The Thunder Airbirds were the Air Demonstration Squadron of the USAF. The Thunderbirds performed aerobatic formation and solo-flying in specially marked US Jet aircraft.
The Squadron was activated, after six months training in unoffficial status on January 1, 1953 as the 3600th Air Demonstration Team based in Arizona. Their debut expedition was flown a week later and began public exhibitions at the 1953 Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming. By August, the team had flown 26 shows. the first team leader was Major General Dick catledge. the first plane flown by the squadron was the F-84 Thunderjet.
The next year, the Thunderbirds performed their first overseas show in South America. the squadrons aircrafts were changed drastically by the years; In 1995, they changed their aircraft to 84-F Thunderstreak; In 1956, they changed it to F-100 superSabre; then the team switched to F-35 Thunderchief after the disbanding of the Skyblazers. The Thunderbirds also faced several disasters and challenges; While practicing the 4 plane diamond loop, four crew members/pilots died and it was due to the pilots miscalculations.
It was then in 1982, that the team switched to F-16A Fighting Falcon. This transition was already under consideration before the Diamond Crash in January 18, 1982.
The F-16A was initially equipped with the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 pulse dropper radar, Pratt and Whitney F-100-PW-200, rated at 14,670 lbF (106.0 kN) with afterburner. The USAF bought F-16As with delivery completed in March 1985.
The Thunderbirds still continue to fly the F-16 until today.
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