LOUISVILLE, Ky. –
Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the banks of the Ohio River on April 23 for the annual Thunder Over Louisville air show, which marked its return with more than 30 aircraft to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Air Force.
Featured performers included the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo team and the Kentucky Air National Guard’s new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. Other Air Force acts included the B-2 Spirit “stealth” bomber, C-17 Globemaster III, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Viper and KC-46 Pegasus, as well as more than a half-dozen historic warbirds such as the B-24 Liberator, B-29 Superfortress and P-51D Mustang.
“This is my first Thunder, and I’m certainly hoping it will not be the last,” said Gen. David W. Allvin, U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, who was the guest of honor at this year’s show.
“It’s great to be here celebrating our birthday as an independent service. We’ve built up a proud heritage over these past 75 years with some outstanding capabilities, and we’re seeing some of that on display here today.
“This is a remarkable example of teamwork from our Total Force of active duty, Air National Guard and Reserve personnel working with civilians and this community. The community relationship is strong, the partnership is strong, and this is just a fantastic display of what America is all about.”
Most of the aircraft for this year’s Thunder operated from the ramp of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, where the men and women of the 123rd Airlift Wing provided essential maintenance and logistical support.
“One of the greatest prides we take is in our Air National Guard,” Allvin noted. “The Kentucky National Guard and the 123rd Airlift wing have a fairly significant heritage themselves that is helping host this show, and we could not be more proud of their team effort to do that.”
Alvin said the C-130J, which he called “the premium tactical aircraft in the world,” held a special place in his heart.
“I have a little bit of pride in it because I was one of the first two developmental test pilots was back in 1995,” he said. “The Kentucky Air Guard and 123rd are going to be able to use it to its fullest potential here in the states or to deploy overseas as part of our Total Force team.”
As a C-130 airlift unit, the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing participated in nearly every major operation since Desert Storm, deploying to dozens of countries for hundreds of thousands of active-duty days since 9/11, including multiple deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Wing members also are heavily engaged in humanitarian and disaster-recovery missions, including deployments for hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, tornados and the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
This year’s air show, broadcast live on local radio and TV, began with the presentation of the colors by the Kentucky Air Guard, punctuated by canon fire from the Kentucky Army Guard’s 138th Field Artillery Brigade. That was followed by a demonstration in which 10 members of the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron parachuted into the Ohio River from a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 while trailing the American and Kentucky flags. The next five hours were filled with aerial demonstrations, including aircraft from the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, before ending with one of the largest fireworks displays in North America.
Earlier in the day, Allvin toured a static display of aircraft at the Kentucky Air Guard Base and met with Airmen of the 123rd Airlift Wing for breakfast.