Thunderbirds celebrate milestone year representing US Air Force


The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds have been roaring through the skies for 65 years.

The Thunderbirds are celebrating its 65th year of representing the U.S. Air Force. On May 25, 1953, the Air Force’s official air demonstration team, designated the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit, was activated at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The unit was named the “Thunderbirds” in part because of the strong Native American culture in Arizona.

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The first demonstration team flew and maintained the F-84G Thunderjet. “The straight-wing configuration of the F-84G was considered well suited for aerobatic and demonstration maneuvers, though the aircraft could not exceed the speed of sound,” according to the Thunderbirds team.

The Thunderbirds have traded aircraft throughout the years, flying the F-84F Thunderstreak, the F-105B Thunderchief, the F-100Ds and the F-16.

» TRENDING COVERAGE: Blue Angels thrill Dayton crowd with performance

The Thunderbirds did not fly at the Vectren Dayton Air Show this year. Military jet teams like the Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels are the biggest draw for the air show and organizers bank on their appearance to bring tens of thousands to the grounds at James M. Cox Dayton International Airport. The show can draw as many as 65,000 or more spectators when the teams fly, officials say.

In 2016, the Thunderbirds crashed prior to the Dayton Air Show, and injured Pilot Capt. Erik Gonsalves and Tactical Aircraft Maintainer Staff Sgt. Kenneth Cordova. The F-16 sustained significant damage, and the Thunderbirds cancelled all performances at the air show.

WATCH the Thunderbirds commemorate 65 years.

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