Farewell to over 35 years flying the Viper

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Michael Luangkhot
  • 187th Fighter Wing

The 187th Fighter Wing bid farewell to the F-16 Fighting Falcon on April 21, 2023.

Viper Sunset gathered Red Tail alumni, local community leaders, and current members to honor over three decades of providing combat air power with the famous Red Tail F-16s. 

The F-16s have been on numerous missions, including Operation Provide Comfort II, Operation Northern Watch, Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Theater Security Package in Korea, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve.

It is great to see all the alumni coming out to support this exciting moment for the Red Tails,” Col. Jay Spohn, 187th Fighter Wing vice commander. “There has always been tremendous support from the River Region and the state of Alabama. We can’t wait until December to show our local partners a glimpse of the future with the F-35.”

In December 2023, the wing is scheduled to receive its initial batch of F-35 Lightning II aircraft. The transition to fifth generation fighter aircraft will continue to accelerate the Red Tail legacy and ensure the continued employment of combat air power well into the future.

“It has been a long time coming. Some of our maintainers have been working on these jets for more than 20 years,” said Lt Col. Thompson, a squadron commander within the 187th Fighter Wing’s maintenance group.   “Watching one of the last F-16’s take off signifies a bittersweet feeling, but signifies that the F-35 will be here shortly. It is an exciting time because we will be receiving some of the newest jets and they are coming home to the best maintainers in the Nation.”

The F-16 have been an integral part of the fighter wing’s history with its distinguished Red Tails that pay homage to the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. Dating back to 1988, the F-16 has logged more than 80,000 flight hours and since 2012 have dropped over 230,000 munitions around the world.

As this F-16 chapter comes to a close, the next begins with adopting and practicing advanced warfighting tactics and preparing to support the state-of-the-art systems of the F-35.