By Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds public affairs
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. – At a recent air show hosted by Columbus AFB, Miss., the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performed their 2,000th official demonstration in the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The Thunderbirds, officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, have been flying the multi-role fighter aircraft since August 1982. The unit, which dates back to 1953, has flown the F-16 for more than half of its history.
“The F-16 is a remarkable and dependable aircraft,” said Capt. Lucas Buckley, Thunderbirds maintenance officer. “It starts with its design characteristics, but the platform has always had excellent parts supportability, contractor partnership, and engineering oversight from our system program office. But the main reason we’re still flying the F-16 here is the work done by the exceptional Airmen in this squadron, who put in sweat equity each and every day to keep their machines safe, reliable, and effective. They’re an outstanding representation of Air Force maintenance as a whole.”
Produced by Lockheed-Martin, F-16s were introduced into the Air Force inventory in 1978 and are also flown by the Air Force Reserve Command, Air National Guard, and the military air components of 25 other allied countries. It’s been involved in multiple conflicts abroad, including Operations Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Odyssey Dawn.
The versatility of the multi-role fighter is one of the reasons it’s been such a successful demo jet.
“The aircraft is fast, loud, and highly maneuverable,” said Buckley. “That’s what makes it fun and exciting to watch, especially at the relatively low altitudes required in the show.”
The entire 2014 Thunderbirds performance schedule can be found at www.afthunderbirds.com/site/show-season/.