SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. — The Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team is poised to begin an exciting season before the large crowds of local air shows as they demonstrate the power and maneuverability of this premier multi-role fighter.
Viper Demo Team commander Major John “Rain” Waters, who proudly refers to the F-16 Fighting Falcon as a “tremendous asset to our Air Force”, will lead the squadron as the sole pilot poised to perform maneuvers and high speed flat passes at 23 air show sites hosting over 2.1 million in attendance.
The Team, who joined up with fellow airmen of the A-10 Demo Team, and a P-51 Mustang to perform over Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, has released their updated air show schedule which will include stops along the Atlantic coastline and the nation’s heartland.
“We go out there and we’re showcasing the capabilities of a fourth-generation modern fighter and what it’s able to do,” Maj. Waters said. “Showing that in order to get that one airplane airborne, and myself to fly the demonstration, it really takes a whole team.”
The Fighting Falcon, nicknamed “Viper” by its pilots, are now scheduled to perform as many as 50 flight demonstrations during air shows across the United States, including three performances in London, Ontario in September. The crowds below will witness the F-16’s handling characteristics highlighted by great American music.
“Our mission is to inspire the next generation of young men and women to join and serve,” said Air Force chief spokesperson Michelle Clougher of Joint Base Langley-Eustis on Thursday. “Engaging the community is important and by traveling to air shows across the nation we are able to connect with the people who might not have had the opportunity to meet someone who serves in the military.”
Each flight demo will include a series of high performance climbs, flat passes, and several dizzying corkscrew maneuvers. Major Water, who now begins his second season with the team, confirms that these are not stunts, and instead are maneuvers used by pilots deployed overseas and, in some cases, combat situations.
“When I fly the demonstration, it’s not necessarily combat maneuvers what we do, but it shows the agility and the maneuverability of the F-16 of when we go to combat that the aircraft can perform,” Rain explained.
During many of the shows, pyrotechnics will be set off as a Wall of Fire highlights the Viper’s High Speed Pass over the airfield. Once Maj. Waters begins a vertical pull up following a long flat pass, the Wall of Fire will ignite simulating a bombing run.
“The minimum radius turn is an exciting maneuver to fly and watch,” Clougher said without hesitation as we stood near the windy Langley flightline. “It’s impressive to see such a fast jet turn with such a tight turning radius. After pulling 9G’s throughout a turn most fighters would be sluggish and limited on their ability to maneuver but the Viper can still roll, climb, and flip upside down. The minimum radius showcases the speed, maneuverability, and agility of the F-16.”
At the conclusion of the Viper Team’s nearly 20 minute performance, the F-16 will be joined in flight by a legacy aircraft, such as the P-51D Mustang, to begin the crowd favorite portion of most air shows — the Heritage Flight. As the song We Remember plays across the grand stands along the airfield, the F-16 and an Air Force aircraft of yesteryear will perform several low passes around the crowd in a moving tribute to the airmen of the past, present, and future.
Based at Shaw, AFB in Sumter County, South Carolina, the Viper Team has had the honor to proudly display one of the top aircraft for the Air Force. Many of the air shows hosting the Navy’s Blue Angels welcome the Viper Team to give balance with the military branches.
“While the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds are fan favorites, the military jet demo teams offer the opportunity to focus on the capabilities of a single aircraft,” said John Cowman, President of JLC AirShow Management, on Thursday. “The F-16 Viper Team performs an incredible demonstration wowing fans across the United States. For Wings Over Myrtle Beach, the Shaw AFB-based team is a short flight away from our air show in April.”
Maj. Waters will perform at two South Carolina air shows on Saturday, April 28 — Myrtle Beach and Charleston. Waters will pilot the F-16 between the two shows which lie 90 miles apart along the Lowcountry. Joint Base Charleston will also host the Air Force Thunderbirds during its Saturday only show.
Clougher, who also goes by the call sign “Ambush”, later added, “The maximum performance climb is another favorite. The ability to climb from 300 feet to 15,000 feet in a matter of 10 seconds is impressive. For the crowd they truly get a sense of the raw power of nearly 30,000 pounds of thrust with an aircraft that weighs less than 28,000 pounds.”
(Charles A. Atkeison reports on aerospace and science. Follow his updates on social media via @Military_Flight.)