The image is fittingly titled by the people who captured it "ascension in smoke," as this is exactly what the airplane is doing, gaining altitude while releasing the smoke it comes equipped with for exactly such moments, and making it look like it’s causing quite the atmospheric disruption over land.
Impressive as this maneuver might look, it’s something the Thunderbirds are used to doing. You’ll get a chance to experience that first hand this week at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, where the team will be flying on November 6 for the Thunder and Lightning Over Arizona show.
Born all the way back in 1953 as the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit at the Luke Air Force base in the same state, the Thunderbirds are the world’s third-oldest specialized such unit, after the Patrouille de France and the Blue Angels.
Over the many decades that have passed since, the team used a number of different aircraft, including F-84G Thunderjets, F-100C Super Sabres, F-4E Phantoms, and T-38 Talons.
Their most haunting event is linked to the Talons. A problem with a stabilizer in one of these planes cost the life of no less than four pilots back in 1982. That dark moment, although always remembered, is now in the past, and the F-16 Fighting Falcons presently fielded seem like the perfect match for this extraordinary crew.