TDYs, deployments, and milestones, oh my! The Viper community has been very busy in the last month. There have been quite a few deployments of varying length (so to speak), and some awesome milestones have been reached as well.

Col. Gregory Jones (right), 944th Operations Group commander, is congratulated by Col. Kurt Gallegos, 944th Fighter Wing commander, after completing 4000 hours of flying Jan. 8, 2015, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Jones and Gallegos are two out of 42 pilots in the Air Force who have reached this milestone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lausanne Kinder)
Col. Gregory Jones (right), 944th Operations Group commander, is congratulated by Col. Kurt Gallegos, 944th Fighter Wing commander, after completing 4000 hours of flying Jan. 8, 2015, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Jones and Gallegos are two out of 42 pilots in the Air Force who have reached this milestone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lausanne Kinder)

On January 9th Colonel Gregory Jones, commander of the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 944th Operations Group at Luke AFB, Arizona, reached a milestone that very few Viper drivers can say they have had the fortune of reaching.

He hit 4,000 hours of flight time in the jet. Only 42 other pilots in the history of the Lockheed-Martin design have ever reached or exceeded this amount of stick time.

He is in rare company at Luke. Colonel Jones and 944th Fighter Wing commander, Colonel Kurt Gallegos, are the only two pilots to hit this mark. Jones’ next assignment will be at 10th Air Force Headquarters, NASJRB Fort Worth.

RNlAF Air Task Force Middle East, Det. 2 assigned Viper prepping for a sortie. The Dutch contingent in the fight against ISIS just hit the 2,000 hour mark.
RNlAF Air Task Force Middle East, Det. 2 assigned Viper prepping for a sortie. The Dutch contingent in the fight against ISIS just hit the 2,000 hour mark.

Last week Dutch Air Force Air Task Force Middle East (1 NLD ATF ME), Det. 2 reached 2,000 flight hours in Operation Inherent Resolve. During their fight against ISIS, ATF ME has generated 400 sorties and expended munitions 240 different times.

Also last week, on 17 January, fourteen F-16s from the 18th Aggressor Squadron and 150 airmen from the 354th MXG departed Eielson AFB for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Andersen AFB, Guam. This deployment will be supporting upcoming PACAF exercises.

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The 18th Aggressor Squadron flagship takes to the sky from Eielson Air For Base outside of Fairbanks, Alaska for a training sortie.
The 18th Aggressor Squadron flagship takes to the sky from Eielson Air For Base outside of Fairbanks, Alaska for a training sortie.

Last and most certainly not least, just a short while ago, 20 January, was the 41st anniversary of YF-16 Flight Zero. During a high-speed taxi test, the first prototype aircraft, 72-1567, decided she was ready to fly. With General Dynamics test pilot Phil Oestricher at the controls, the aircraft took to the sky! Kind of… After a gnarly battle with her brand new fly-by-wire flight control system and some intense pilot-induced oscillation, at about 10 feet AGL, Oestricher advanced the throttle and let go of the stick.

Without the extra control inputs the aircraft flew out of immediate danger safely in a slight left bank. With his pucker factor back under seat-sucking levels, Oestricher brought her around and landed without further incident. After a thorough investigation into the test data and inspection of the aircraft, it was determined that there was a faulty wire bundle that wouldn’t allow the exhaust nozzle to open, which would have decreased thrust enough to keep the YF-16 on the ground. It was the first flight in a beautiful career that has seen the Viper grow into the many vital roles that she was never meant to perform.

(Featured Image Courtesy: Jason Hyatt)