Thursday, October 20, 2011

The F-16 Naming The Fighting Falcon

F-16 in Dutch Livery - Photo Chris Lord
 Ever wondered about the origin of the name "F-16 Fighting Falcon"? Or is it F-16 Viper? And what is wrong with F16? This article provides a short overview of the official designation and names for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and some of the commonly used nicknames. F-16 Fighting Falcon, not F16 Fighting Falcon 
The US Tri-Service Designation System for aircraft defines a standard notation for aircraft models. In its basic form, it consists of: a capital letter denoting the basic mission (e.g. 'F' for fighter, 'A' for attack) a mandatory dash '-' plus the design number (e.g. 14, 15, 16, 117, 130). According to this standard, F-16 is the only correct designation for the Fighting Falcon. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for (non-aviation) publications to incorrectly use F16 Fighting Falcon or even f16 Fighting Falcon. 
The name "Fighting Falcon" 
USAF F-16A block 10 #79-0290 at the Naming Ceremony at Hill AFB, Utah wearing a large 'Fighting Falcon' badge behind the cockpit. The U.S. Air Force officially named the F-16 "Fighting Falcon" on July 21st, 1980, during a ceremony at Hill AFB in Utah (the home of the first F-16 unit). At the ceremony F-16A #79-0290 sported a special logo painted by Salt Lake City artists Matt and Mark Waki. Four years earlier, in 1976, the Department of the Air Force had organized a "Name-the-Plane Contest" for the F-16 at MacDill AFB in Florida. The winning entry was submitted by TSgt. Joseph A. Kurdell, the Photo Sensor Shop Supervisor for the 1st TFW A&E sqn. On May 11th, 1976, TSgt. Kurdell received an official letter from the Department of the Air Force, congratulating him for submitting the prize-winning entry in the "Name-the-Plane Contest", winning him a free dinner at the MacDill NCO Mess. TSgt. Joseph Kurdell explains where he got the inspiration for the name: "Prior to being stationed at MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida and after a short tour in Korea, I was teaching at the Photographic Engineering School at Lowery Air Force Base in Colorado. Being in the vicinity of the Air Force Academy, my family and I used to visit there quite often especially during their football seasons. As you probably know the Falcon (the bird species) is the school mascot, so this is where I got the idea from when given the opportunity to name an aircraft. " The name "Fighting Falcon" also helped distinguish the F-16 from the "Falcon" series of business jets from French manufacturer Dassault.
In the early 90's the Lockheed Company acquired the Fort Worth Division of the General Dynamics Corporation, thus the right to produce and sell the F-16 Fighting Falcon. 
Lockheed then merged with Martin Marietta in the middle 90's to make Lockheed Martin, or Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems (a.k.a. LMTAS). So that's why the General Dynamics F-16 became the Lockheed Martin F-16 or LMTAS F-16. Nowadays it's simply referred to as LM (Lockheed-Martin). 

Going Up - Photo Chris Lord

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