ALL PHOTOS IN THIS POST MAY BE SEEN* IN HI RESOLUTION BY SIMPLY CLICKING ON THEM
This Saturday, five active FASF members were again invited to join the base’s 49th Wing as it graduated the latest group of 11 new USAF Lockheed F-16 “Viper” fighter pilots, all members of the 8th Fighter Squadron’s Class 19-CBF.
Attending the evening’s celebratory dinner were Daedalian Flight 24’s Flight Captain, Colonel Mario Campos, it’s Adjutant, Colonel Bob Pitt, Ric Lambart, Colonel Miles “Cowboy” Crowell, and AFROTC Cadet Major, Ammber Valverde, Daedalian Scholarship recipient and currently the youngest member of the FASF. Ammber is a Junior at both the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) AFROTC Detachment 505.
11 F-16 Viper student pilots graduated from the 8th Fighter Squadron’s F-16 Basic Course, during a ceremony at Club Holloman, Saturday, December 14th, 2019.
The F-16 B-Course is a 37-week long course required for all student pilots. On average, B-Course students log 70 hours of flying time over 59 sorties in addition to roughly 245-hours of academic training and 69-hours of flight simulator training.
The 49th Wing is the Air Force’s premiere F-16 and MQ-9 Reaper aircrew training wing. Graduates of the F-16 B-course will be reassigned to operational flying units throughout the world as members of the combat Air Force.
Well into its middle age (it was 1st flown 45 years ago in 1974) the “Fighting Falcon” (it’s official original name, which has been almost thoroughly replaced by the more popular and honored name – The “Viper” – one assigned to it by its many pilots over all those years). As seen immediately below, the Viper remains the chosen exhibition jet for the renown USAF Thunderbirds, which have used its extreme maneuverability in their airshows for 36 straight years.
The above video shows some typical operational F-16 Squadrons carrying out their missions including some hi-resolution cockpit footage.
Here are the 11 proud members of the graduating Class19-CBF:
Capt. Justin Goar; 1st Lt. Seth Bolon; 1st Lt. Alexander Drakoulakis; 1st Lt. Austin Gillis: 1st Lt. Michael Kelvin; 1st Lt. Tyler Olson; 1st Lt. Colin Ruane; 1st Lt. Landon Santori; 1st Lt. David Schmitz; 1st Lt. Domenick Stumpo; and 1st Lt. Zachary Tarbox.
Originally designed and manufactured by General Dynamics Corporation and then licensed to for production by Lockheed Martin Corporation, the newest model of the fighter was first put into action just four years ago. It is the newest variant of F-16 fighter jet, known as the F-16V “Viper.” The F-16’s cost the USAF about $38 million each – – – and it cost the USAF about $3 million to train each of these F-16 fighter pilots to master this nimble 4th generation fighter.
The Viper is broadly used throughout the world by powers friendly to the United States, and still remains the preferred aircraft for the world famous USAF Demonstration Team, the “Thunderbirds.“
The Oct. 16 flight in Fort Worth, Texas, marked the first time the venerable fourth-generation fighter flew with an advanced radar like those found on the fifth-generation fighters F-22 and F-35, according to a press release this week from Lockheed.
The F-16V includes an APG-83 active electronically scanned array scalable agile beam radar made by Northrop Grumman Corp. The company also makes so-called active electronically scanned array radars for the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The new radar steers beams electronically — without moving parts — and redirects them from one location to another, according to the Government Accountability Office. Unlike a passive version, the radar spreads signals over multiple radio frequencies, making them difficult to detect and jam, and allowing the aircraft employing the technology to remain stealthy.
The APG-83 “fire control radar provides 5th Generation air-to-air and air-to-ground radar capability,” Lockheed said in the release. It “will deliver a quantum leap in capability for the venerable F-16.”
The F-16V advanced avionics configuration also includes a new cockpit center pedestal display, a modernized mission computer and a high-capacity Ethernet data bus, according to Lockheed.
Yet the upgrades aren’t slated to hit the U.S. fleet of more than 1,000 F-16s. The Air Force last year canceled a plan to upgrade some 340 of the single-engine fighters with such enhancements due to budget limitations and instead decided to fund other programs, including the F-35.
So Taiwan is set to become the first country to begin flying the F-16V Viper.
Lockheed, the world’s largest defense contractor, faces competition from the British defense giant, BAE Systems Plc, in the international market to upgrade many of the 3,000 F-16s now flying in foreign armed forces.
Of those, roughly 1,000 are more than 15 years old — making them prime candidates for enhancements to avoid obsolescence. While the F-16 won’t ever compete in the skies with newer jets like the F-22 or F-35, upgrading fourth-generation aircraft is far cheaper than buying fifth-generation fighters.
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