Gunfighter Skies 2014 was held at Mountain Home USAF base in Idaho over the weekend of September 20th to 21st, 2014. The air displays were the main feature of the open house, but what’s an air show without lots of static displays to check out so you can get a closer look at all kinds of military aircraft. This show offered plenty of types new and old.
Given this was a USAF show they had the most types on display including combat aircraft, trainers and support aircraft. Fighters, bombers, trainers, helicopters, tankers and transports were all on the tarmac during Gunfighter Skies 2014.
USAF Combat Aircraft were well presented. They included the McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F-15E Strike Eagle (multi-role fighter), Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (this fifth generation multi-role fighter is the latest in the US arsenal), General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon (multi-role fighter), Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II (close support / ground attack), Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic strategic bomber and the mighty ageless Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber.
Various USAF Support aircraft that keep the military mobile were on hand. These included Tankers: Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker and Douglas KC-10 Extender; Transports: Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Boeing C-17 Globemaster III; Trainers: Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, Northrop T-38 Talon and Raytheon T-1 Jayhawk; and Helicopters: Bell UH-1N Iroquois.
The USAF aircraft were joined by a US-Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare fighter, German Luftwaffe Panavia Tornado IDS strike aircraft (some are based in the US for training purposes) and RSAF F-15SG Strike Eagles that are based at Mountain Home for training purposes. Civilian aircraft and warbirds on static display included a Stinson L-5 Sentinel, Grumman S-2 Tracker and a Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon “Attu Warrior“.
The great thing about an open house event like this is that most of the aircraft were not roped off so you could wander around and take a close look (exceptions were those fitted with weaponry displays and top-secret aircraft such as the F-35). The crews of most aircraft were on hand to answer questions, show you the cockpit and so forth (and to sell their cool merchandise).
An interesting display was the assembly of an MQ-1B Predator drone from the carrier case they ship them about in. Each day they would unpack and assemble the drone and answer plenty of questions. The first thing you notice is how lightweight and almost flimsy these drones are, yet they are highly effective military assets in frontline combat situations.
As always because Gunfighter Skies 2014 was at an active airbase there was an element of high security at the event (limitations on what could be carried into the base especially) but this was well handled and the security lines were quick. Security was present around the flight line with heavily armed air force personnel and security dogs but it was not overbearing and they were all smiles (as long as you are on the right side!). To my knowledge everyone was well-behaved and just enjoyed the show.
The parking situation was a little interesting. The parking lots were almost 2 miles away from the main show area but they had plenty of shuttle buses to ferry you back and forth. I actually walked each day so I could take a closer look at all the F-15E Strike Eagles and even some F-15 Eagles out on the base rapid response open hangars. The car parks themselves were all dirt, which left my rental car looking in a sad state of affairs by the end of the day (I felt sorry for the military police out their directing traffic in the heat and dust)!
This was by now means a huge air show but there was still plenty to see and a great diversity of aircraft, so it was an enjoyable one. They say there may not be another Gunfighter Skies for some time (budget constraints), so I am glad I made it out to Idaho for this one.