There is good reason for this. While it is hardly one of our latest 5th Generation jet fighters (such as the F-22 ‘Raptor’ and F-35 ‘Lightning II‘ ), it is likely nevertheless one of the most popular of all jet fighters still in active service among America’s Allies, most of whom happily continue to operate this extraordinarily versatile and highly maneuverable ship. Powered by only a single jet engine, unlike the F-22 and other popular and more powerful 4th generation fighters, such as the F-14 or F-15, the F-16 is a record-setter from almost any perspective. You sometimes hear this fighter called the “Fighting Falcon,” but it’s far more popularly known by its actual users as the “Viper.”
The F-16 was first manufactured my General Dynamics, but later, in 1993, turned over to Lockheed, which merged with Martin Marietta, to become Lockheed-Martin. Still made for our Allied customers, yet no no longer ordered by the USAF, who first put it into use an astounding 44 years ago, in 1976, this amazing fighter is still very actively used by the USAF!
Also, keep in mind that this new (1976) fighter was quite unusual for this reason alone: The 1st test prototype mode, the YF-16 was one of the first planes in the world have an all fly-by-wire (FBW is a system that replaces the conventional manual flight controls of an aircraft with an electronic interface.) control system. Unlike conventional controls, it didn’t have any direct mechanical connection between the stick and the control surfaces. The YF-16 instead used electronic sensors to read the pilot’s stick inputs and then transmitted that—with computer interpretation—to hydraulic actuators that moved the control surfaces the appropriate amount.
Your webmaster regularly attends graduations of new USAF Viper pilots at nearby Holloman AFB (HAFB), Alamogordo, NM, to take part in graduation ceremonies of their still very active Viper Training School, which clearly remains one of the reasons you hear and see so much about this highly maneuverable fighting machine on our FASF posts.
But let’s take a look at some informative video clips of this remarkable jet, starting with a 4 minute 28 second tour of its ground-breaking cockpit innovations:
[Don’t hesitate to watch any of these video in full-screen mode for maximum viewing quality]
Next, below, is a 9:35 long video of this machine in action, from a cockpit viewpoint. In this video experience you’ll see some quick aerobatic maneuvers that include some high “G” turns, in which you’ll notice how the pilot resorts to some strong and heavy breathing in order to avoid browning or blacking out from the heavy “G” loads that result. Here’s the Viper Demo Team’s Major Craig “Rocket” Baker having fun showing off his Viper. The “G” forces were so great in his final steep climb pull-up, that his cockpit mounted “Go Pro” camcorder stopped recording.
Next, below, we have a 6:36long gander at the USAF’s Thunderbird Demonstration Team at work. Notice that, today, the Thunderbirds still fly this 44 year old jet as their aircraft of choice.
And, lastly, let’s watch this 9:48 long clip of the Viper do its thing during last year’s Air combat exercise Red Flag 19-1, at Nellis Air Force Base (NAFB), with F-16 Vipers from the 64th Aggressor Squadron, other fighter jets, and some good cockpit video. Filmed during Red Flag 19-1: January 26 – February 15, 2019.
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.
A ‘Blue Team‘ F-16 from the 388th Wing, 421st Fighter Squadron, the “Black Widows“, flies high above the Nevada desert during a training exercise. Taking a break from the action below the clouds, this F-16 from Hill Air Force Base prepares to take on fuel from an awaiting KC-135 Tanker from the Washington State Air National Guard.
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.
Graduating students, parents, wives, faculty and guest line up to enter the dining room for the graduation dinner.
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 dessert table had the class cake appropriately designated.
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.
L to R; Public Affairs Office Photographer, Staff Sgt.Christine Groening, listens to Col. Cowboy Crowell describe his tour in Vietnam conflict as Colonel Mario Campos listens. Both men are active FASF members.
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.
Colonel Bob Pitt and AFROTC Major, Ammber Valverde talking about her upcoming career in the USAF and of her intent to also become a fighter pilot. Both are active members of the FASF.
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.
PAO Staff Sergeant Christine Groening and Colonel Bob Pitt.
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.
Lt. Col. Miles “Cowboy” Crowell and Cadet Major Ammber Valverde.
8th Squadron Commander, Lt. Colonel “Harm” Finch, addresses the audience to help kick of the ceremonies.
PAO Staff Sergeant Christine Groeningin action.
L to R: Col. Bob Pitt, LC Miles “Cowboy” Crowell,and Cadet Major Ammber Valverde
8th Tactical Fighter Squadron F-16 Flight Instructor,Capt. Brittany “Blitz” Trimble, who organized the entire event, addresses the audience.
View of North part of Dining Hall at the Holloman Club, with (L to R) in foreground, Cols. Bob Pitt and Miles Crowell
View to the SW in Holloman Club’s Banquet Hall. In foreground (L to R) are Cols. Mario Campos, Bob Pitt and Miles Crowell.
Event’s Guest Speaker, Brig. General Joseph McFall,Asst. Deputy Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and Asst. Vice Commander, 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force.
Graduating Student, Capt. Justin “Hamboar” Goar, presents the class’ thank-you to Guest Speaker, General McFall.
L to R: Captain Justin “Hamboar” Goar, one of the graduating students, presents Capt. Brittany Trimble,with a thank-you gift from the Squadron and its students for having masterminded and planned the entire graduation event – a complex program which unfolded without a hitch!
L to R: Captain Goar, of the 19-CBF graduating Class, presents THE BEST INSTRUCTOR AWARD to Major Locke.
FASF member and Daedalian Flight 24 Captain, Col. Mario Camposdescribes Daedalian History and the Flight’s Leadership Award.
L to R: Cols. Bob Pitt and Miles Crowell along with Cadet Major Ammber Valverde, watch the Daedalian Award presentation by Col. Campos.
Col. Camposcongratulates Leadership Award Trophy winner, Lt. Colin “Huds” Ruane, who will be in his new active duty assignment at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea in a few weeks.
Veteran Viet Nam Fighter Pilot, FASF and Daedalian Flight 24 member, Col. “Cowboy” Crowell presents the coveted “River Rat” trophy to Lt. Austin “Weed” Gillis, who will report to his duty station at Ft. Worth Air Reserve Base in Texas after this graduation ceremony. The “River Rat” award is bestowed upon the student with whom his fellow student fighter pilots would most want to have flying on their wing in combat. The river in the title is the “Red River” and the North Vietnamese Valley through which it flows. The pilots who flew in that theater during Vietnam were affectionately called the “River Rats.”
The 49th Wing Commander, Colonel Joseph Campo (L) presents the Distinguished Student Graduate Trophy to Lt. Domenick “ROK” Stumpo, who will report to Osan Air Base, South Korea, in January 2020.
Again, Col. Campo (L) presents the same “Distinguished Graduate” award to its dual winner, Lt. Seth “Faded” Bolon, who will be reporting to Kunsan Air Base in South Korea for his 1st post graduation duty assignment.
FASF members, (L TO R): Cols. Mario Campos, Bob Pitt, and “Cowboy” Crowell and Ammber Valverde, applaud the graduates as they received their diplomas.
L to R: Cols. Mario Campos, and Bob Pitt,Daedalian Awardee, Lt. “Huds” Ruane, Col. Miles Crowelland River Rat Awardee, Lt. “Weed” Gillis, and Ric Lambart.Photo courtesy of PAO Staff Sergeant, Christine Groening
L to R: Ammber Valverde, Capt. Brittany Trimbleand 49th Wing Commander, Col. Joseph Campo
L to R: Ammber Valverde, Capt. Brittany Trimble, Cols. Bob Pittand Joseph Campo.
Ammber Valverde (L) discussing USAF flight training program with Capt. Brittany “Blitz” Trimble.
Ammber is a Junior at UTEP and with the NMSU AFROTC Detachment 505. She wants also become a fighter pilot.
This was a good opportunity for Ammber to learn what’s ahead for her as she gets prepared for USAF active duty.
Ammberand Capt. Trimble continue to cover Ammber’s future prospects.
Colonel Campoand LC Crowell reliving some of their combat experiences. Col. Crowell, an FASF member and a Flight 24 Daedalian, is now retired from active duty with the USAF, and works at Holloman as a private contractor.
Col. Campos (L) talking with a Master Sergeant assigned to the 8th Fighter Squadron.
Captain Brittany “Blitz” Trimble and Cadet Major Ammber Valverdepose by the 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron’s official Emblem.
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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