Black Eagles feature Republic of Korea's air capabilities

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stefanie Torres
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Just like the Thunderbirds are to the U.S. Air Force, the Black Eagles dominate the skies as the Republic of Korea Air Force's premiere demonstration team.

The Black Eagles perform eight-ship aerial maneuvers throughout Korea and performed overseas for the first time this year in the United Kingdom.

"This is the only special flying team in Korea," said 1st Lt. Lok Cha Young, 239th Special Squadron Public Affairs officer. "The Black Eagles specialize in air shows showcasing the capabilities of the pilots and aircraft to the entire nation."

Doubling their practices for Osan's Air Power Day Oct. 20-21, the team performs up to 30 different types of acrobatics using T-50B training aircraft with supersonic capabilities.
"There is only one team, the Black Eagles, that operate all of their training jets made by their own country," said Young. "They are very dynamic and fantastic."

Showcasing flying capabilities is important to the Republic of Korea, explained Maj. Wookcheon Jeon, Black Eagles team lead. Not only does it promote the strong air power capabilities of the ROK, but it shows that they are also friendly to the nation.

"I am proud of myself for making the ROKAF better," said Jeon. "People may not fully understand what the ROKAF is doing out here so we want to promote a friendly image and show them what we can do."

The team can also garner the attention of future flyers, he explained.

"I'm proud that people want to become members," said Jeon. "We are giving little children hopes and dreams. I think it's very honorable and it represents the Air Force. I am proud when I see the crowd's reaction."

The Black Eagles represent the ROKAF and only the top pilots are selected through a rigorous process, Young explained. They must have graduated in the top third of their class in both basic and advanced flight training and only those with more than 800 flight hours. This process is followed by a series of interviews and discussions. As a final step, each potential candidate must receive unanimous approval from all current Black Eagle team members.

The ROKAF established its first aerobatic team in 1953, flying four F-51 Mustangs until 1958. Four years later, ROKAF formed the Blue Sabre aerobatic team, flying four specially painted F-86 Sabre fighters. The team traded F86s for F-5As beginning with the 1978 air show season.

The Black Eagles were designated as the official aerobatic team of ROKAF in December of 1994. Their first demonstration took place on Sept. 25, 1995. While based with the 238th Squadron from 8th Squadron Wing at Wonju Air Base, the team flew six Cessna A-37B Dragonfly light-attack planes throughout the 2007 show season.