Every year the Aviation Nation Expo is organized at Nellis AFB, Nevada. This year was no exception. As the United States Air Force celebrated its 70th Anniversary a variety of aircraft could be seen.
The history of Nellis Air Force Base goes all the way back to the early 30’s when it was known as McCarran Field, not to be confused with the current McCarran International Airport. On the 29th October 1940, the airfield became property of the US War Department and was renamed Las Vegas Army Airfield and was primary used as a training field for to train Army Air Corps gunners as used on all the big bombers during World War II. After the creation of the United States Air Force in 1947, Las Vegas Army Airfield was renamed into Las Vegas Air Force Base and became a sub installation of Williams AFB. The role of the airfield remained similar although instead of training air gunners the airfield was now used for advance pilot training and Aircraft Gunnery School. In 1950 the airfield was to be renamed for the final time. On 30 April 1950 Las Vegas Air Force Base became known as Nellis Air Force Base. Nowadays Nellis Air Force Base Is famous for is exercises such as the Red Flag and Green Flag exercises. Nellis Air Force Base is ideally suited for these exercises as it is situated nearby the Nevada Test and Training Range. Nellis AFB houses a number of flying squadrons such as the 64th Aggressor Squadron which are preparing US, Allied, and partner nation aircrews for aerial combat with accurate and realistic threat replication training. In order to do so they use the F-16 Fighting Falcon painted up in distinctive camouflages to replicate the various threats.
Each year the Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo is organized at Nellis Air Force Base. This year the main theme was the Air Force’s 70th Anniversary. The aerial performers of this year’s show consisted of a variety of airplanes. High performance aerobatics could be witness in the form of the Team Chambliss Red Bull team known from the Red Bull Air Race. World War II was remembered by a stunning performance of the Texas Fly Legends which brought no less than 6 warbirds to the show. They perform a trilling tailchases with the fighters as well as mock up ground attack runs with the TBM Avenger and B-25 Mitchell. Next up was Ace Maker, the T-33 owned by Greg Colyer which gave a trilling performance as usual. The T-33 remains one of the best looking early jets ever made. After this the home team gave spectacular Warfighter Demonstration which consisted of two Aggressor F-16’s which assaulted the airfield. To counter this threat Two F-15C’s were scrambled which was a sight to behold. Enemy ground troops were flown in by the Cold War Museum’s Mi-24D Hind. This former Bulgarian Air Force helicopter is also often hired by the US to simulate threats during exercises. Two USAF HH-60G Pavehawk helicopters flew in friendly forces to assault the enemy, while at the same time two A-10C Thunderbolts provided the necessary Combat Air Support to push back the enemy. To protect both the Pavehawks as well as the A-10’s a Combat Air Patrol was performed by two F-35A Lightning’s two keep the sky clear of any enemy aircraft and helicopters. The demonstration of all these aircraft was really impressive to watch and one of the highlights of this airshow. Off course Aviation Nation couldn’t do without the United States Air Force Demonstration Team “The Thunderbirds” which are based at Nellis AFB. The demonstration performed by this iconic team was impressive as always and a real crowd favorite. Throughout the show many references were made to the recent shooting in Las Vegas. To show their support the United States Air Force painted up two Nellis based aircraft. One F-15C, which could be seen in the static and one F-16C which performed some spirited fly passes. Also present at this year’s show was the United States Heritage Flight. One P-51 from the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, two Davis-Monthan based A-10s and a F-22 Raptor performed some very tight flyby’s and a spectacular brake. The F-22 also performed his solo demonstration which remains impressive as always. This was the last event at which Maj. Daniel “Rock” Dickinson performed his F-22 Demo. In 2018 an other Air Force pilot will thrill the crowds with the F-22 Raptor.
Besides the aerial performers also lots of airplanes could be witness on the ground. Besides the Nellis based aircraft unique USAF aircraft like the U-2 Spy plane and the AC-130 could be seen up-close. Also rarely seen warbirds like the Commemorative Commerative Air Force B-29 “Fifi” and the Gosshawk Unlimited PB4Y-1 Privateer could be seen. The static had a real nice variety of planes.
The 2017 Aviation Nation Air & Space Expo was once again one of the highlights at the North American Air Show calendar.