RAF Lakenheath pilot gets commander role with US Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team

The US Air Force Thunderbirds in action.

The US Air Force Thunderbirds in action. - Credit: Archant

A pilot from a Suffolk airbase says he is 'proud beyond words' after being picked as the lead for the US Air Force's elite demonstration squadron.

Lt Col Jason Heard with his family at RAF Lakenheath.

Lt Col Jason Heard with his family at RAF Lakenheath. - Credit: USAF

Lt Col Jason Heard, who is part of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, will be the 2017/18 squadron commander for the Thunderbirds - the USAF version of the Red Arrows.

He will now head to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to lead the daredevil team.

He said the moment was bittersweet: 'I'm proud beyond words to be representing the Air Force and our outstanding Airmen.

'We're looking forward to joining the team and performing the Thunderbird mission.

'After three assignments at Lakenheath, our family will miss the Liberty Wing mission and the outstanding travel opportunities here in England, and we'll miss our friends.'

Lt Col Heard's role will involve commanding a force of more than 120 enlisted personnel and 11 commissioned officers, along with leading all demonstration flights.

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He was selected alongside three other new pilots, and a new flight surgeon, by a group including current commander, Lt Col Hammond.

Lt Col Hammond said: 'The talent pool for our finalists was very impressive making the selection of our new Team members very difficult.

'The five individuals who were selected are incredible professionals and will represent the Air Force well. There is no doubt the Thunderbirds will be in good hands for the 2017 show season.'

Lt Col Heard will serve a two year tour of duty with the Thunderbirds.