The biennial display of Air Force strength and skill takes to the skies July 30-31 when Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson hosts its popular Arctic Thunder open house for all Alaskans.

“We open our doors every other year and share our unique life and culture with a community who contributes so much to our ability to engage globally and protect locally,” a notice for the event states.

Seven different international partners are expected to participate during the event, which includes seven hours of high-octane aerial demonstrations.

In previous years, the prodigious show has drawn upwards of 300,000 people who peruse 40 displays spanning 30 acres. These exhibitions contain inventory from around the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

United States Air Force Thunderbirds

Featured aerial performances will include the following:

United States Air Force Thunderbirds: The Thunderbirds have the honor of representing nearly 700,000 active duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and civilian Airmen across America and deployed around the world.

F-22 Demonstration: Flying JBER F-22’s, the Air Combat Command F-22 Demonstration Team at Langley Air Force Base performs precision aerial maneuvers to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the world’s only operational fifth-generation fighter aircraft. The team also joins up with Air Force Heritage flight, exhibiting the professional qualities the Air Force develops in the people who fly, maintain, and support these aircraft.

F-16 Demonstration: The PACAF F-16 Demonstration Team is assigned to the 14th Fighter Squadron — one of two fighter squadrons assigned to the 35th Fighter Wing as Misawa Air Base, Japan. The team includes a hand-picked all-volunteer cadre of one pilot, two narrators and a maintenance team composed of four crew chiefs and five specialists responsible for the aircraft’s avionics and electrical systems and engines. Besides their weekend show schedule, team members must be ready to deploy in support of the 35th Fighter Wing’s wartime mission while handling their day-to-day jobs within the squadron.

C-17 cargo aircraft

C-17 Demonstration Team: Flying the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft in the USAF, the Pacific Air Forces C-17 demonstration team embodies Air Force’s global reach mission. Showcasing the operating capabilities of the fly-by-wire C-17 includes tactical departures, maneuvers, and its ability to take-off and land in distances as short as 3500 feet, at weights up to 585,000 pounds. A strategic airlifter capable of tactical insertion of troops and oversized equipment like a fully loaded M1 Abrams tank, the C-17 represents the present and future of Air Force airlift.

Anthony Oshinuga: Anthony Oshinuga is a mechanical engineer and aerobatic pilot. Flying a Pitts Special Custom S-1S Aerobatic Biplane dubbed “Black Hawk,” crowds can expect a spectacular performance, showcasing an impressive display of precision and speed. Oshinuga made history in 2015 when he became the first African American to enter the Reno National Championship Air Race and earn a podium finish.

Melissa Dawn Burns: Melissa is a professional aerobatic pilot, display skydiver and B.A.S.E. Jumper. In 2006, at 22 years old she became the youngest female member of the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Team in history. She placed 3rd overall in the 2015 World Aerobatic Championships after 10 years of competing at the Unlimited World Level. Melissa was named the Fastest Woman in the World at the World Champion Wingsuit B.A.S.E. Jumping Race in Norway in 2015 and has participated in numerous Skydiving World Records. Today she travels with her team performing in Airshow Displays for audiences worldwide.

Tom “Lark” Larkin: Larkin received an Aerospace Engineering degree from Georgia Tech, and then entered the Air Force for pilot training in 1984. He was selected as a T-38 Instructor pilot, and then progressed to the F-15C. He was awarded Top Graduate in F-15 school, and flew 22 missions in northern Iraq in support of Operation Northern Watch and Provide Comfort. He was later selected as an instructor for the Air Force Fighter Lead-In School in the AT-38. He left active duty in 2000, and now resides in the Denver, CO area. During the show, Tom will be performing a cross section of maneuvers that he routinely used while instructing and flying fighters in the Air Force.

U.S. Army SOC Parachute Demo Team: The U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team – the Black Daggers – is composed entirely of volunteers from throughout the Army Special Operations community. They have diverse backgrounds and various military specialties. The team represents the professionalism and dedication of Special Operations Forces and performs aerial demonstrations in support of U.S. Army Special Operations Command community outreach and recruiting efforts.

Vansaircraft RV sport aircraft

Undaunted Airshows: This Pacific Northwest airshow team goes by call sign “Orca Flight,” was formed in 2020. This two-ship formation/aerobatic team demonstrates fluid aerobatic formation flying, dynamic head-to-head merges and dogfighting like rejoin sequences. Stephen Christopher flies the lead pilot position and Todd Rudberg flees the wing position. Todd and Stephen began flying together in 2010 with the Blackjack Squadron. Stephen is a leader in the formation flying community and has flown in air shows with the West Coast Ravens and the Lightning Formation Airshows. The team flies the extremely popular Vansaircraft RV series of homebuilt sport aircraft.

9th Army Band: Constituted on Jan. 7, 1944, as the 236th Army Band, it was later redesignated on May 17, 1947, as the 9th Army Band. It was assigned to Fort Richardson, Alaska in 1951, inactivated on 1 September at Ladd Air Force Base, Alaska, and then re-activated on Nov. 16, 1995, at Fort Wainwright. On Oct. 13, 2016, the 9th Army Band was moved to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

The U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific

The event includes free admission and parking, along with a host of food vendors.

Click here more information about the event, including prohibitions on certain vehicles and items that will not be allowed onto the base.

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.

Air Force acrobatics to thunder across Alaska skies for July 30-31 event

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • gunter thompson says:

    Talk about bloated federal government and government waste.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Top gun
    Let’s Hope America can keep its power, being a powerful nation.
    Let’s go Brandon, in office makes me wonder.

  • RB7 says:

    No freakin way I will support the AF and the MIC. After what they did to all the families of the Airmen who didn’t want the shot. How many of the Airmen and DOD personnel carried BILLIONS of our dollars worth of arms to fight a proxy war against Russia. Who is that helping? You must be tired of their gaslighting and lies by now? Could you even enjoy yourself there amongst all the smoke and mirrors? Is that really even a patriotic event?