The 4,500th F-16 Fighting Falcon built worldwide was delivered in ceremonies 3 April 2012 at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. Employees, customers, program officials, and national, state, and local elected officials attended. The milestone aircraft was an Advanced Block 52 F-16 for the Royal Moroccan Air Force.
The ceremony opened with a video of test pilot Phil Oestricher narrating his experience of inadvertently conducting first flight of the YF-16 on 20 January 1974. “We had a full instrumentation system up and running,” Oestricher recalled in the video. “So we learned an incredible amount of data about the airplane on that flight…. Having been involved with the program from the very beginning gives me a great sense of pride. I am thankful to have been a member of the team that reached this remarkable milestone.”
Since the first production orders of the F-16 for the US Air Force in 1975, the number of countries that have ordered the aircraft has grown to twenty-six. Fifteen of those countries have combined to make fifty-four repeat buys. The F-16 has also been produced in partnership with companies in Belgium, Netherlands, South Korea, and Turkey. The US Air Force is the largest customer with 2,230 F-16s delivered.
The range of F-16 customers was recognized by Lockheed Martin employees who presented the national flags of countries that have purchased the Fighting Falcon.
Special guests invited to the event included Oestricher; the family of the late Harry Hillaker, credited with the overall design of the F-16; and the family of the late Neil Anderson, the second test pilot to fly the YF-16 and the pilot to fly the first aerial demonstrations in the aircraft.
“I marvel at what this fighter has done, can do, and will do in the future to protect our fighting men and women in our armed services and our most trusted allies around the globe,” said US Representative Kay Granger (R-Texas 12). “The F-16 is in so many regions of the world that the sun never sets on the F-16. That is an amazing testament to this team’s success.”
“The F-16 remains the workhorse of the United States Air Force and of many air forces around the world,” added Col. Greg McNew, F-16 development system manager for the US Air Force. “Beginning with General Dynamics and continuing with Lockheed Martin, the F-16 has helped the US Air Force forge relationships with allies around the world, ranging from the early European partnerships through the most recent nation to join—Iraq. The F-16 is a symbol for protecting peace, for maintaining regional stability, and for ensuring the sovereignty of countries worldwide.”
Laura Siebert is a communications representative for the F-16/F-22 Integrated Fighter Group at Lockheed Martin.