Meeting/Event Information

Desert Thunder 2018

October 18, 2018 12:00 PM EDT to October 20, 2018 11:45 PM EDT

Jacqueline Cochrane Airport (TKRM)
86-400 Lightning Street
Thermal, CA 92274


OCTOBER 18th – OCTOBER 20th, 2018


 Desert Thunder Re-Imagined….AGAIN!  Come to Jacqueline Cochrane Airport in Thermal, California to participate in some challenging tactical flying with airborne threats! This year’s event will build on the challenges presented last year using new routes and new targets, with an increase in the level of complexity.  It is anticipated that the ATOC (Allied Tactical Operations Center) will assign strike packages, targeting critical enemy assets deep within hostile territory. 

Strike packages will consist of multiple strike aircraft, with possible fighter escort and tanker support.  AWACs (“Big Eye”) assets will be tasked to support tactical operations. Targets of opportunity within the strike zone will also be assigned by the FAC/SEAL team that has infiltrated into the heart of enemy territory. Fighter escorts may also be tasked to operate in a FLAK suppression or force protection CAP role.

Strike pilots will need to possess extraordinary radio discipline, lookout, tactical co-ordination, situational awareness, and a little luck to survive in this environment. There may even be real time kill removal to add realism to the scenario.

Strike packages will be fiercely opposed by a near-peer adversary force with unique capabilities.  Recent intelligence on this “Red Air” threat suggests an increase enemy capability and numbers.  Participants will need to bring their “A game”!  “The battle may be won or lost before you ever man the aircraft”…….Prepare in advance and be flexible.

To conquer the command of the air means victory; to be beaten in the air means defeat and acceptance of whatever terms the enemy may be pleased to impose.

 General Giulio Douhet, “Command of the Air”, 1921.

This scenario driven tactical event is carefully planned and closely controlled in real time, with the prime objective of optimizing safety and ensuring an even playing field.  Participation is limited due to operational constraints. Non-RPA aircraft such as T-6, T-28, Extras, T-34 and other bubble canopy aircraft are very welcome.  Aircraft with warbird heritage will be given priority for registration.  We reserve the right to deny participation to anyone. 

 Be prepared for some “SERIOUS FLYING AND SERIOUS FUN” at

 Desert Thunder Re-Imagined, Again!




SAFETY IS THE FIRST MISSION PRIORITY.  Participants must be FAST qualified and current in Tactical Formation (Tac Form). You may participate as a GIB if you do not possess a FAST card or if you are new to this environment.  Participation in all safety briefings, the tactical formation briefing, the close air support briefing and the mission scenario briefing is mandatory for anyone desiring to participate in the actual tactical event. 

Experienced pilots are available to work with qualified pilots not familiar with this environment.  Open back seats are usually available for first timers to gain experience and proficiency in the different skill sets required of participants. 


  1. Pilots, GIBS and guests are required to complete a separate registration ticket. 
  2. Registration closes 5 days prior to event. Please register if you expect to be fed or included in the flight schedule. Our resources, budget and meal counts hinge on pilots and participants populating this registration form. 
  3. If there was an error or you have a change to your registration, please email Grins (
  4. The detailed event schedule, the Operational Brevity Code and other advanced material will be forwarded to all registered participants prior to the event. In the meantime, you should be working on your tactical formation and defensive maneuvering. 


  1. Event fee is $175 for all pilots/GIBS and $125 for guests (non-flyers).
  2. Thursday evening dinner is on your own. The fee includes the Friday night BBQ at the airport, Saturday night's banquet, lunch both days (Friday and Saturday) and the event T-shirt. 


Hotel:  We have a special room group rate $169/night (king bed) or $179/night (two queen beds) at the Embassy Suites by Hilton La Quinta Hotel and Spa.  PLEASE reserve early, as the hotel is expecting to be full this year!!    Note: The special room rate will be available until September 18th or until the group block is sold-out, whichever comes first.

To reserve your room please click the link here to be directed to the Embassy Suites RPA Group reservation page.

  • Group Code: RSP
  • Check-in: 18-OCT-2018
  • Check-out: 21-OCT-2018
  • Phone Number: 760-238-9034 or 1-888-386-1126
  • Hotel Address:  50-777 Santa Rosa Plaza, La Quinta, CA  92253

      Do not wait until the last minute - reserve your room now!!

Rental Cars: Rental cars will be available through Enterprise Rental Cars. Please book through Desert Jet Center, mentioning “Desert Thunder” when you book. Call 1-800-338-5876 or email to make your reservation. Cars will be available for pick-up and drop-off right at the jet center. (Economy $30/day, Mid-Size $35/day and SUV $60/day)

FBO SupportThis year we will move to Desert Jet.  They are new, major jet center that is trying to make their mark at Thermal, and they are succeeding.  There service is excellent, as they will provide hangar space for our briefings (next year we will use their new buildings, with conference/briefing rooms and lounge facilities – currently under construction).  They have also agreed to provide refueling operations at a price reasonably above self-serve.  We are committed to refueling through them in exchange for the use of their facilities and for their ramp support, as with previous arrangements with local FBOs.  You will not be disappointed!   

 Please direct any administrative questions to Rachelle ‘Grins’ Gary at: and operational questions to Dean ‘Frito’ Friedt at:  or mobile (602) 882-3326.



$175.00 PILOT/GIB - Desert Thunder Event Fee

$125.00 Guest (Non-Flyer) Desert Thunder Event Fee