The F-16 Fighting Falcon is the world’s most popular fighter aircraft, with more than 4,600 aircraft delivered to about 30 different countries. Almost half of those, 2,231 to be precise, were delivered to the U.S. Air Force, which is the largest operator of the type with about 1,000 still in service. To showcase the capabilities of this highly successful fighter jet, the Air Force stood up the Viper Demo Team, from the nickname given to the F-16 by pilots and crews.
In the latest episode of his walkaround series, our friend Erik Johnston brought us a tour of the F-16C Block 50 with the Viper Demo Team’s pilot and commander, Major Garret “Toro” Schmitz. Featured in the video is the F-16 #94-0047 which was painted in a special livery, nicknamed “Venom”, and unveiled shortly before the beginning of the 2020 airshow season. Inspired by the F-16’s nickname, snake scales are painted across the airframe, painted in the team’s signature black and yellow colors.
Maj. Schmitz quickly pointed out, at the beginning of the video, an interesting detail about the design of the “Venom” livery. The Viper Demo Team’s patch features a snake coming out of it, so the livery has been designed as if the aircraft was an extension of that snake, originating from the patch painted on the tail and going all the way to the front of the F-16, which represents the head of the snake as it can be seen from the eyes painted below the cockpit.
The clean F-16 can showcase its power and maneuverability in a unique way, compared to an aircraft with its usual loadout of fuel tanks, pods and weapons. For example, as explained by “Toro”, a normal rotation speed of a Viper at mil power (max power without afterburner) would be 146 kts with a takeoff speed of 156 kts. The F-16 in a clean configuration for the demo executes a high-performance takeoff, rotating at just about 100 kts and lifting off at about 120-130 kts in 900 ft of runway.
This is also thanks to the F-16’s engine, which provides 30,000 lb of thrust to the 28,000 lb jet in clean configuration. In this “sports car” version, the pilot can show the crowd what the F-16 can do low to the ground and at the edge of its flight envelope. This completely clean and sleek configuration also allows the Viper to supercruise (as you may already know, supercruise is the ability of an aircraft to fly supersonic without using the afterburner.