The view from the grandstand.
The United States Marine Corps should be congratulated how they have put on and managed such a huge event at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar which is the home of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW). Situated on the outskirts of San Diego, the show is principally aimed at the local community and is especially for the families of the 10,000 Marines based at Miramar as a "salute to veterans and their families". Over the three days an estimated 700,000 people attended making it the largest military air show in North America.
The gates for the public opened at 08:15 and on the Saturday with a twilight show started at 17:30 and ended at around 21:00 with a series of afterburner passes by an F/A-18 Hornet and a firework display. Stretching the day out like this meant that there were no real problems for people arriving and departing, they could choose just how much of the show they wanted to see. Apart from the flying which started before 10:30 it was bolstered by a 375 mph jet powered truck named Shockwave, which belched flame as it blasted down the runway. Even though I was there for the aircraft Shockwave was great to see.
|Bell MV-22B Osprey delivering Marines to the assault. The Osprey is the world's first production tilt rotor aircraft. Replacing the Marines CH-46E transport helicopter it flies twice as fast, carries three times the payload and can fly twice as high and six times further.
The 3rd MAWs primary mission is to provide combat-ready expeditionary aviation forces capable of short-notice worldwide deployment to Marine Air-Ground Task Force, fleet and unified commanders. As a demonstration of what they do a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) simulation was performed each day showing the coordination and use of close air support, armour, artillery and infantry forces. An actual full blown MAGTF consists of a command, ground combat, aviation combat and combat service support elements, organised for a specific purpose it is designed to be flexible and can be deployed in a matter of days anywhere in the world. It can be used for a wide range of missions including; crisis response, security assistance and humanitarian relief.
For the air show MAGTF demonstration comprised of a rotary force (two Bell AH-1Z Cobra, two Bell UH-1Y Huey and a Sikorsky CH-53E Stallion) with two Bell MV-22B Osprey. The fast jet element consisting of two Boeing F/A-18E Hornets and two Boeing AV-8B Harriers supported by a Lockheed Martin KC-130J Hercules aerial refuelling tanker. The force departed Miramar to form up in preparation for the airfield assault. The commentary suggested that Laser Guided Bombs would normally be dropped from a safe height followed by fast and low airfield attack by the jets. It was the latter that was demonstrated aided by flash bang tectonics. With the 'enemy's' resistance quelled the ground force of Marines arrived in a pair of UH-1s to fast rope down to the runway, protected by a pair of AH-1Ys and backed-up by a CH-53E with its underslung vehicle. The pair of MV-22Bs landed shortly after to disembark with yet more Marines.
The Marines in face paint camouflage then advanced towards the grandstand. I must say the hugely patriotic crowds loved all this, some ran forwards to 'high-five' with the Marines as they withdrew along the crowd line. A parade of M1-A1 tanks followed and again the enthusiastic crowds were equally responsive with the crews
|Patriot's narrator Michael 'Surf' Tenby who is a sensational performer.
Aerobatic performances by a glider and Sean D. Tucker in his own Pitts Special like Oracle Challenger made way for the three formation jet teams. First up were the 'Patriots' comprising six modified Czech built L-39C Albatross which have been upgraded with new avionics and a smoke-oil system and lightened so that they can perform at air shows throughout the US. Saturday's display went well but unfortunately after getting airborne on the Sunday they had to land again due to the very low cloud base.
The Breitling Jet Team of seven L-39C Albatross were also performing as part of the first US tour. There were obvious comparisons made between the similar L-39 teams. I would not favour one team over the other apart from Patriot's narrator Michael 'Surf' Tenby who is a sensational performer, running up and down the main grandstand area with his flamboyant style of presentation that could only be found in America.
Later the US Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team performed impeccably with their world renowned tight formations of F/A-18C Hornets and their supporting Lockheed C-130T Hercules known affectionately as 'Fat Albert'. For the last 25 years 'Fat Albert' has been the Blue Angels' workhorse, flying over 100,000 miles in support of around 35 air shows each year.
For many the hovering jets stole the show
For many the stars of the show were the very loud hovering jets; the original VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) AV-8B Harrier and its ultimate replacement the STOVL (short take-off and vertical landing) Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II both of which are based at MCAS Yuma, Arizona. Each day both types gave multiple performances, the Harrier's solo display flown superbly by Major Mike Carty of the Royal Marines on exchange with the Marines in my opinion stealing the show, as the F-35B had to be restrained at this stage in its short service career.
Thousands of people were quite rightly very enthusiastic throughout the show, patriotism glowed from the grandstands and I am sure everyone had a great time, well done to everyone involved.
A photographers point of view.
The static display was extensive and not roped off, so getting in early for uncluttered shots was necessary. Looking south and in 90 degree F temperatures on the Saturday made photography difficult. In comparison Sunday was a virtual washout, with heavy rain at times and low cloud which lifted in the afternoon. Photography on Sunday was made easier due to the reduced back-lighting and enhanced by the spray on the runway exploited by the hovering jets.