The F-16 originated in a 1972 Air Force request for a lightweight air combat fighter (LWF) which was intended as a lower cost companion to the F-15 Eagle. Prototypes began flight testing in 1974 and it was announced as the winner of the LWF competition in 1975. The first full production aircraft were delivered to the Air Force in 1978. Officially named Fighting Falcon the F-16 is almost universally called “Viper” by its pilots. The name was taken from the fighter featured in the television series “Battlestar Galactica” which first aired at the time the F-16 was entering service. The two-seat F-16B is a fully combat capable trainer which retains the full capabilities and performance of the single seat version. Production of the F-16 has outlasted the company that designed it. General Dynamics was bought by Lockheed-Martin in 1993. As of 2017 a total of twenty-seven countries have operated the F-16 with more than 4,500 built. Production is expected to continue through 2017 and Fighting Falcons will likely continue to serve for decades to come.
157th Tactical Fighter Squadron, South Carolina Air National Guard, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina, 1992
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