Photos of the Week: Afterburners Activated

Dozens of Air Force fighter jets convene in Georgia for major exercise

By BlueSkyStaff

Published January 12, 2024

Read Time: 2 mins


Competition brings out the best in us. Especially fighter pilots.

From Sept. 11-15, the U.S. Air Force hosted its legendary William Tell Air-to-Air Weapons Meet, known as “the Super Bowl of fighter aviation,” at the Air Dominance Center at Savannah Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) in Georgia.

More than 1,300 personnel from Air Force active duty, Reserves and Air National Guard gathered for the weeklong exercise, competing for the chance to be named the top fighter integration team in the service. It was the first William Tell meet in 19 years.

At SAV, pilots from 11 states using 65 different aircraft went head-to-head in missions featuring basic and air combat flight maneuvers, air gunnery and simulated large-force fighter integration missions coordinating against adversaries.

William Tell is one of the oldest events hosted by the Air Force to train its fighter pilots, with the first iteration of the event dating back to 1949. According to the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, the return of the exercise was vital in the service’s efforts in modernizing its air superiority fighters for conflict, with the goal of developing leaders in areas of critical interest and teams that excel under pressure.

Since the last meet, the Air Force has introduced the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters, which participated at SAV along with McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and Strike Eagle aircraft.

Ryan McManus was among many aviation enthusiasts who traveled to Savannah to witness the event, catching this F-15 Strike Eagle departing with its afterburners lit for a mission during the exercise. The aircraft belongs to the 366th Fighter Wing based at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, which took home a couple of trophies from the competition.

While afterburners help get aircraft up in the air on takeoff, the landing gear is how they return safely to the ground.

Jessica Kellems shared this interesting up-close photo of the landing gear tires on an Airbus A330-200F. These tires aren’t like the ones on your car—they are able to support the A330’s maximum takeoff weight of 251 tons, equivalent to 35 large elephants.

Thanks for sharing, Ryan and Jessica!

Our readers continue to pass along shots of unique aircraft, international airports, historical events, gorgeous views and even family vacation photos for this feature. We love them! Keep them coming — you can click here for submission guidelines.

An up-close view of the landing gear tires on a Mas Air Cargo A330-200F. (Photo submitted by Jessica Kellems)

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