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Kentucky Air Guard to open Thunder Over Louisville air show with special tactics jump

Special operators from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron parachute into the Ohio River from a C-130 aircraft during the Thunder Over Louisville air show in Louisville, Ky., April 21, 2018. The squadron, which is comprised of combat controllers, pararescuemen, special operations weathermen and special tactics officers, will perform a similar jump during this year's Thunder air show. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Dale Greer)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron will kick off the Thunder Over Louisville air show April 17, 2021, with a high-altitude, low-opening parachute insertion. The Airmen will jump from a Kentucky Air Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Dale Greer)

A Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 flies over Alaska on May 9, 2014, in support of Exercise Red Flag-Alaska. More than 100 Kentucky Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing participated in the exercise from May 7 to May 23. Red Flag-Alaska is designed to hone the combat skills of U.S. Air Force flight crews. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing will perform a three-ship aerial demonstration with its C-130 Hercules aircraft during the Thunder Over Louisville air show April 17, 2021. The show kicks off at 4 p.m. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Kentucky Air National Guard is slated to open Saturday’s Thunder Over Louisville air show with a nine-person parachute jump from one of the unit’s aircraft by members of its special tactics squadron.

The Airmen — all combat controllers and pararescuemen from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron — will execute a high-altitude, low-opening parachute insertion from a C-130 Hercules to kick off the show at 4 p.m., said Capt. Bryan Hunt, the unit’s assistant director of operations.

The location is not being disclosed to discourage crowds during COVID-19 restrictions, but the entire air show will be broadcast live on WHAS-11 television.

The jump will demonstrate the kinds of techniques special operators use to deploy personnel behind enemy lines or into any challenging environment for personnel-rescue missions, humanitarian response or combat operations.

“This is a great opportunity for members of the public to see how their Airmen and special operators perform their mission all over the world,” Hunt said.

Combat controllers are some of the most highly trained personnel in the U.S. military, he added. As FAA-certified air traffic controllers, they deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense and humanitarian assistance.

Pararescuemen are parachute-jump qualified trauma specialists who must maintain Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic credentials throughout their careers. With their medical and rescue expertise, PJs are able to perform life-saving missions in the world's most remote areas.

Another key highlight of this year’s airshow will be a three-ship C-130 aerial demonstration by members of the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing.

“From 4 to 6 p.m., we’re going to show off a few of our capabilities as a diverse wing,” said Capt. Chad Applegate, who helped coordinate the air show. “It’s an amazing opportunity to showcase our mechanics, logistic technicians and pilots with the C-130 flyby, as well as all the people who support our special tactics squadron to perform their jobs 365 days a year.”

Other events scheduled for Saturday include a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk demo, a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, and appearances from Apache and Chinook helicopters as well as C-17, KC-135, T-6, T-38 and P-51 aircraft.

The P-51, nicknamed “Swamp Fox,” pays homage to the Kentucky Air Guard’s past, Applegate said, noting that this exact aircraft was once part of the unit’s inventory following World War II.

“Not many people realize how diverse the Kentucky Air National Guard’s background is,” Applegate said. “From 1947 to 1956, our Air Guard flew the P-51 Mustang, and one of those original airplanes is flying Saturday.

“This year’s Thunder Over Louisville air show will be a fantastic continuation of a Louisville tradition,” Applegate added. “To be able to demonstrate our own aircraft and special tactics unit during the pandemic is a great way for us to show the public the role that their Air Guard plays as a key component of U.S. air power.”