F-16 Fighting Falcon...‘Viper’ 

Attempting to tell the full story of the F-16 in a few short paragraphs is an impossible task. Our intention here, following a brief introduction, is to list and summarize all current USAF fighter, test and training wings which operate the Viper, and to illustrated each unit with a captioned, thumb nailed photo. On the right are links to each section.

Shot from the tower of Kunsan AB, F-16C 86-0317/WP from the 80th Fighter Squadron departs on another training mission. The 80th are assigned to the 8th Fighter Wing and operate Block 30 F-16C/D's.
© Alec Fushi - Flightline Photography

Currently the most numerous military aircraft in service with the United States Air Force, and in abundant use with foreign air arms throughout the world, the F-16 is the most successful jet fighter since the superlative McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II.

The F-16 was conceived from General Dynamics  response to the USAF requirement for a low-cost air superiority fighter, the LWF (Lightweight Fighter).

Once selected for the USAF, a series of eight pre-production F-16As were produced for the development programme. These aircraft featured a revised nose shape, containing a more powerful radar, and increases in structural strength and wing area. With indications of a planned purchase of 1,388 aircraft by the USAF, the first production F-16A was formally accepted on 6 January 1979, by the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah. The first Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units to receive Falcons were the 466th Tactical Fighter Squadron also at Hill and the 169th Tactical Fighter Squadron, South Carolina ANG at McEntire ANGB.
The prototype YF-16 was constructed at the General Dynamics plant at Fort Worth, Texas, and made its maiden flight at Edwards AFB, California, on 20 January 1974. Throughout 1974 the two YF-16 prototypes performed against the Northrop YF-17 Cobra in an exhaustive USAF evaluation programme. By September of that year, the YF-16 was declared the winner of the ‘fly-off’, now renamed as the ACF (Air Combat Fighter).
Capt. Robert D. Kosciusko , "Koz" of the 78th FS, 20th FW prepares to start his Block 50D F-16C at Shaw AFB in October 1999 leading a four-ship training mission as "King 51".
© Kevin Jackson
Twenty one years later, during which the F-16 has entered service throughout the world, and fought and won major conflicts, the 388th FW at Hill still flies the Viper. Following the end of the Cold War in Europe, and the 1991 Gulf conflict, the USAF has seen major reorganizing and down sizing, with a number of active duty Fighter wings disbanded. At the same time, the F-16 has matured, with further engine, radar and avionics upgrades - with the F-16C/D block 50/52 the latest version.
Air Combat Command in 2000 now has just six wings flying F-16C/Ds, but conversely Air Force Reserve Command now flies four Viper wings, and the Air National Guard operate the Falcon with an impressive twenty eight wings, covering all major types through F-16A/B, F-16 ADF and F-16C/D, in the air defence, air-to-ground, CAS and SEAD missions.

The real strength of the United States Air Force is the depth of its reserve forces, with crews now with up to twenty years and thousands of flight hours experience of Viper operations.

Still in production at the dawn of the Twenty First Century, now under the banner of Lockheed Martin, and with fifth generation fighter programmes such as the F-22 Raptor and the Joint Strike Fighter suffering ever spiralling complexity and costs, the F-16 is set to dominate the air combat arena for many years to come...Long live the Viper.

77 FS "Gamblers" F-16C 91-0353 sporting a MiG-29 kill as well as five HARM shots achieved while the aircraft was part of the 78th EFS, 31st Air Expeditionary Wing at Aviano AB in Italy during Allied Force. The Yugoslavian MiG-29 was shot down by an AIM-120B AMRAAM on May 4th 99 by a pilot with the call sign "Dog".
© Kevin Jackson


This Profile would not have been possible to do without the photographic assistance of the many photographers who allowed us to use their slides. Therefore we would like to offer our thanks to:

Alec Fushi (Flightline Photography), Don Logan, Doug Slowiak (Vortex Photo Graphics), Brian C Rogers, Daniel Soulaine, Jerry Geer, Matt Geer, Philippe Colin, Craig Baldwin, Kevin Jackson, Peter Rolt, Jarrod Wilkening, Bruce Trombecky, Fred Krause, Tom Kaminski, Duncan Adams, Steve Hill (EMCS), Kevin Patrick and Robert Greby.

USAF & Navy '99 (Mach III plus publication)   World Air Power Journal (various issues)
349 Net website   USMIL (Aviation Associates)
J.Baugher's Serial website (F-16 Production lists)   MIL-SPOTTERS Forum
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