Arctic Thunder arrives

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 11:37
Annual air show showcases military’s best
An F-16 Fighting Falcon in arctic livery assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron takes off during Red Flag-Alaska exercises on June 11 at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks. This year’s annual Arctic Thunder air show will be held July 28-29 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and feature airplanes from bases across the state.

Arctic Thunder Open House 2012 is coming July 28 and 29 at JBER, and numerous units will have aircraft participating.

Among these will be the 168th Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135 Stratotanker — belonging to the Alaska Air National Guard — and the active-duty 18th Aggressor Squadron’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, both from Eielson Air Force Base.

The 168th ARW originally stood up as the 168th Air Refueling Group on Oct. 23, 1990. Their mission is to train and equip KC-135R combat crews to provide air refueling in support of Pacific Air Forces operations, plans and worldwide refueling taskings.

A member of this successful team is boom operator Chief Master Sgt. Paul Nunemann, 168th Air Refueling Squadron chief, who has been serving for the past 26 years, 23 of them at Eielson.

Nunemann said he has put in between 3,500 and 4,000 hours toward refueling missions.

The aircraft used for those thousands of hours of refueling is the KC-135R Stratotanker, which has “the latest and greatest aeronautics upgrades,” Nunemann said.

“(This is the) best job in the Air Force, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

The KC-135 Stratotaker is built on a Boeing 707 platform and contains four turbofans - mounted under 35-degree swept wings - that power the aircraft to takeoffs at weights of up to 322,500 pounds. A cargo deck above the refueling system can hold a mixed load of passengers and cargo. Depending on fuel storage configuration, the KC-135 can carry up to 83,000 pounds of cargo.

Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom, the KC-135’s primary fuel transfer method. One crew member, known as the boom operator, is stationed in the aft section of the plane and controls the boom during in-flight air refueling.

A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to and trailing behind the flying boom may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the multipoint refueling system, which consists of special pods mounted on the wingtips. These KC-135s are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time.

“That’s why it’s so important to have an efficient refueling method, so we can accomplish a successful operational readiness,” Nunemann said.

The unit enjoys showcasing their aircraft in the open house, he said.

“We’re looking forward to fellow Alaskans sharing in the adventure,” said Tech. Sgt. Richard Smith, noncommissioned officer in charge of scheduling.

The 354th Fighter Wing’s 18th Aggressor Squadron will also be represented at the Open House, showcasing their F-16s.

“The 354th Fighter Wing mission is to prepare the war fighter for combat, deploy forces in support of contingency operations, and enable other units in their efforts to deploy, fly, fight, and win,” said Air Force Maj. Eric Flattem, 18th Aggressor Squadron assistant director of operations and native of Monett, Mo.

The 18th Aggressor Squadron is given numerous ways to support the missions, he said. “Primarily we are the Pacific Air Force’s premier adversaries,” he said. “We train PACAF’s war fighters by knowing the threat as subject matter experts, teaching the combat air forces about adversary capabilities, and replicating the threat.”

“The 18th Aggressor Squadron regularly supports the 3rd Wing,” he said.

The 18th AGRS performs daily training, large-force exercises, and major flying exercises such as Red Flag-Alaska and Arctic Integration with the 3rd Wing, he said.

“We are providing two aircraft for static display during the open house,” he said. “The F-16s being featured by the 354th Fighter Wing are Block 30 F-16s. They have a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, max airspeed of Mach 2.05 and a maximum g-force rating of 9 Gs. They are painted in three camouflage schemes: Lizard, Arctic, and Flanker.”

Arctic Thunder is Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s open house. Historically, Arctic Thunder has been the largest two-day event in Alaska.

Every two years, the base hosts Arctic Thunder to demonstrate its appreciation to the Alaska community for its support of the military, to educate the public about Army and Air Force missions, and to recruit people interested in joining the service.

The next Arctic Thunder open house is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday July 28-29. Gates open at 9 a.m. and flying starts at 10 a.m. Currently, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, F-22 Demonstration Team, and the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration Team will highlight this year’s show.

The general public can enter JBER through the Boniface and Richardson gates. Drivers must have a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration readily available while on JBER. Visitors are encouraged to carpool to avoid traffic congestion and decrease wait times. Vehicles larger than ¾ ton, including RVs, must use the Richardson Gate for parking. Vehicles with trailers will not be allowed into open house parking lots, please plan ahead.


Contact the JBER Arctic Thunder Open House office via E-mail at [email protected] or [email protected]

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