AutoMatters & More: 2017 MCAS Miramar Air Show

Billed as the “World’s Largest Military Air Show,” the long-running Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show thrilled crowds on a sunny, mid-September Southern California weekend in San Diego. MCAS Miramar has been the home of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing since 1997.

The air show included a large static display of aircraft and other military hardware. Visitors could go inside many of the aircraft, and speak with men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.

While the highlight of the air show was a thrilling performance by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, there were civilian demonstrations of precision flying and a massive Marine Air-Ground Task Force demonstration (MAGTF). Demonstrated aircraft included the MV-22 Osprey, KC-130J Super Hercules aerial refueling tanker, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopter, UH-1Y Huey helicopter and F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which will eventually replace the Marine’s AV-8B Harrier, the F/A-18 Hornet and the EA-6B Prowler.

Sean Tucker flying his Oracle Challenger III aerobatic biplane through a ribbon suspended between two banners
Sean Tucker flying his Oracle Challenger III aerobatic biplane through a ribbon suspended between two banners (Jan Wagner / )

Civilian performers included Sean D. Tucker flying his bright red Oracle Challenger III aerobatic biplane, the Patriots Jet Team, the colorful Powered Paraglider Flight Demonstration Team and John Collver, flying his “War Dog” AT-6 Texan. The high speed thrills continued on the ground with the Shockwave Jet Truck.

Musical entertainment was provided by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, which was established in World War II. All of its members are combat trained Marines.

Members of the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs and the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute teams reach speeds in freefall of between 120 to 180mph, before deploying their canopies.

U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team member
U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team member (Jan Wagner / )

Returning to MCAS Miramar, the MAGTF Demonstration provided an opportunity for spectators to witness a simulated Marine mission. As described in the air show program, “as F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B Harriers scream through the air, helicopter-borne Marines rappel from the sky and infantry platoons move in on their objective in armored vehicles.” Large, fiery explosions punctuated the dramatic operation. “A MAGTF can arrive anywhere in the world and immediately set out to accomplish its mission.”

Patriots Jet Team aerobatic performances feature six Aero L-39 Albatros light attack and fighter trainers. These are flown by civilian pilots “who were formerly part of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, U.S. Navy Blue Angels and Royal Canadian Snowbirds” (

UH-1Y Huey deploying Marines in the Marine Air-Ground Task Force demonstration
UH-1Y Huey deploying Marines in the Marine Air-Ground Task Force demonstration (Jan Wagner / )

The stated mission of The Blue Angels “is to represent the Pride and Professionalism of the Navy and Marine Corps, and to inspire a Culture of Excellence and Service to Country.” They have flown for over 427 million fans, since their inception in 1946. They first flew the Grumman F6F Hellcat. Since 1986 they have been flying F/A-18 Hornets

A team of 130 highly skilled Sailors and Marines provide the necessary teamwork, dedication and technical expertise necessary for the extremely demanding, precisely choreographed Blue Angels aerobatic performances. For the first three months of each year, they train at NAF El Centro in California (for photos, see AutoMatters & More # 371, 376 and 484).

U.S. Navy Blue Angels
U.S. Navy Blue Angels (Jan Wagner / )

By Presidential Proclamation, the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War is being commemorated from May 28, 2012 through Nov. 11, 2025. In conjunction with this commemoration, the theme for this year’s air show was “A Salute to Vietnam Veterans.” This was an opportunity for us to show our appreciation for the servicemen and women who served our country courageously during the Vietnam War. “From 1965 to 1975, nearly 500,000 Marines served in Southeast Asia. Of these, more than 13,000 were killed and 88,000 wounded. The U.S. Marine Corps provided ground, air, supply and logistic support in the Vietnam War for over two decades” (source: Capt. Christopher Harrison, MCAS Miramar/3rd MAW Public Affairs).

In recognition, honor and appreciation of their military service, “Living United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, are eligible to receive one lapel pin” inscribed with “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You” and “USA Vietnam War Commemoration.”

These pins were presented at the air show, in a ceremony in front of the “Mobile Vietnam Memorial Wall” (known as “The AV Wall,” a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.). As of May 30, 2017, there were 58,318 names on The Wall, which is updated each year.

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Copyright © 2017 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #508