The "Acrojets" aerobatic display team was formed in June 1948 from within the USAF Fighter School at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. Their first performance was at the Fighter School graduation class in 1948.
The team is significant for being the first official demonstration team of USAF, the first demonstration team after World War II, and the first which flew jets, four Lockheed F-80A Shooting Star. The team later transitioned to the F-80C and finally to the T-33.
The first team included only flight instructors: Maj. Howard Jensen as the leader, Lt. Michael Smolen as left wing, Capt. Benjamin F. Yearger (replaced soon by Capt. Jones E. Bolt), as right wing, Maj. Walter Selenger in the slot and Capt. Robert Tomlinson as the spare pilot.
In March 1949, the USAF recognized the team as an "official" unit.
The "Acrojets" first performed the now well known "bomb-burst" maneuver followed by a crossing maneuver, which Thunderbirds transcribed as its own trade mark.
The team's first incident in the team occurred in mid-1949 during a practice flight, when right wing pilot, Capt. Bolt, accidentally hit the left wing pilot, Lt. Michael Smolen's airplane. Both planes received minor damage to the wingtip lights.
These early jets were not as reliable or as responsive as today's combat aircraft. The F'80's J-33 engine was very slow to accelerate and would quit if the pilot added too much throttle all at once. In 1949, the team received the more powerful F-80C aircraft.
In 1951, four of the "Acrojets" team pilots were reassigned to Korean War units and only Michael Smolen stayed at the Fighter School to recruit new "Acrojets" pilots.
During the production of the 1951 film "Air Cadet", the "Acrojets" flew many of the flying sequences and Lt. Smolen was the technical advisor for the film.
Lt. Michael Smolen performed with the team for a last time on May 6, 1951, after which he was reassigned to Waco, Texas. In 1955, this famous jet instructor created yet another aerobatic display team, when he was stationed at Fuerstenfeldbruck Air Base, West Germany. Once again, this new team was named the "Acrojets". But this time, the "Acrojets" were under the command of USAFE (United States Air Force in Europe) and flew four T-33 aircraft.
The USAFE "Acrojets" aerobatic display team were disbanded in 1957. The Fuerstenfeldbruck Air Base also became home to the "Skyblazers" aerobatic team.