Like The Viper Demo Team? Then You Must Watch This F-16C “Venom” Walkaround
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is the most well-known fighter aircraft in the world, having been delivered to over 30 countries. The United States Air Force received nearly half of them, 2,231 in total, and is the largest operator of the type, with approximately 1,000 still in service. The Air Force formed the Viper Demo Team, named after the nickname given to the F-16 by pilots and crews, to demonstrate the capabilities of this highly successful fighter jet.
Erik Johnston, who is an aviation videographer/photographer recently uploaded an amazing video where he is taking us on a tour of the F-16C Block 50 with Major Garret “Toro” Schmitz, the Viper Demo Team’s pilot and commander, in the latest episode of his walkaround series. The video features the F-16 #94-0047, which was painted in a special livery dubbed “Venom” and unveiled shortly before the 2020 airshow season. Snake scales, inspired by the F-16’s nickname, are painted across the airframe in the team’s signature black and yellow colors.
Maj. Schmitz quickly pointed out an interesting detail about the design of the “Venom” livery at the start of the video. The Viper Demo Team’s patch has a snake coming out of it, so the uniform was created to look like the aircraft was an extension of that snake, starting with the tail patch and continuing to the front of the F-16, which represents the snake’s head as seen through the eyes painted below the cockpit.
In comparison to a conventionally loaded aircraft with fuel tanks, pods, and weapons, the clean F-16 can demonstrate its power and maneuverability in ways that no other aircraft can. The average rotation speed of a Viper at mil power (maximum power without afterburner) is 146 knots, with a takeoff speed of 156 knots, according to “Toro.” In its clean configuration, the F-16 performs a high-performance takeoff from a 900-foot runway, rotating at approximately 100 knots and lifting off at approximately 120-130 knots.
This is also due to the engine of the F-16, which produces 30,000 lb of thrust in the clean mode for the 28,000 lb jet. In this “sports car” configuration, the pilot can demonstrate to the crowd what the F-16 is capable of doing low to the ground and at the edge of its flight envelope. Additionally, due to the Viper’s sleek and clean design, it is capable of super cruising (as you may know, supercruise is the ability of an aircraft to fly supersonically without using its afterburner).
The tour continues with an overview of the Viper’s mission capabilities, which have evolved from day-only light fighter to all-weather multirole fighter. The F-16 Block 50’s Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD) mission is unique, and Shaw Air Force Base, home of the Viper Demo Team, is the only active-duty CONUS-based F-16 base with this mission. Because of its high maneuverability, the F-16 is thought to be the best aircraft for this mission because it can create a large miss distance if it misses threat radars before being engaged.
The F-16 is equipped with dedicated systems for the “Wild Weasel” role, including the AN/ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System (HTS) pod. The AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) missile and Electronic Counter Measures pods, typically the AN/ALQ-131 and AN/ALQ-184 self-protection jammers. The HTS pod allows for the identification and location of active threat radars and the transmission of this information to the HARM for engagement. The HARM can also be used as a sensor in the pilot, but the HTS pod provides more flexibility.
The F-16 also has a hydrazine-powered Emergency Power Unit (EPU), which provides enough power to the flight controls to keep the plane flying if the engine fails. The F-16 uses the EPU as a last resort among its multiple redundancies to allow the pilot to fly the aircraft to a safe place to land or a location where an ejection can be performed in the event of a complete power failure safely. The F-16 is completely Fly By Wire and has no mechanical connection between flight surfaces and cockpit controls.
According to Maj, the missile rail launchers on the wingtips, which are never removed even when the F-16 is in a clean configuration, deserve special mention. Schmitz, the reason for this is simple: their presence allows pilots to push the Viper to its limits by providing wing stability. The aircraft would be airspeed and G-limited if the MRLs were not installed. In certain flight conditions, the wing would resonate, causing wing flutter.
The presence of a missile or a pod on that rail adds even more stability, but it’s not a sign that the wing isn’t up to the job. The wingtip, as Toro mentioned, can easily hold a 500-pound missile (most likely the AIM-120 AMRAAM, which weighs around 350 pounds) at 9G, which translates to 45,000 pounds and it is not a problem for the wing.
Enjoy the full walkaround video below!