TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Florida  — Just like their combat Falcon counterparts, the Air Force Thunderbirds F-16s are receiving the same upgrades to keep the jets flying for decades into the future, officials said.

The Thunderbirds fly the Block 52 variant F-16C and D models.

The jets have a Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine. On board, the Thunderbirds use the same data link system, LINK 16, much like a warfighter.

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“We use it for situation awareness, in terms of where we’re at in the [temporary flight restriction] and [to see] where the other teammates are,” said Maj. Nick Krajicek, the slot pilot, flying the No. 4 jet.

When asked if the Block 52 variant F-16s will be receiving the same enhancements such as modular computer upgrades and agile beam radars, Lt. Col. Jason Heard, the commander and leading pilot of the air demonstration team, said, “Yeah, pretty much. We would get the last out of the F-16s to receive those upgrades, but we are scheduled.”

Military.com sat down to interview pilots here at the base and took a ride up in the F-16D two-seater on April 21.

 

Military.com looks out the cockpit of the F-16 while in flight with Thunderbird 8. (Photo: Oriana Pawlyk).

The Thunderbirds are sometimes a good testbed for some basic structural upgrades, they said.

“Right now we are the first F-16s to be doing the Service Life Extension Program,” or SLEP, Heard said. “The first to do the bulkhead, required inspections.”

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