The General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon is currently the most numerous combat aircraft in NATO. Originally developed for the USAF as a day fighter, the F-16 has evolved into a highly capable multi-role combat aircraft that despite flying for the first time in 1974 is still in production. Over 4,500 F-16s have been produced over the past 49 years and 3,000 of them are still in service with 25 nations around the world. The most recent version is called the Block 70/72 and includes a new cockpit, computers, an advanced AESA radar based on the one installed in the F-35.
Belgium originally ordered 160 F-16As which were licence built by SABCA. Today the fleet stands at 54 aircraft that have been updated to the F-16AM MLU specification which includes the Link 16 datalink, Helmet Sight, Targeting Pods, new computers and the ability to use the Aim-9X Sidewinder providing a full multi-role capability. The Belgian Air Force will begin to retire their remaining F-16s during 2023 in lieu of the F-35A arriving at Florennes Air Base in 2025. Belgium have ordered 34 F-35As to replace the F-16.
The Belgian Air Force will be sending a trio of F16s to this years Air Tattoo including a pair of static F-16AMs with one from both 349 and 350 Squadrons. The Belgian Air Force F-16 solo display is widely regarded as one of the best F-16 solo displays in Europe and this will also be appearing at RAF Fairford. The solo display uses a specially painted F-16AM known as the Dream Viper and is flown by Steven "Vrieske" De Vries.
Photo Credit: Paul Fiddian
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