With the F-16 getting on in age and the Air Force going full steam ahead with the F-35 there is chatter about if the F-35 will replace the F-16 on the Thunderbird demonstration team.
Watch the F-35 Flying with the Thunderbirds
“Certainly, the F-35 is a very agile airplane — super capable,” said Lt. Col. Jason Heard, commander and leading pilot of the air demonstration team. “Whenever they do make that decision, they may look at the F-35 as the logical next choice if we’re going to continue that narrative of a combat aircraft.”
“[But] a lot of its capabilities would not be visual in an air demonstration: its data links, its ability to network, understand and build a situational picture in a war environment,” Heard said. He said the decision is still a few years out, with various cost analyses needed.
“It’s only speculation that it may be the F-35,” he said, though “it is going to be the Air Force’s biggest buy” of combat aircraft. “We need to outfit the combat warfighter with that airplane before the Thunderbirds think about changing to … that aircraft.” – DefenseTech
Some are suggesting that the Air Force should ‘downsize’ the T-birds to a trainer type aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin T-50 if they end up purchasing it. That it would be cheaper and a smarter use of funding than using a $100 million dollar aircraft. If you recall the Thunderbirds did fly the T-38 Talon in the past.
Would it be a smart move for the Air Force to fly a training aircraft for its premier flight demonstration team or the F-35? Let us know your pick by commenting below. Seems like a pretty simple choice unless you are a bean counter.
Featured image of the F-35 flying with the Thunderbirds by the US Air Force