Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nearly 40 Years of Fighting Falcons

You know, I don't like being beat to the punch, nor do I like being late, especially for an anniversary. And when that date just so happens to be for a subject as dear to my heart as the F-16, it really grinds my gears. Couple that with the fact that I'm building a model F-16 and I might as well be sleeping in the dog house tonight...
What can I say? Happy belated anniversary to you, you beautiful little fighter.

The first YF-16 rolled off the production line in December of 1973, but it did not make its first flight until January 20th, 1974. In a somewhat interesting turn of events, it took to its wings for the first time completely by accident. Apparently, during a high speed taxi test, a problem with roll-control oscillation caused the starboard stabilator to scrape the ground, steering the plane off course. The savvy pilot opted to take off rather than risk further damage to the aircraft. The YF-16's first flight would end six minutes later with a successful landing. The little damage that was done would be repaired in time for its scheduled maiden flight on February 2nd, 1974.

Almost a year later it would be announced that the YF-16 had beaten the YF-17 as the Air Force's next premier air combat fighter. General Dynamics began manufacturing the F-16s in Fort Worth, Texas and the first F-16A emerged on October 20th, 1976, with the initial production standard model flying for the first time in August 1978. The following year, the United States Air Force would take its first delivery and was given its official nickname "Fighting Falcon" in July of 1980. The 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing based out of Hill AFB would receive the first operational F-16s on October 1st, 1980.

Since then, the F-16 has seen numerous upgrades and has been delivered to at least 28 different countries, including Israel, Greece, and Taiwan. It has seen involvement in conflicts across the globe, from Operation Desert Storm, to recent engagements in Operation Enduring Freedom. It is scheduled to see service until 2025 when it is projected to be replaced my the F-35 JSF...we shall see.

Its first flight might have been a little rocky, but it developed into a great fighter with a wide range of capabilities. I'll be sure to wish her a happy 39th anniversary when I see her at drill...even if it is a bit late.

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