Thunder Over the Rock Air Show at LRAFB soars to new heights

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Isabell Nutt
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The skies over Little Rock Air Force Base roared to life as the Thunder Over the Rock Air Show wowed thousands of spectators with ground exhibitions and aerial displays of aviation excellence and unparalleled airpower, Oct. 21-22, 2023.

In conjunction with the air show, the installation partnered with the Arkansas Department of Education and hosted Arkansas’ largest Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics festival. The STEM fest provided a unique opportunity for young minds to engage with interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, and captivating demonstrations.

The air show kicked off with a cadet from the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Demonstration Team gliding to show center. This marked the beginning of the first air show at Little Rock AFB since 2018.

Headlining this year’s air show was the Air Force’s premier demonstration team, the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, better known as the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds performed both days, demonstrating the capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the Air Force’s multi-role fighter jet, exemplifying the pride, precision, and professionalism that defines the U.S. Air Force.

Thunder Over the Rock spectators also received an up-close and personal view of Team Little Rock’s mission as C-130 aircrews performed a capabilities exercise. The CAPEX was a unique joint display comprised of an airfield seizure operation, showcasing Herk Nation’s trademark teamwork and precision aerial skills that lead to projecting tactical airlift anywhere, anytime.

"The Thunder Over the Rock Air Show and STEM fest exemplify the spirit of excellence and innovation that defines Little Rock Air Force Base,” said Col. Denny Davies, 19th Airlift Wing and installation commander. “We are thrilled to have had this opportunity to showcase our TacAir capabilities and inspire the community, especially our young future leaders, to pursue their dreams in aviation and explore the world of STEM."

Also featured in the CAPEX, was the A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 358th Fighter Squadron at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, UH-60s Blackhawks from the Arkansas Army National Guard’s 77th Theater Aviation Brigade at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and 200 Army paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Liberty, North Carolina.

Additionally, there were performances by the U.S. Air Force F‐35 Demonstration Team, the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team, the "Tora, Tora, Tora,” the Commemorative Air Force's recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the C-17 West Coast Demonstration Team and much more.

Thunder over the Rock also featured a variety of modern and historic aircraft that served as static displays allowing spectators to get an in-depth look at the aircraft and to learn more about their history.

The day before the air show, the base also organized a field trip day for the STEM festival with unique exhibits showcasing innovation and technology to local schools. Among the exhibits were drone racing, robotics, science projects, and a high-altitude balloon launch.

The field trip day was followed by a night show that was opened to those with base access, giving Airmen and their families the opportunity to enjoy a night of food, fun, impressive aerial displays and a fireworks display.  

“The triumph of these events is a testament to the unwavering support and contributions from countless units, organizations, and dedicated volunteers,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Styles, Thunder Over the Rock Air Show director. “Their dedication and contributions guaranteed an unforgettable experience for everyone in attendance.”

Air shows like Thunder Over the Rock serve as an opportunity to thank the community for their continued and dedicated support while also providing several recruitment opportunities to a diverse demographic. These events are a powerful tool for inspiring the next generation of Airmen who are ready to move out and win.

Team Little Rock looks forward to continuing this tradition of excellence and inspiration in the years to come and strives to strengthen the bond between the base and the local community while fostering a passion for aviation and education.

“In the true spirit of service and dedication, the Airmen of Team Little Rock have soared above and beyond, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to our community,” said Davies.  “This weekend was about giving back, and it couldn’t have happened without the team effort put forth by Herk Nation and our community partners.”