U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight

The U.S. Air Force Heritage Flight (HF) program presents the evolution of USAF air power by flying today’s state-of-the-art fighter aircraft in close formation with vintage fighter aircraft.

The Thunder & Lightning Over Arizona Air Show will provide two different configurations of aircraft. On Saturday, the Heritage Flight is scheduled to feature a 4-ship formation featuring the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt, the F-22 Raptor, and the F-35 Lightning II escorting the Korean War-era F-86 Sabre. The Sunday flight is scheduled to feature a 3-ship formation of the A-10, F-22 and F-86.

The A-10 Thunderbolt is a workhorse for the Air Force performing close air support, providing quick-action support for troops against helicopters, vehicles, and ground troops. It entered service in 1976 and is the only production-built aircraft that has served in the USAF that was designed solely for CAS. Its secondary mission is to provide forward air controller – airborne (FAC-A) support, by directing other aircraft in attacks on ground targets. Aircraft used primarily in this role are designated OA-10.

The F-22 Raptor, which is being featured at Thunder & Lightning Over Arizona, is the most advanced fighter aircraft flying in the world today. The Raptor's combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century Air Force.

The F-35 Lightning II is the is a fifth-generation fighter aircraft that is the newest fighter aircraft in the fleet. The F-35 combines 5th Generation fighter aircraft characteristics — advanced stealth, integrated avionics, sensor fusion and superior logistics support — with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history. The F-35's advanced stealth allows pilots to penetrate areas without being detected by radars that legacy fighters cannot evade.

The modern jets will be flying with the F-86 Sabre, sometimes called the Sabrejet. A transonic jet fighter aircraft produced by North American Aviation, the Sabre is best known as the United States' first swept wing fighter that could counter the swept-wing Soviet MiG-15 in high-speed dogfights in the skies of the Korean War (1950–1953). The F-86 fought some of the earliest jet-to-jet battles in history. Considered one of the best and most important fighter aircraft in that war, the F-86 is also rated highly in comparison with fighters of other eras. Although it was developed in the late 1940s and was outdated by the end of the 1950s, the Sabre proved versatile and adaptable and continued as a front-line fighter in numerous air forces until the last active operational examples were retired by the Bolivian Air Force in 1994.

The HF formations of modern fighters flying with World War II, Korean, and Vietnam era dramatically display U.S. Air Force air power history and support our Air Force’s recruiting and retention efforts. In 2010, the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation (AFHFF) was formed to keep this popular program flying. Heritage Flight Winter Training took place earlier this month at Davis-Monthan.