The “Thunderbirds” are the United States Air Force Demonstration Squadron. Also known as “America’s Ambassadors in Blue”, the team flies with six F-16C/D Block 52 aircraft.
In total, the “Thunderbirds” use 12 F-16s; nine are C-models and three two-seat D-models. 6 Aircraft are used for the displays and the rest in reserve
The squadron’s home base is Nellis AFB, near Las Vegas
In total, the squadron consists of 120 personnel – 12 officers, 4 civilians and 104 NCOs. The twelve officers all use the “Thunderbird” call-sign with their applicable number.
- Thunderbird #1 is the leader and commander of the squadron.
- Pilots #2 to #6 are demonstration pilots: #2 is the left wing
- #3 is the right wing, #4 is the slot
- # 5 is the lead solo
- #6 is the opposite solo.
- Pilot #7 is the operations officer
- #8 is the narrator and coordinator of the show.
Each of these pilots is a fighter pilot in the squadron but only the first six participants in the airshow. The #9 is the team’s flight surgeon, #10 is the chief of the headquarters, #11 is the chief of support and #12 is the public relations (PR) officer.
The pilot candidates for the Thunderbirds aerobatic team must have at least 1000 flying hours on a jet fighter and must be current on the F-16. All candidates for the “Thunderbirds” must have at least 3 years (but no more than 12 years) of military service.