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F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Teamwork ensures Thunderbird performance

April 6, 2009 (by Capt. Jason McCree) - After inclement weather damaged five Thunderbird aircraft upon their arrival to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., for the base's air show -- a display of teamwork happened behind the scenes.

From left, TSgt. Phil Sawin and SSgt. Mark Stoverink, crew chiefs for Thunderbird no. 5, finish their launch procedures prior to take-off at Keesler AFB on April 4th, 2009. Note the grey replacement radome. [USAF photo by SSgt. Kristi Machado]

Airmen from Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command, and Air Force Materiel Command came together to make Keesler's airshow possible.

"I'm truly amazed at the teamwork and efficiency of our Airmen serving in the Air Force," said Lt. Col. Greg Thomas, Thunderbird commander/leader.

"After the inclement weather two days ago, I didn't know how we were going to perform this weekend, but with dedication and commitment of everyone from AFMC and AETC to ACC, we were able to orchestrate delivery of the equipment, and our maintenance crews worked around the clock to ensure we could perform here at Keesler."

The damage was limited to the red cones called radar domes, or "radome," at the nose of the aircraft. These cones are structural, weather proof enclosures that protect the F-16's radar antenna from environmental conditions.

Thunderbird radomes are painted red to match the Thunderbird motif, a concept that has been used since the team's inception in 1953. Due to the quick demand, the replacement radomes are not painted red, but instead are the stock grey color.

As Thunderbird maintenance crews pulled the damaged red radomes from the aircraft, 1,500 miles away at Hill AFB, Utah, five brand new, gray radar domes where being crated and prepared for shipment. Airlift was provided by a C-17 Globemaster out of Altus AFB, Okla., to deliver the needed parts.

Airmen at every level of the chain of command came together to provide their piece of the puzzle.

"An important piece of the Thunderbirds' mission is to represent the 700,000 Active Duty Airmen, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and civilians who make our Air Force the most advanced and respected air, space and cyberspace force in the world," said Colonel Thomas. "When you see so many different agencies and commands come together to help us perform our mission, you really see that pride and professionalism that's in all Airmen. It's an absolute honor to represent them."

Courtesy of Air Force Thunderbirds Public Affairs

Additional images:

The Thunderbird Solos, featuring gray radomes, join up with the Thunderbird Diamond to form the 6-ship Delta formation at Keesler AFB on April 4th, 2009. [USAF photo by SSgt. Kristi Machado]