LOUISVILLE, KY -- Military aircraft began arriving at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base here today for this weekend’s Thunder Over Louisville air show, including the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo Team.
The two-ship team will be among the highlights of this year’s air show, to be held on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Louisville on April 23. The event, which celebrates the 75th anniversary of the United States Air Force, is slated to feature more than 30 military and civilian aircraft, including the B-2 Spirit, C-17 Globemaster III, CH-53 Sea Stallion, CV-22 Osprey, F-16 Viper and UH-60 Blackhawk, in addition to historic warbirds like the B-24 Liberator, B-29 Superfortress and P-51 Mustang.
“We’re set up for the best Thunder we’ve ever had,” said Lt. Col. Josh Ketterer, air show coordinator for the Kentucky Air Guard. “It’s going to be a fantastic 75th-anniversary salute, given all the current and historic Air Force planes on display.”
The air show will kick off at 3 p.m. when 10 Airmen from the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron parachute into the Ohio River from a Kentucky Air Guard C-130J Super Hercules, landing in front of the Great Lawn at Waterfront Park.
The jump team, which features pararescuemen; combat controllers; and a search, evasion, resistance and escape specialist, will perform a high-altitude, low-opening jump from about 5,000 feet while descending with an American and Kentucky flag, said Maj. Nate Tingle, the squadron’s combat rescue officer.
The demonstration will showcase techniques used by Air Force special operators to insert themselves behind enemy lines or into challenging environments for combat operations, rescue missions or other contingencies.
Later in the show, aircrews from the Kentucky Air Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron will perform a two-ship aerial demonstration of the unit’s new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. The aircraft, which began arriving at the unit in November, will replace a fleet of eight C-130H Hercules transports dating to the early 1990s.
The C-130J Super Hercules features many improvements over its predecessor, including modern instrumentation, more efficient engines and a stretched fuselage for additional payload capacity, according to Lt. Col. Penn Brown, commander of the 165th Airlift Squadron. It is among the most versatile aircraft ever built, supporting a broad range of missions from special operations to air cargo with legendary capabilities that allow it to land on austere runways where other airlifters can’t go.
“We’re really proud of these new aircraft and are looking forward to showing them off during Thunder,” Brown said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to show the public what we do and how we serve our country’s citizens.”
Once again, the Kentucky Air Guard is serving as the base of operations for Thunder’s military aircraft, providing logistical and maintenance support from its facilities at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.
This year, Thunder marks its return to downtown after a two-year absence. The air show and evening fireworks display, which has drawn up to 1 million spectators to the waterfront in past years, was cancelled outright in 2020 because of COVID-19. A scaled-down air show with no public attendance was telecast from Bowman Field in 2021, while fireworks displays were staged at various locations around the community rather than downtown.