JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Now in their 58th season, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are once again the highlight of this weekend's Air Expo, showcasing the pride and precision of today's Air Force and wowing huge audiences around the world.
The name Thunderbird is derived from the strong Indian culture and folklore in the southwestern United States where Luke Air Force base, where the team was activated, is located. Indian legend speaks of the Thunderbird with great fear and respect. To some it was a giant eagle, others envisioned a hawk. When it took to the skies, the earth trembled from the thunder of its great wings. From its eyes shot bolts of lightning. Nothing in nature could challenge the bird of thunder.
A more appropriate name couldn't have been selected, as it is with the same commanding presence the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds take to the sky.
The first aircraft selected for the Thunderbirds was the F-84G Thunderjet. This was followed by the F-84F Thunderstreak, the F-100C Super Sabre, the F-4E Phantom II and the T-38. Today, the Thunderbirds fly the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. At a total cost of $30 million, it is one of the least expensive fighters used by the Air Force today. The first red, white and blue F-16A assigned to the Thunderbirds was delivered to Nellis Air Force Base, June 22, 1982.
At each of the 70-plus air show site locations on this year's schedule, the 2011 Thunderbirds team will proudly perform on behalf of the nearly 700,000 active-duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and civilian Airmen serving at home and abroad. It's from that diverse group of Air Force professionals that the Thunderbirds team is formed.
The team's primary mission is twofold: first, to exhibit the capabilities of modern, warfighting aircraft and, second, to demonstrate the high degree of skill maintained by Air Force members serving in a variety of career specialties.
Leveraging a broad range of military experience, team members will carry out the unique Thunderbird mission with a special salute to their brothers and sisters in arms who are literally fighting America's battles in the air, space and cyberspace. In all, nearly a quarter-million Airmen currently serve in positions directly supporting combatant commanders, including more than 30,000 deployed overseas, away from their families and friends for months at a time.
Those Airmen answer their nation's call every day, and it's both a privilege and a responsibility for the Thunderbirds to represent them.
Binding all Airmen together is a devotion to integrity, unselfish service and excellence in all efforts. As the face of the U.S. Air Force, that's what the Thunderbirds strive to demonstrate time and time again.
In every conversation with show goers, in every choreographed ground ceremony preparing the jets for flight, and in every gravity-defying performance maneuver, the Thunderbirds display the most advanced and respected airpower and support capabilities in the world. They hope to impress you, enchant you, and above all, leave you with an indelible confidence in America and its Airmen.