Lockheed Martin F-16CM Fighting Falcon (96-0080 / SP) from the United States Air Force at the RIAT 2019, RAF Fairford (United Kingdom)
The Air Combat Command F-16 Viper Demonstration Team at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, performs precision aerial manoeuvres to demonstrate the unique capabilities by one of the Air Force's premier multi-role fighters, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The team also flies in Air Force Heritage Flight formations, exhibiting the professional qualities the Air Force develops in the people who fly, maintain and support these aircraft. The team's F-16CM Fighting Falcon, affectionately known as the "Viper", is a single-seat, multi-role fighter with the ability to switch from an air-to-ground to air-to-air role at the touch of a button. With its lightweight airframe and powerful General Electric engine generating 31.000 pounds of thrust, the F-16 can fly at speeds in excess of Mach 2. The Viper Demo Team is flown by Major Garret Schmitz and looked after by Master Sergeant Chris Schneider.
The 480th Fighter Squadron, the "Warhawks", was activated in 1957 at England Air Force Base, Louisiana as the 480 Fighter Bomber Squadron, flying the North American F-100 Super Sabre. After a tumultuous deactivation / reactivation period in the late 50s, the 480th was reactivated as the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) on 8 May 1962, under United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), and based at Chaumont and later Phalsbourg-Bourscheid Air Base, France flying first the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak and later the North American F-100 Super Sabre. The 480 TFS and its F-100s were reassigned to Holloman AFB, New Mexico, in 1963 and in 1965 the squadron began to receive McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II fighters. It was deployed to Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam, in February 1966 as part of USAF buildup in Southeast Asia and was engaged in combat operations, mostly over North Vietnam, from 1966–1971. During this period, the squadron scored nine MiG kills, including the first MiG-21 kill of the Vietnam War, and received two Presidential Unit Citations. Also during this period a member of the 480 TFS, Captain Lance Sijan, became the first Air Force Academy graduate to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism as a prisoner in North Vietnam. In 1969 the 480 TFS moved to Phu Cat Air Base, South Vietnam, then to Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, South Vietnam in 1970. With the drawdown of American forces in South Vietnam, Warhawks flew their last combat mission, and the last combat sortie from Cam Ranh Bay, on 20 October 1971. The squadron deactivated November 1971. The Warhawks were reactivated in 1976 as part of the 52 Tactical Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, flying the McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II, the F-4E and then F-4G as part of the "Wild Weasel" Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) mission.
In March 1987, the Warhawks began flying the Air Force's newest fighter, the F-16C Fighting Falcon (AKA Viper) and during Gulf War I received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Citation for Valor. Cold War military reductions forced the 480 TFS into temporary retirement in 1994, but the Great Warhawk Nation was reactivated in 2010 as the 480 Fighter Squadron flying the Lockheed Martin F-16CM Block-50 as part of 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem, Germany. Today the squadron is the only United States Air Force SEAD squadron in Europe, and the Warhawks proudly carry on the Wild Weasel legacy and the tradition of "First In, Last Out"!
The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) is the world's largest military air show, held annually over the third weekend in July,
usually at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England in support of The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust.
The show typically attracts a total of 150.000 to 160.000 spectators over the weekend.