F-16 Turns 50 Special: What It Takes To Become A Viper Pilot | Aviation

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U.S. Air Force Maj. Daniel Thompson, 8th Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, conducts an F-16 Viper training sortie over White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, Aug. 22, 2023. The 54th Fighter Group is one of the premier fighter pilot training groups, training over 50 percent of the Air Force’s Viper pilots. The extensive training takes students fresh from Undergraduate Pilot Training and molds them into highly skilled, combat-ready aviators prepared to support combatant command priorities in any potential future conflicts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

Before flying the Viper operationally, pilots have to get through the nine-month B-Course which provides them with the Initial Qualification Training on the F-16.

During its 50 years, the F-16 has become one of the most recognizable fighter jets in service, also thanks to the fact that it is currently the most operated fighter jet around the world and the backbone of the U.S. Air Force. Multiple books, films and videogames feature the Viper, but have you ever wondered what it takes to fly the real one?

The training of F-16 pilots has been a much-discussed topic since the announcement of the donation of F-16s to Ukraine, however there are some misconceptions about it. The F-16 has been designed to be easy to fly and indeed its pilots confirm this, but it is not as easy as turning the key and stomping the feet on the throttle in a car.

In this article we will talk about how the U.S. Air Force trains F-16 pilots, as the service trains not only its pilots, but also the ones of many international operators. The latter train in Tucson with the 162nd FW of the Arizona ANG, while the former train with the 56th FW at Luke AFB, Arizona, and the 49th FW at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

Holloman AFB is now the main training base for F-16 pilots in the USA as the Formal Training Units were moved there to make space for the F-35 training at Luke AFB, where only the 309th Fighter Squadron continues to…

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