A couple weekends ago, the Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland hosted their annual Joint Service Open House aka the Air Show. Jules and I decided to attend the Air Show on Sunday afternoon. The show, open to the public for free on Saturday May 21th and Sunday May 22nd 2011, lets our Armed Services show the public what their taxpayer dollars go towards. Mainly, multimillion dollar aircraft and various “war machines”. Many of the planes and vehicles there were open to the public to tour (as this is probably the only time you would see the inside of a C-17 or C-5 Super Galaxy for instance outside of joining the Armed Forces).
One of the biggest airplanes in service
The whole experience is right out of a movie. (Literally- the Top Gun and Transformers theme played over the loudspeakers while we were there) When we first arrived at Fed Ex field (the drop off point for the buses to Andrews AFB) we were greeted by a military checkpoint. After you are cleared through security, you then proceed to wait in one of 15 lines for buses that run like clockwork. I’m sure if there is ever a military evacuation that I am a part of, it will feel the same way.
Once on the bus, it’s roughly a 10 minute ride before you are dropped off on the tarmac at Andrews AFB. There is a whole sea of planes and people before you with music blaring over loudspeakers and planes/vehicles littered about. Various airplanes throughout the day (such as a A-10 Warthog, F-18 Hornet, and several F-16 Falcons) roar overhead sending shockwaves down on the crowd below. Between the smell of diesel, jet fuel, and hot metal you get whiffs of funnel cakes, beer, and pizza. The sun peaks in and out of the clouds as it beats down on the tarmac. You soon realize how hot these vehicles and aircraft can get without A/C.
However, while it was a little hot, you got to see some incredible military equipment up close. Roughly 60% of the entire “display” was currently operating equipment in the field of battle today. Some more Classified pieces were either covered from satilites (such as the F-22 JSF) or not even in the “display” (such as the A-10 Warthog and MQ-9 Reaper). Seeing such aircraft as the Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low Helicopter (which you may recognize as Blackout from the Transformers Movie) was my inner child’s dream come true.
Speaking of movies, it is very clear that the US Military loves the (right) attention. Not only was theme music from various movies played but even direct references to movies were made during equipment introductions. I was a bit surprised at the openness of the military, both in refrecenting pop culture and showing all sorts of the equipment to the public. Like the Joint Chief’s twitter account, I think its the military attempt at being more open without giving classified secrets away. I think the efforts are working- it was a very fun day at the tarmac of Andrews AFB.