Tampa, Florida, which will host Super Bowl 55, is no stranger to military aircraft soaring overhead.
It’s the home, after all, of MacDill Air Force Base, with a fleet of KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling jets. The base also frequently serves as a temporary beddown for a wide array of military aircraft, often taking advantage of the nearby Avon Park Air Force Range.
But Feb. 7 will be different.
A trifecta of Air Force bombers — a B-1B Lancer from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, a B-2 Spirit from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and a B-52 Stratofortress from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota — will fly over Raymond James Stadium during the national anthem as the visiting Kansas City Chiefs take on the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
B-1+B-2+B-52 = 55, the AIr Force notes. Super Bowl 55. Get it?
The event is historic in two ways.
It’s the first time the big game has been played in the home stadium of one of the contestants.
And Air Force Global Strike Command said the bombers will conduct a first-of-its-kind flyover.
The bombers will soar over the stadium during the final notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” representing more than 1.3 million active-duty service members standing watch while deployed, or at home, according to Gen. Tim Ray, AFGSC commander.
“To our Americans in harm’s way, know that bombers will be there, anytime, anywhere,” Ray said in a statement. “As the only nation in the Western alliance with bombers, we know this flight isn’t just for the Americans watching, but also for our allies and partners around the globe watching this momentous occasion.”
Each aircraft will take off for the Super Bowl flyover from their respective bases, join up for the flyover, and return to base following the event, “demonstrating the flexibility of AFGSC’s bombers and their ability to deploy anywhere in the world from the continental United States,” said Ray.
As is always the case with flyovers and other aerial demonstrations, the question of cost comes into play.
The Air Force, according to the media release, performs close to 1,000 flyovers a year “that serve as a way to showcase the capabilities of our aircraft while also inspiring patriotism and future generations of aviation enthusiasts. These flyovers are done at no additional cost to the taxpayer and serve as time-over-target training for our pilots, aircrew and ground control teams.”
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.