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Thunderbirds name new commander

Updated May 5, 2021 - 7:33 pm

A new commander of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds has been selected by Gen. Mark D. Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command.

Lt. Col. Justin Elliott, commander of the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, will become Thunderbird 1, the squadron’s commander and lead pilot for the 2022 and 2023 demonstration seasons.

He will replace Col. John Caldwell following the 2021 show season.

Elliott commissioned from Yale University in 2005 and became an F-15E pilot in 2007. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and has logged over 2,000 hours of flight time with more than 255 hours of combat pilot experience.

The team also selected Maj. Ryan Yingling, of the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron, to serve as Thunderbird 7, the operations officer for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, starting in June. Yingling is an A-10 pilot who has flown more than 3,000 flight hours, including more than 1,000 combat hours.

He will replace Lt. Col. Kevin DiFalco, who will become a commander of another Air Force squadron.

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