The 2023 Guardians of Freedom Air Show was named the Military Air Show of the Year by the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels, during the International Council of Air Show Convention Dec. 5, 2023. The air show was co-hosted for the first time by the 155th Air Refueling Wing and the 55th Wing at the Lincoln Airport Aug. 26-27, 2023. “Joining our respective forces to push this show across the finish line was a fantastic venture and a great way to join our communities,” said Col. John Williams, who served as 155th ARW commander at the time. “We were grateful for the opportunity to co-host this event with our Guard teammates, which turned out to be a truly incredible show,” said Col. Mark Howard, 55th Wing commander. There had not been an air show in the local area since the 55th Wing hosted the Defenders of Freedom Air and Space Show in 2018. The Offutt show was cancelled due to the flood in 2019, and then the COVID-19 pandemic and the runway replacement project stopped any plans in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
In turn, Lincoln was initially set to host a show in 2022, but with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the amount of time and effort that goes into planning such a show, they pushed it back one year and asked the 55th Wing to join them. “We work with the 55th Wing almost daily, so it made sense to ask them if they wanted to bring our organizations together for this joint effort,” Wiliams said. “We lost a lot of air show continuity since 2018, so it was a no-brainer for us when asked if we wanted to team up,” Howard said. With the Blue Angels as the headliner and other great performers like the F-16C Viper and F/A-18 Rhino demonstration teams, the show set attendance records with 340,000 attendees over two days. “We couldn’t have been more thrilled by how things played out,” Williams said. “It set the bar awful high for what a great air show should look like,” Howard said. The Offutt led Defenders of Freedom Air and Space Show returns Aug. 24-25, 2024.