Fighter Control’s Mark Forest visits Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, on the West Coast of the United States.
When you mention the name Miramar you think of the film Topgun & US Navy pilots roaring past the tower in F-14's. Those days have long since past and now the Marine Corps have taken over the show since they arrived in October 1997.
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar is now home to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and provides aviation support to Marine ground forces based at Camp Pendleton & Twenty Nine Palms. Upon the 23,000 acre facility more than 10,000 Marines call the 3rd MAW home.
In 2007 Miramar once again opened its doors for the annual airshow, now one of the largest military organised shows in the world. This year was the anchor event of Fleet Week San Diego and also marks the first appearence of the USAF demo team the Thunderbirds in 35 years. The team took centre stage at all three days of this show. From October 12th to 14th Miramar opened its gates at 8.00am with the the show commencing at 9.00am to 4.00pm, with saturday holding a twilight show from 5.30-9.00pm with a grand finale of spectacular fireworks and to close, the Great Wall of Fire which stretches the whole length of the runway.
With approximately seventy aircraft on show the well laid out static park had something on show for all ages with a good mix of modern military hardware and classic Warbirds. There were no foreign military present at the show and the mood was very North American, with a few Canadian visitors present. The CAF brought to the show a CT-155, CT-156 and a CF-188B all in prestine condition.
The Marine Corps brought all types to the show from its inventory except a noticeable absence of the MV-22 which had been withdrawn due to operational requirements overseas to the Middle East.
The USN had on show a C-2A a lovely looking CT-39G and a pair of F-18F's which joined the five F-18's from the marine corps. The USAF not to be out done brought sixteen aircraft from its inventory, with highlights being the B-52H, C-17A no less than six T-38's as well as an A-10 with sharks teeth nose art. And for the me the star of the show was a F-117A in near mint condition. Standing underneath the aircarft speaking with the pilot it was with great pride & sadness that he spoke of the types twilight months ahead, with the F-117A being withdrawn from service during mid 2008. Being so close to a Stealth Fighter that you could touch it is one of my lasting memories over the last two decades. Another aircraft type that will be greatly missed. With all the aircraft so well laid out and no barriers it was perfect for photo's.
This is great if you can wander around freely as I did before the gates open, but if you enter with the normal public my advice would be to get there early head straight for the static park before there's hords of people around the aircarft. By around 9.00am clear photos of the aircraft would have been a challenge.
The displays kicked off at 9.00am and featured a mix of modern fighters F-15E, F-16C, F-18F & F-117A. We were then treated to the Heritage flight from the USAF a P-51D, F-15E and a F-16C with all three performing a number of formation passes. Then came displays from Bill Reesman in his Russian built MIG17F, the Patriots civil display team with their L-39s and the US ARMY Goldern Knights Parachute Team, all landing perfectly on their mark. The USAF Thunderbirds known the world over for their tight formation flying then closed the show with their amazing formation flying.
The Main problem with the flying at Miramar is that for most of the day you are facing the sun. With it being at its strongest early afternoon, this mean't that yours truly managed to view the Thunderbirds through sunglasses and not a camera lens which was a great shame.
The photo session upon the flightline gave rise to some interesting back drops with the weather more like the UK than California in the summer. With dark skies in the background and the sun in the foreground, but this did make for some moody photo's of a UH-1, F-117, F-16, some F-18s and the rear line up of the Thunderbirds.
In the far corner of the base on the large helicopter ramp was where all the based UH-1s, AH-1s, CH-46s and CH-53s were kept. With lines & lines of helicopters all neatly tucked away from the airshow aircraft. The final count for the day stood at nearly ninety aircraft types on the ramp.
With permission from the PAO I was allowed to visit one of the many helicopter hangers on base, this one being the main servicing hanger for the CH-46 with aircraft from HMM-161,165 & 166 being present.....a big thankyou to the hanger supervisor for granting permission to photograph in the hanger.
MAGTF (Marine Air Ground Task Force) This is an explosive display of Marine Corps Power AV-8Bs & F-18s scream through the air for close air support. CH-46 & CH-53 helicopters bring in the airborne Marines in the air and on the ground, the men and women of the Marines Corps perform a simulated combat assault for the viewing audience.
Mark Forest wishes to thank James (BIG RED) Hoke Chief of Media Relations and PAO for Miramar Air Show, without his help and support this report would not have been possible.