Action cameras that capture 360 degrees of video and stitch it all together in a big spherical view that can be digitally panned in any direction are changing the way cockpit footage is captured. Jet demo teams were some of the first adopters of the technology and the USAF Thunderbirds have continued to make great use of it during their 2019 show season. Case in point, a video the team recently shot from the cockpit of Thunderbird 2's Block 52 F-16C as it rocketed through the show's pinnacle maneuver, the Bomb Burst Cross.
The Bomb Burst starts with the four-ship diamond formation rocketing into the sky vertically, then four of the jets roll away from each other in opposing directions and break simultaneously. A fifth jet bursts through the center and continues skyward victoriously with its afterburner blazing as it does rapid aileron rolls. Meanwhile, the four jets that just broke in opposite directions continue on in large arching descents. The maneuver isn't just powerful, it's moving. So much so that a huge sculpted interpretation of it sits near the Pentagon as a memorial to all who served in the United States Air Force.
The thing is that the initial Bomb Burst is really just half of the maneuver. The second half of this incredibly coordinated ballet in the sky is what's most exciting. The four jets continue down on their opposing courses before leveling out at slightly different altitudes as they approach low and fast over show center with the idea being that they will all cross in nearly the same space and at the exact same time. This is called the Bomb Burst Cross.
You can see an example of the Bomb Burst and the Bomb Burst Cross that follows at 21:20 if the video doesn't advance automatically for you. This is not the main video that is the subject of this piece, keep reading for that one!:
This second part of the Bomb Burst, the High Bomb Burst Cross, becomes the Low Bomb Burst Cross when cloud cover or other inclement weather keeps the team from doing their primary "high show," with the "low show" being flown instead. During the low show, instead of breaking out in the vertical for the Bomb Burst, the jets do so in the horizontal. Again with four of the five jets returning to show center for the thrilling crossing maneuver.
In Abbotsford last weekend, it looks like the team nailed the timing perfectly during the Low Bomb Burst Cross and they caught it on video like never before on Thunderbird #2's 360 action cam for all us to enjoy.
Check it out (also available on Facebook by clicking here):
If your jaw is hanging open after watching that clip, you are not alone.
I would say that's mission accomplished Thunderbirds!
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com