US Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team unveils 50th anniversary paint scheme

U.S. Air Force photo

The US Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team unveiled a unique 50th-anniversary paint scheme at Edwards Air Force Base in California on May 15, 2024.  

This unique paint scheme pays tribute to the original design of the YF-16 prototype, featuring the iconic red, white and blue colors it first sported when it took its inaugural flight in 1974.  

The 20th Fighter Wing reported that the full paint job, a task that typically takes three months, was completed in less than eight weeks. 

“When I was hired to be the commander and pilot in the summer of last year, I had made it known that I hoped to find a way to get our airplane painted in the prototype scheme to take America back to the beginning of the story that started 50 years ago,” said Captain Taylor ‘FEMA’ Hiester, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander and pilot. 

The accidental maiden flight of the YF-16 prototype 

The F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter recently celebrated its 50th anniversary since its maiden flight in 1974.  

On January 20, 1974, the F-16 prototype, known as the YF-16, unexpectedly took its maiden flight during taxiing tests. As test pilot Philip Oestricher pushed the throttle, the aircraft reached 240 kilometers (149 miles) per hour and started experiencing unexpected rolling oscillations. Recognizing the risk, the pilot chose to lift the nose, causing the aircraft to leave the tarmac and take to the skies, achieving an unplanned maiden flight. The ‘official’ maiden flight occurred as initially planned on February 2, 1974, with Oestricher at the controls. 

The F-16 entered service in 1979 and has seen numerous iterations. The aircraft is still in production at Lockheed Martin, with over 4,500 units manufactured and around 3,000 jets in active service. 

The F-16 Viper Demonstration Team is set to visit four countries and participate in 25 events during 2024, celebrating the enduring influence of the F-16 Fighting Falcon in military aviation. 

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