud of airshow day did not deter the crowds nor prevent the polished display flying. Warbirds included a black ex-Swiss Air Force De Havilland Vampire,  Greg Coyler in his T-33 jet trainer of the 1950s and a slick Korean War duo of F-86 Sabre and MIG-15. The US Navy’s new maritime patroller, the P-8 Poseidon based on the Boeing 787-800, was a static item. 

De Havilland Vampire.

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona’s annual airshow showed their unique airpower with class! Three Vertical Take Off and Landing types gave superb displays, spending much of the time manoeuvring in the hover  – the MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor, AV-8B Harrier and its replacement the F-35B Lightning II. This is the STOVL Marine version of the F-35 Joint Tactical Fighter, also ordered by Italy and UK. For vertical landings its rear exhaust nozzle swivels downwards while doors behind the cockpit are opened to bring a forward LiftFan into use. 

Greg Coyler’s Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker” was beautifully flown at El Centro.

Also at Yuma four F-5s Tigers of Marine Aggressor Squadron VMFT-401 with a UH-1Y Venom and a AH-1Z Viper helicopter enacted a spirited Tactical Attack demo. 

Korean War pair North American F-86 Sabre and MiG-15 took off and displayed in close formation.

At Luke AFB Arizona the USAF displayed their F-35A conventional version of the fifth generation stealth fighter, also ordered by nine other nations. 

Defying gravity – USMC AV-8 Harrier in the hover.

Their joint airfield assault demo involved based F-16 and F-35A fighters providing top cover for troops fast roping from a HH-60G helicopter while more parachuted from an overhead MC-130J Hercules.  Tora Tora, a Pearl Harbor attack re-enactment, included the WW2 B-17 Flying Fortress bomber “Sentimental Journey”. Eleven of the 12,731 built are still airworthy today.  A memorable USAF Heritage formation of P-49D Mustang, F-22 Raptor, F-35A Lightning II and A-10 Thunderbolt 11 from nearby Davis Monthan AFB performed three flybys in crystal clear blue skies. 

A Marine F-35B transitions for a vertical landing by opening doors behind the cockpit to engage the LiftFan. This feature is not found on the Air Force F-35A and Navy F-35C versions.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Sentimental Journey” in pristine appearance at Luke AFB. It is operated by the Commemorative Air Force at Mesa AZ. You can fly in it for $425. The bombardier’s seat right in the nose is just $850!

US Marine power on show – F-5 Tigers of Aggressor Squadron VMFT-401with Bell AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter overhead.

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About the Author

Cork based Gabriel Desmond has been documenting aviation in Ireland and around the world for over 50 years. A regular contributor to Flying in Ireland, his photographs and articles have been used in a wide range of aviation publications as well as news and corporate media

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