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Thunderbirds History - How It All Began

In 1947, while the jet age was still in its infancy, military aviation was hurtled into the future with the creation of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service. Just six years later, the Air Force wanted an air demonstration team.

The job of forming the team fell to Major Smokey Catledge, the unit's first commander/leader. His immediate task was to find six officers and 22 enlisted to form the first team and get them ready for their first demonstration at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. three weeks later.

The Air Force's official air demonstration team, designated the 3600th USAF Air Demonstration Unit/Flight, was activated on May 25, 1953. The unit adopted the name "Thunderbirds",influenced in part by the strong Native American culture and folklore from the southwestern United States where Luke Air Force Base is located. Three months later the name “Thunderbirds" was added to the unit designation.

Last Update: 07/07/2020


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Welcome to the Thunderbirds Alumni Association website.

On it you will learn the history of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, "Thunderbirds," and the Thunderbird Alumni Association as well. If you are Thunderbirds Alumni, an Associate, Honorary Thunderbirds or Honorary Crew Chiefs and DON'T see your name listed it's because you haven't registered on the website. To register, click the "Member Login" button and when a new window opens, click the red Name not in ROSTER? Join Us link. If you are a register user and have forgotten you password, click the "Member Login" button and when a new window opens click the Forgot Password? Link.

If you have other questions, please contact Dylan Hulbert, the administrator, below.

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