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Thunderbirds receive final 2 Block 52 F-16s

November 18, 2008 (by Asif Shamim) - The Standard Examiner reports, Ogden Air Logistics Center delivered the final two, specially-modified block 52 F-16s to the USAF Demonstration Squadron, on Monday during a ceremony on the base's flightline.

Lt. Col. Michael Hastriter, 501st Aircraft Sustainment Squadron commander (right), watches as Brig. Gen. Stephen Hoog, USAF Warfare Center commander (left), receives an F-16 log book from Greg Hoffman, 573rd Maintenance Squadron Director (center), symbolizing the official handing over of the last block 52 F-16C for the USAF Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration Team during a ceremony on November 17th at Hill AFB. [USAF photo by Alex Lloyd]

The 309th Maintenance Squadron and the 508th Aircraft Sustainment Group based at Hill AFB spent the last year modifying 11 block 52 F-16s for the Thunderbirds. Major changes included the removal of the weapons system from the aircraft and replacing it with a smoke-generating system.

The Thunderbird squad is moving to the Block 52 version of the F-16 after using the block 32 variant for years. The block 32s were brought to Hill as part of the exchange.

George Jozens, director of public affairs for the 75th Air Base Wing, said the Block 32 Thunderbird specifications will be demodified and upgraded with Block 52 specs, and then sent back into squadron operations.

Gregory Hoffman, director of the 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Hill, said the Block 52 offers more thrust and reliability than the Block 32.

"Basically, we will be able to accelerate quicker and climb steeper," said Thunderbird pilot Maj. Tyrone Douglas. "The Block 52, overall, is just a much nicer jet. It's like going from a Corvette to a Ferrari."

Brig. Gen. Stephen L. Hoog, commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, where the Thunderbird team is stationed, said the modifications take about 4,500 production hours per jet. The paint job alone takes 25 days.

"A lot of people have touched these planes and put their blood, sweat and tears into it," he said. "It's a process that can be very, very time-consuming.

Additional images:

The last F-16C block 52 for the USAF Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration Team departs Hill AFB for its new home at Nellis AFB on November 17th, 2008. [USAF photo by Alex Lloyd]

F-16 Thunderbirds - A Legend Reborn [Asif Shamim Collection]