Barksdale Air Force Base
DEFENDERS OF LIBERTY AIR SHOW
The Defenders of Liberty Air Show will
be held April 30 and May 1 at Barksdale Air Force Base and is organized and hosted by the 2nd Bomb Wing Barksdale Air Force Base with the support of the Military Affairs Council.
The show and open house annually showcases the home of the B-52 and grants access to the military base for tours, performances and recruiting opportunities for branches of US Armed Forces. The gates open at 9 a.m. and show time is at 11 a.m.
The 2016 show will include the alwayspopular aerobatic stunt flights by Kevin Coleman, Randy Ball, Scott "Scooter" Yoak, David Leedom and more. Headlining this year’s event is the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
Maj. Jared J. Maline, ground boss of the 2016 show and operations flight commander of the Second Civil Engineer Squadron, described the enormous amount of effort and coordination required to produce the event. “It can definitely be a hectic kind of effort,” he said. “We are taking an area with paved asphalt where there is nothing there and turning it into a place for 200,000 people with bathrooms, food and water.”
“The air show is going very well,” Maline said. “A lot of different performers are interested in coming. We’ve been building these relationships for years. The logistical support is the same every year. The main issue is security because we are opening the base up to the public.”
“The community as a whole supports us so much,” Maline said. “This is a great way to give back and for people to see the base and what we’re all about. But it’s not just our base. So many aircraft are coming from other bases, too. It’s a good way to see what we’re about worldwide.”
When asked about his favorite part of this year’s show, Maline said, “I would say everybody will be pretty excited about the Thunderbirds.”
The U.S. Air Force’s official precision demonstration flying team, the Thunderbirds, is one of the biggest draws to Barksdale’s air show. The Thunderbirds started out back in 1953 as the “Star Dusters” and have since traveled all over the world, from Europe to the Far East wearing the distinguished emblem of “America’s Ambassadors in Blue.” In addition to performing, the pilots and crew will be available at the air show for photo-ops and autographs.
The Thunderbirds were the world’s first supersonic aerial demonstration team. The aircraft they have piloted have space-aged modifications, such as paint schemes that resist heat and friction at Mach speeds.
Senior Airman Tabatha Zarrella with the Thunderbirds’ public affairs office said, “The Thunderbirds were activated at Luke Air Force Base but are now stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.”
Today’s team flies F-16Cs. The 12 officers assigned to the team adopt their numbers as their call signs. Thunderbirds 1–6 fly in the demonstrations. It takes a lot of people to put those six pilots in the air. There is a show line that assists in various aircraft maintenance and other support staff, as well.
“The team is made up of 12 officers and roughly 120 enlisted professionals representing 25 different career fields across the Air Force,” Zarrella said. “We showcase the pride, precision and professionalism of American airmen, both in the air and on the ground – plus the multirole capabilities of one of the Air Force’s frontline fighter jets.”
Being a Thunderbird is not all glamour, either. It’s hard work that requires endless hours of practice and attention to detail. “The 2016 Thunderbirds schedule includes more than 71 demonstrations in 39 locations,” Zarrella said. “Along with every job comes danger. That's why safety is the entire squadron's main priority for not only ourselves but for those who we perform for. Every member on the team ensures attention to detail in every job we perform, whether it takes 30 minutes or hours of work.”
There is also more to the Thunderbirds than their breathtaking aerial performances. “One of my favorite things about the squadron is our mission to recruit, retain and represent,” Zarrella said.
In addition to the jaw-dropping flight demonstrations each year, the static displays are always a popular draw and a primary recruitment tool, as well. At last count, there were around 30 aircraft scheduled to be on the runway for close-up tours. Among them is the B-1B, a blended wing and body configuration that boasts seamless integration with its radar targeting system, long loiter time and survivability for joint/composite strike force.
Other aircraft on display include the B-2 Spirit, a long-range heavy bomber with stealth technology, able to deploy both conventional and nuclear weapons. The Black Hawk UH- 60M Helicopter combines more than 30 years of technological advancement and is used in the most extreme conditions faced by our armed forces, and, of course, the B-52 Stratofortress showcases the pride of Barksdale Air Force base, the B-52s. During Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40 percent of all the weapons dropped by coalition forces.
Maline wanted to remind visitors of some basic tips for attending the show. “People need to be cognizant of typical safety guidelines similar to those at a sporting event,” he said. “If they bring a bag or purse, it will be searched. They’ll be spending the day out on hot asphalt and should be prepared for the heat. Water bottle filling stations will be available throughout the spectator area because there is very little shade on the runways, and other vendors will be selling beverages and food. Parking is free, but allow plenty of time to park and get through the security checks. Our Web site has lots of information, like tactical maps, gate hours and a complete list of performers, as well as frequently asked questions.”
“We want everyone to be safe and enjoy the show,” Maline said. “The security issues are for the safety of everyone there.”