This weekend’s Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show at Offutt Air Force Base honors three big anniversaries for Offutt’s 55th Wing. It’s been 75 years since the unit was activated as the 55th Pursuit Group, 50 years since it moved to Offutt, and 25 years of continuous deployment to the Middle East.
The air show will be held Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Air Force Thunderbirds are the headliners, but they’re far from the only act. Also performing will be a team of F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets from the Navy’s VFA-122, a fighter replacement squadron from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California.
A fly-by of Air Force RC-135 and E-4B aircraft based at Offutt also is planned for the first time in several years, said Maj. James Lee, the air show director.
Fans of vintage aircraft will get to see a first: a newly restored MiG-17PF, a special all-weather version of the classic Soviet fighter built in the 1960s. It has never performed at a military air show in the United States, Lee said.
Other classic aircraft flying over Offutt this weekend will include:
* The P-51 Mustang “Gunfighter” World War II aircraft from Council Bluffs.
* TORA 101, a replica of a Japanese Zero fighter of the type used during the Pearl Harbor attack of Dec. 7, 1941.
* An SNJ-6 Navy trainer aircraft from the 1940s.
Numerous other military airplanes won’t fly during the show, but they will be on static display, some of them open for tours.
The controversial, and expensive, new F-35 fighter will be on display for the first time at Offutt, and the B-2 stealth bomber also is expected. Other displays: a Navy P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance jet, an Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft, a KC-135 Stratotanker, and a Navy EA-18G Growler.
Lee said there will be other demonstrations on the ground, too, including an exhibition by the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum called “Mad Scientist,” a demo of Offutt’s military working dogs from the 55th Security Forces Squadron, and a performance by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard drill team.
To deliver the most up-to-date information on the air show, the 55th Wing has developed smartphone apps for both Apple and Android phones.
The free, downloadable app will give updates on air and ground attractions, parking and driving directions, and schedule changes. Lee said at least 1,000 people already have downloaded the app.
The 55th Wing is also using the social media hashtag #OffuttAirShow.
For the second time, Offutt is making it easier for air show visitors who would like to ride their bicycles. The Bike-N-Park service allows people to drive up to air show’s main entrance and use a valet parking service.
For those who drive, shuttle service will offered to five remote locations, beginning at 8:45 a.m.:
* Southroads Technology Center, Fort Crook and Childs Road.
* Bellevue University, Harvell and Herman Drives.
* Bellevue East High School, Harvell Drive and Lincoln Road.
* Bellevue West High School, South 15th Street and Thurston Drive.
* Offutt AFB, via the Bellevue gate, behind the Sarpy County Museum on Lincoln Road.
For more information on the show, visitwww.OffuttAirShow.com.