USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team unveils 50th anniversary paint scheme honoring the original livery worn by YF-16 prototype

USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team unveils 50th anniversary paint scheme honoring the original livery worn by YF-16 prototype

By Dario Leone
May 15 2024
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50th anniversary paint scheme honoring the original livery worn by YF-16 prototype

On May 15, 2024 at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) the US Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team unveiled a 50th anniversary paint scheme honoring the original livery worn by the YF-16 prototype which flew for the first time in 1974.

The team worked alongside the 412th Test Wing to complete the original red, white and blue paint scheme in less than 8 weeks, a task that would usually take approximately three months.

“When I was hired to be the commander and pilot in the summer of last year, I had made it known that I hoped to find a way to get our airplane painted in the prototype scheme to take America back to the beginning of the story that started 50 years ago,” said Capt. Taylor “FEMA” Hiester, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander and pilot, in the article The F-16 Viper Demonstration Team releases new 50th anniversary paint scheme, by Senior Airman Meghan Hutton, 20th Fighter Wing.

USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team unveils 50th anniversary paint scheme honoring the original livery worn by YF-16 prototype
The F-16 Viper Demonstration Team aircraft sits on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2024. The aircraft was towed to Rogers Dry Lake, a historic piece of land where the United States’ notable aeronautical achievements have taken place, including the testing of experimental military aircraft, the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager, and landings of the Space Shuttle.

Changes to differentiate the new aircraft from the original livery worn by YF-16 prototype

416th Flight Test Squadron logistics manager, Air Force veteran and director for the Edwards AFB F-16 50th Anniversary event Tony Accurso acted as a liaison between the team and the 412th TW. He participated in the paint project personally as a historical advisor, his enthusiasm for the F-16 Fighting Falcon and vast knowledge of the YF-16 prototype bringing the design to life.

“The importance of this YF-16 paint scheme is celebrating 50 years of the F-16 Viper,” said Accurso. “Everyone at Edwards has a big sense of pride for not only supporting the Viper Demo Team but also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the F-16 which began right here at Edwards in 1974.”

USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team unveils 50th anniversary paint scheme honoring the original livery worn by YF-16 prototype
US Air Force Capt. Taylor “FEMA” Hiester, F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander and pilot, taxis at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 13, 2024. The team will use the 50th anniversary YF-16 paint scheme for the 2024 and 2025 air show seasons.

The swap out of the term “General Dynamics” for “20th Fighter Wing” and the addition “Viper Demo” to the tip of the vertical stabilizer are among the changes done by the team to differentiate the new aircraft.

“The only way that we were able to get started was with the support of the leadership at the 20th Fighter Wing, the home of the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team, who believed in the importance of this project and supported the vision that we had in mind,” said Hiester.

In 2024, the F-16 Viper Demonstration Team will represent Air Combat Command and the Air Force at 25 shows in four countries, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The F-16 First Flight

USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team unveils 50th anniversary paint scheme honoring the original livery worn by YF-16 prototype
The F-16 Viper Demonstration Team tail flash at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 13, 2024. While painting the jet the new scheme, the team decided to make slight changes to differentiate the new aircraft from the original prototype, including swapping out the term “General Dynamics” for “20th Fighter Wing” and adding “Viper Demo” to the top of the vertical stabilizer. 

The first flight of the General Dynamics YF-16 was an unintentional takeoff at Edwards AFB on Jan. 20, 1974.

Phil Oestricher was the test pilot.

As Oestricher explained later, he was conducting high-speed taxi tests, the aircraft lifted off the runway, and rather than risking damage to the aircraft, Oestricher elected to lift off and go around to come in for a normal landing.

USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team unveils 50th anniversary paint scheme honoring the original livery worn by YF-16 prototype
The F-16 Viper Demonstration Team aircraft sits on Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., May 9, 2024. The new paint scheme pays homage to the YF-16 prototype that first flew at Edwards AFB in 1974.

The first “official” flight was made on Feb. 2.

On Jan. 13, 1975 at Edwards AFB, Secretary of the Air Force John L. McLucas announced that the YF-16 had won the Lightweight Fighter (LWF) competition over the Northrop YF-17 for full scale development as the USAF’s next Air Combat Fighter.

The LWF program sought a small, lightweight, low cost, air superiority day fighter designed for high performance and ease of maintenance. The LWF was initiated because many in the fighter community believed that aircraft like the F-15 Eagle were too large and expensive for many combat roles.

Combat-ready status

Louis Gossett Jr., aka Colonel Charles ‘Chappy’ Sinclair who helped Doug Masters to rescue his father in Iron Eagle, passed away
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET  YOURS.  F-16CM Fighting Falcon 20th Fighter Wing, 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers”, SW/94-0044 – Shaw AFB, SC

The F-16A, a single-seat model, first flew in December 1976. The first operational F-16A was delivered in January 1979 to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon achieved combat-ready status in Oct. 1980. Since then many foreign nations, including Belgium, Denmark, Turkey, Egypt and Israel, have purchased the F-16.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin and U.S. Air Force

F-16 model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.



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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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  1. dave_mutant says:

    What a great idea! Nice paint!
    The F-16 and F-104 were two aircraft that epitomized the idea of looking fast even as they sat on the tarmac.

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