Our pages and posts have probably mentioned Lockheed-Martin’s F-16 “Viper” fighter even more times than the First Aero’s 1916-17 inveterate Jenny.
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 6:36 long 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.