Osan air show promises to be a spectacle in the skies
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Base officials were set to kick off a two-day air show Saturday that they hope — weather permitting — will dazzle spectators with aircraft flyovers and a high-performance show by the Thunderbirds precision flying team.
The 2004 Air and Space Power Day also will feature military aircraft ground displays, freefall jumps by an Air Force Academy parachuting team and music by the Pacific Air Forces Band. Both Saturday’s and Sunday’s events run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday’s show is a dress-rehearsal for Sunday’s event, officials said.
Originally, Sunday’s event was to be open to both the base and the general public but off-base access was limited this week to around 8,000 invited South Korean guests after security concerns arose. (See accompanying story.)
Before the decision, Air Force planners hoped to draw up to 20,000 spectators, mainly from the South Korean public, said Lt. Col. Chris Findall, deputy commander of Osan’s 51st Civil Engineer Squadron.
Osan last held an air show in 2002. No air show was held in 2001 because of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States; last year’s show was canceled amid heavy rains.
Updates on the events schedule and on the possibility of weather cancellation will be posted on the Internet at www.osan.af.mil.
“If you have any doubts about the weather, even in the morning, I would seriously check the Web site,” said 1st Lt. Nora Eyle, a base spokeswoman. “Because if it does cancel, we would not want people to make a long trip and then find that the air show’s canceled.”
A high point is to be the Thunderbirds, officially the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The Thunderbirds were to arrive here Friday evening with eight F-16 jets and about 80 squadron support personnel.
Before flying to Osan, they were to have performed Friday at Kunsan Air Base on South Korea’s west coast, in what was billed as a “Wings Over Wolf Pack” air show. Kunsan is home to the 8th Fighter Wing, known as the “Wolf Pack.”
The weekend events at Osan are to open with a free-fall parachute jump by the Wings of Blue, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s precision parachuting team. The team members are mainly academy cadets.
“They’re going to jump in and open the show with the American and Korean flags,” Findall said. The team is to perform two shows each day, he said.
Also on the schedule is a combat search-and-rescue demonstration flown by A-10 attack planes, including the OA-10, a forward air control variant, and HH-60 helicopters.
The South Korean Air Force is to demonstrate its KT-1 trainer aircraft, the first aircraft South Korea has produced for export, Findall said.
“I’m looking forward to that one,” he said. “I’ve heard that it’s very acrobatic, very maneuverable, and I’m looking forward to their demonstration.”
Also scheduled are flyovers by the F-117A Nighthawk, also known as the stealth bomber; the F-16, A-10, and South Korean Air Force F-4 Phantom II; an aerial demonstration by U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighters; a sling-load demonstration with a U.S. Army CH-47 helicopter and airmen of the 554th Red Horse Squadron’s air assault team.
The team is trained and equipped to quickly set up airfields around the Korean peninsula in wartime.
The Thunderbirds portion of the show is to begin with a “ground show,” in the course of which spectators can see the pilots strap into their jets and take off.
Stationary displays are to include a Patriot missile battery, U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, the F-117A, and various U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine aircraft; South Korean aircraft and anti-aircraft artillery weapons.
A main aim of the air show is to foster goodwill with the Korean public, “letting folks who don’t normally get a chance, come up and see the aircraft, up close and in-person,” Findall said.
Air Force limiting access to second day of events
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Air Force officials have restricted entry to the second day of a two-day air show this weekend, citing unspecified “security concerns” brought to the base by South Korean officials, Osan officials said Thursday.
After the base’s Office of Special Investigations and other agencies assessed South Korean intelligence reports, officials scrapped plans to host an open house Sunday.
Instead, base officials invited 8,000 South Koreans, including civic leaders and Republic of Korea Air Force members, to Sunday’s event, the 2004 Air and Space Power Day.
Korean authorities “had some security concerns and our OSI re-evaluated the intelligence and felt that the right thing to do was to limit access to the base on that day,” Lt. Col. Chris Findall, deputy commander of Osan’s 51st Civil Engineer Squadron, told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.
“Several agencies came together, shared information, discussed it over several days, and reached a decision,” he said.
Citing security reasons, base officials declined to divulge whether the South Koreans had reported a specific terrorist or other threat targeting the air show. Nor would they say which South Korean entities provided the intelligence.
According to an Osan news release, force protection “is a top priority and therefore uncontrolled and open access to the base is not possible at this time.”
“The air show scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 19 has been changed from an open house air show to a ticket-only event,” the release read. “Although the air show schedule of events has not changed, access to the base is restricted to ID card holders and ticket holders.”
Tickets are being distributed to community leaders, specific civilian workers, U.S. and ROK military/civilian I.D. cardholders and their families, officials said.
— Franklin Fisher