Air Force, South Korean aircraft share the runway during Air Power Day at Osan
By MATTHEW KEELER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 23, 2019
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The 51st Fighter Wing opened the gates to Osan Air Base over the weekend for the annual Air Power Day, a show of the combined strength of South Korea and the U.S. Air Force.
Thousands of South Koreans gathered on the flight line where more than a dozen South Korean and U.S. aircraft like the F-15K Eagle fighter and the U-2 ultra-high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft were on display and the servicemembers who operate them available for questions.
“This year’s Air Power Day offers us the chance to highlight the great men and women of both [South Korea] and the United States of America,” said wing commander Col. John Gonzales. “The air show represents a tremendous opportunity to not only enhance the U.S. and [South Korea] alliance but demonstrate our commitment to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”
Dozens of booster clubs and food vendors were on site Friday and Saturday to accommodate the thousands of visitors. A popular souvenir that locals purchased from clubs was a red fabric keychain with the words “remove before flight” embroidered on it, a familiar but simple safety device found on many aircraft.
Not all demonstrations took place high in the sky. The 51st Fighter Wing security forces and their military working dogs conducted their own show of K-9 force. Simulating a small arms shootout, a mock suspect in a padded bite suit fled on foot but was no match for the pursuing German shepherd.
The South Korean air force Black Eagles demonstration team was a crowd favorite. Similar to the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels, the Black Eagles, which fly the T-50B Golden Eagle, represent South Korea’s best pilots, according to the team website.
The eight-plane configuration performed for roughly 25 minutes, executing precision rolls and high-speed maneuvers. Trailing red smoke, two aircraft drew a heart in the sky that was pierced by a third trailing blue smoke.
The 51st Wing performed a close air support helicopter demonstration, showcasing the strategic coordination required to successfully recover a downed aircraft pilot under enemy fire.
The U.S. Air Force A-10 Demonstration Team and the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Viper Demonstration Team also conducted tactical demonstrations featuring their respective aircrafts.
Based out of Misawa Air Base, Japan, PACAF demonstration team pilot Cpt. Jacob “Primo” Impellizzeri and his 11 team members travel the Pacific to places such as Malaysia, India, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand to demonstrate the jet fighter’s tactical capabilities and reinforce strategic relationships.
“When you think of demonstration teams you probably think of the Thunderbirds as the face of the Air Force,” Impellizzeri told Stars and Stripes. “As demonstration teams we are purely showing off the tactical capabilities of the F-16.”
The single-engine, multirole fighter is capable of speeds approaching 1,500 mph and with external fuel pods mounted can travel nearly 2,000 miles.
“Where we differ from U.S.-based demonstration teams is we travel around the Pacific, representing PACAF, Misawa Air Base and the 35th Fighter Wing, and we are inspiring the next generation of fighter pilots,” Impellizzeri said. “It’s great for us because we get to travel around the Pacific and bolster bilateral relationships.”
Static displays on the flight line included aircraft from the U.S. Army like the AH-64D Apache helicopter, along with surface-to-air defense systems as the MIM-104 Patriot missile launcher.