Preparations are under way at Eielson Air Force Base for the July 13th Arctic Lightning Airshow. It’ll be the first airshow to be held at the base in 11 years – and the first chance area residents will get to see the F-35 fighter up close.
The airshow will feature many types of aircraft, both on display and in the skies above Eielson. Base officials think the plane that’ll likely be the main attraction, the F-35, may draw as much interest when it’s parked as it will in the air.
“The F-35 plane itself and the aerial maneuvers that it can do is great, it’s fantastic,” says Eielson spokesperson Lieutenant Kitsana Dounglomchan. “But a really interesting thing about the F-35 is all of the sensors and optics that it has. The kind of things you would say ‘digests’ the battlefield and what’s going on.”
Dounglomchan says base officials expect there’ll be a lot of interest in the F-35, because the Air Force is moving two squadrons, or about 54, of the advanced warplanes here in less than a year.
“People will get to meet with the pilot, they’ll get to meet with the aircrew, they can get autographs, they can get photos,” he said. “It’s really just the community’s best chance to come and see this plane that’s going to be here starting in April of 2020.”
Dounglomchan says the F-35 will show off its capabilities as part of a demonstration team that will include other aircraft, including the venerable F-16 that area residents are accustomed to seeing, and hearing, especially during exercises like Red Flag.
“We’ve got a lot of F-16s on base,” he said, “so maybe instead of seeing it fly over your house in Fairbanks, North Pole, Salcha or Delta, you’ll be able to come on the base and see it a little more up close and personal as far as what aerial maneuvers that that can do.”
Some of those acts of aerial derring-do by fighter jets will be accompanied by ground maneuvers during a sort of mini-mock battle called the Joint Forces Demo to be conducted on the Eielson flightline.
“Ground forces, aerial forces, F-35s, F-22s, F-16s, helicopters. People fighting on the ground. You name it, it’s going to be happening. And I think the cool thing about that is it’s going to be kind of like a simulated Red Flag scenario.”
Other attractions include skydiving-team performances, drone surveillance aircraft, vintage warplanes – even old, Soviet-era surface-to-air missiles.
The Arctic Lightning Airshow is free and open to the public. It begins at 8 a.m. July 13th and runs through the afternoon.