NEWS | April 16, 2021

Kentucky Air Guard to open Thunder Over Louisville air show with special tactics jump

By Senior Airman Clayton Wear, 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The Kentucky Air National Guard is slated to open Saturday’s Thunder Over Louisville air show with a nine-person parachute jump from one of the unit’s aircraft by members of its special tactics squadron.

The Airmen — all combat controllers and pararescuemen from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron — will execute a high-altitude, low-opening parachute insertion from a C-130 Hercules to kick off the show at 4 p.m., said Capt. Bryan Hunt, the unit’s assistant director of operations.

The location is not being disclosed to discourage crowds during COVID-19 restrictions, but the entire air show will be broadcast live on WHAS-11 television.

The jump will demonstrate the kinds of techniques special operators use to deploy personnel behind enemy lines or into any challenging environment for personnel-rescue missions, humanitarian response or combat operations.

“This is a great opportunity for members of the public to see how their Airmen and special operators perform their mission all over the world,” Hunt said.

Combat controllers are some of the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military, he added. As FAA-certified air traffic controllers, they deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense and humanitarian assistance.

Pararescuemen are parachute-jump qualified trauma specialists who must maintain Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic credentials throughout their careers. With their medical and rescue expertise, PJs are able to perform life-saving missions in the world's most remote areas.

Another key highlight of this year’s airshow will be a three-ship C-130 aerial demonstration by members of the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing.

“From 4 to 6 p.m., we’re going to show off a few of our capabilities as a diverse wing,” said Capt. Chad Applegate, who helped coordinate the air show. “It’s an amazing opportunity to showcase our mechanics, logistic technicians and pilots with the C-130 flyby, as well as all the people who support our special tactics squadron to perform their jobs 365 days a year.”

Other events scheduled for Saturday include a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk demo, a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, and appearances from Apache and Chinook helicopters as well as C-17, KC-135, T-6, T-38 and P-51 aircraft.

The P-51, nicknamed “Swamp Fox,” pays homage to the Kentucky Air Guard’s past, Applegate said, noting that this exact aircraft was once part of the unit’s inventory following World War II.

“Not many people realize how diverse the Kentucky Air National Guard’s background is,” Applegate said. “From 1947 to 1956, our Air Guard flew the P-51 Mustang, and one of those original airplanes is flying Saturday.

“This year’s Thunder Over Louisville air show will be a fantastic continuation of a Louisville tradition,” Applegate added. “To be able to demonstrate our own aircraft and special tactics unit during the pandemic is a great way for us to show the public the role that their Air Guard plays as a key component of U.S. air power.”