Since 1953 the USAF Thunderbirds have been world renown as being one of the best aerial demonstration teams. Today they fly the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. At the recent Joint Base Lewis McChord Air Expo 2012 (July) I got to see them again for the first time since 2009. As always they put on a great show!
Prior to operating the F-16, the Thunderbirds flew a great line of classic fighter jets:
- Republic F-84G Thunderjet (1953-1954).
- Republic F-84F Thunderstreak (1955-1956).
- North American F-100C Super Sabre (1956-1963).
- Republic F-105 Thunderchief (1964) – these were only used for a few shows and replaced due to crew safety concerns!
- North American F-100D Super Sabre (1964-1968).
- McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II (1969-1973) – I would have loved to have seen the team flying the “Phabulous Phantom”!
- Northrop T-38 Talon (1974-1981) – the great fuel crisis of the 1970’s saw the team have somewhat of a downgrade from a large fighter jet to a less powerful jet trainer.
- General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon (1983 to present) – the Thunderbirds did not fly in 1982 as they transitioned to the new jet fighter.