RIONEGRO, Colombia --
For the first time in 50 years, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird Demonstration Team performed in Colombia, displaying their unique flying capabilities to over 250,000 Colombians during the Feria Aeronáutica Internacional - Colombia (F-AIR), June 11-14.
Having last performed in Colombia in 1969, the Thunderbird performance awed the large crowds and highlighted the celebration of the Colombian Air Force's 100th anniversary alongside performances from Colombian Kfir fighter jets, Colombian helicopters and the Colombian parachute team.
In addition to the Thunderbirds, the U.S. Air Force also conducted a flyover of two B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from the 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The B-52s displayed the U.S. Air Force's strong partnership with the Colombian Air Force, flying in formation with Colombian Kfir fighter jets during their flyover of F-AIR. The presence of the B-52s also allowed each of the air forces to work on their interoperability, as the Colombian Kfir aircraft were able to work with the B-52s to conduct intercept training on the way to and from the show.
Also in attendance were four F-16 Fighting Falcons from the South Carolina Air National Guard. The F-16s were a popular static display, with the aircrew interacting with the Colombian crowd throughout the entire air show. The South Carolina National Guard is a close partner with the Colombian Air Force as part of the State Partnership Program. The State Partnership Program connects state national guard units with different country's air forces around the globe. As part of that partnership the South Carolina Air National Guard is staying in Colombia to participate in an air-to-air exercise with their Colombian counterparts following the air show.
U.S. Air Force service members enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside their Colombian partners.
"I think it’s super important that the U.S. Air Force and the Colombian Air Force come together to make something like this happen,” said Senior Airman Michael Loehr II, Air Force Thunderbirds assistant dedicated crew chief. “It helps us see what Colombian life is like and it helps the Colombian Air Force see what we’re like.”
The Colombians were thrilled to have the U.S. Air Force participate in their celebration, naming the U.S. the guest of honor for the air show.
“We’ve had a long relationship with the United States since the beginning of our history in aviation,” said Brig. Gen. Pablo Enrique García, Colombian Air Force commander of aerial operations. “It’s easy to work with the United States because they are supportive, receptive, and understand our capabilities. That interoperability, the standards that we share, make it that much easier to work with the United States.”