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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — AmericaFest’s highlight this year will be a performance of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

The one-day performance by the elite demonstration team will be part of a festival on the air base held annually to promote friendship between Americans and Okinawans.

This year the event takes place the week of Sept. 15, with the Thunderbirds performing that day as part of a commemoration of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s 50th anniversary.

It’s returning the favor after the JASDF Blue Impulse aerial demonstration team traveled to the United States in 1997 for the U.S. Air Force’s 50th birthday, according to the 18th Wing Public Affairs Office.

AmericaFest was a July 4th week event on Okinawa for years until the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States. Because of mission commitments in the campaign against terror, the celebration was suspended until this year, Air Force officials said.

AmericaFest features static aircraft displays, musical performances, numerous food booths and other displays and activities. It usually is held on the flight line at Kadena.

To celebrate the JASDF anniversary, the Thunderbirds also will perform in Japan on Sept. 26 at Hyakuri Air Base, Sept. 30 at Misawa Air Base and Oct. 3 at Mamatsu Air Base.

They also will make appearances Sept. 11 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and in South Korea on Sept. 17 at Kunsan Air Base and Sept. 19 at Osan Air Base, the group has said.

The Thunderbirds is a U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command unit composed of eight pilots, four civilians and about 120 enlisted personnel based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. For more than 20 years, the team has flown the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

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