This Strategic Air Command Airpower Demonstration From 1987 Is Just Bonkers

The twilight of the Cold War was one of the most interesting times in American airpower history. There was so much older gear built-up, while a whole new generation of air combat systems was just hitting the flight lines or would be doing so soon. America’s strategic arsenal was staggering in size and capability. Strategic Air Command presided over throngs of aircraft that were focused primarily on putting nuclear warheads on targets in the Soviet Union. It was also an era of far looser regulations when it came to flying demonstrations, hence the video below, shot at Offutt AFB in 1987, depicting a Strategic Air Command airpower demo replete with a B-52, a KC-135A and a KC-135R, a KC-10, and even an FB-111

The heavy jets put on one ridiculously awesome flying display, which included tight turns, high-speed passes at low-level, maneuvering formation work, and even a crazy overhead break. The KC-135A’s J57 and B-52’s TF33 engines trace the planes’ paths across the sky with ink-like smoke trails. 

The KC-135A’s part of the dual demonstration alongside the B-52 is the wildest of them all. One low-level pass, in particular, is especially intense. The KC-135R’s demo is a bit more subdued, but the KC-10 that follows it is downright amazing. The huge tri-jet tanker wheels around the sky with remarkable agility, executing steep bank turns and climbs. By the time the FB-111 comes along in the second video, it almost looks tame.

There are some great little quotes in there as well, like “that is fucking impressive!” when the B-52 does its first pass and guns its eight engines. But the best has to be “take this Muammar!” just before the FB-111’s high-speed pass. 

It doesn’t get more 1980s than that! 

In the 33 years since this video was filmed, safety restrictions placed on air show demonstrations and flybys have grown ever more heavy-handed. After the crash of a B-52 practicing for an air show at Fairchild AFB in Washington State in 1994, restrictions got far more invasive for the big jet demonstrations. Today, even what seems like a benign planned flyover can ruin a pilot’s career. 

As such, this video is truly a time capsule of sorts that depicts conditions that will never occur again. 

Author’s Note: Hat tip to Sterling Stroebel for the assist on this gem!

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