Hello and welcome to the second part of an exceptional air-2-air session, which took place on June 22nd 2016, during which I had the opportunity, pleasure and honor to photograph the Polish Air Force aircrafts from the deck of the CASA C-295.
The second part is dedicated to F-16s - which this year are celebrating 10 years of its service flying with the white-red chessboard - the Polish Air Force insignia on its tail. On the occasion of this magnificent anniversary, as well as on the occasion of the upcoming Polish National-Military Aviation Day, I would like to make my best wishes and good fortune to everyone whom the square mark of polish aviation is close to!
All the information contained in following article I've consulted with F-16's real pilots. Especially, warm thanks to the friend of mine,
Col. pil. Marcin “Mahb” Modrzewski, who is not only a great and dedicated F-16 driver, but also a man who holds an incredible amount of knowledge of that aircraft. Article would not have been possible, however, if not the cooperation with perhaps the most obsessed with the F-16 man in the world, who prefers to call himself as Norbert - "That_Viper_Guy".
The English translation of this article is also Norbert's work – THANKS BUDDY! :)
Before I move on just one more very important issue that need to be emphasized!
The article contains a lot of information about the F-16 that are not biased, objectively verified and simply beyond contestation nonetheless there are also a few excerpts which reflects purely my own personal admiration for this marvelous design. This article's intention is not, however, to generate further disputes about the superiority of one aircraft over the other... I deliberately do not presented any specific F-16 comparisons to any of its potential "opponents". Let us remember that unlike to the so called real life - in aviation there is a time and place to cherish and love multiple “airplane-girls” at the same time and neither we nor them.. would not feel any unpleasantness because of that fact.
I hope that this article that was born from my pure love and dedication to Aviation as it is and which creation took a lot of time and effort to the point as you see it today , for many of you will be an opportunity to gain a number of new, interesting information and for those aviation geeks who already know this all, it will serve as a reminder of how special plane celebrates 10th anniversary of its service in Polish Air Force.
- Gentlemen, Guys! Easy. First things first. Let's reverse the roles for a moment. I'm a photographer now so you show me the planes as you want to see us in the air - with these words Lt. Col. Adam "Monk" Kalinowski interrupts this conversation at the same time handing us four scaled down models of the F-16. We are at the so called "pilot's-house" that belongs to the 6th Fighter Squadron otherwise known as TIGERS stationed at Krzesiny AB outside of Poznan.
Together with me Bartek Bera, Piotrek Łysakowski - we represent the ravenously-hungry of shots and photo opps aviation photographers, four Viper pilots is discussing with us - these guys in just a moment will get into four F-16s that were specially prepared for this unusual somewhat historical occasion, so do the crew of our camera-plane which in this case is C-295 with its wide rear ramp that is ideal for making aerial footages - simply the every aerial photographer's dream. We discuss each and every maneuver making good use of various sketches and photographs to help pilots understand what we really want specifically. We discuss also the very way of firing flares that would be as effective and as spectacular as possible but still safe for everyone. At the end I go like that and say: If we're doing such a top-end quality long-duration aerial session, wouldn't be that possible to fly a bit over the Poznań too? Saying that at the same time through the eyes of my imagination I saw already the official Poznań advertising billboards with our F-16s in it that could be eventually made out of it later on.. thrilling perspective - I've said to myself in my thoughts. Low flight directly over the town.. such an idea seem to be unreal by default, but on day like this… it feels that the grain of thought have fell onto the fertile ground! Monk jumps right away on the driver’s seat.. He make a few phone calls here and there... and finally without undue delay we got the permission from the authorities on the matter. The permission claims we can get down up to 7000 feet of altitude - maybe not that low but still low enough to have an unforgettable experience and shots by the way. Yet someone else brings the polish white-red national flag to be put into the cockpit "dashboard" of the Monk's aircraft - the leader of today's 4-ship Viper formation, Lt. Col. Kalinowski is flying the particular aircraft with a special painted tiger's distinctive strips scheme that is kept in low visibility fashion.
For the second time today, like a theater curtain the CASA transport aircraft big rear ramp opens and we began the second part of the play "Into the Photo-Aviation paradise". Curtain goes up and we're witness a tremendous picture. Blue sky, white clouds beautifully uplifted, and just below and behind us four wonderfully looking at this scenery F-16s. Two single-seat C models and two two-seat D models. All equipped with the centerline belly fuel tank holding 1135l of jet fuel and the Conformal Fuel Tanks set that hold 1700l.
At the head the Tiger (that specially painted F-16) - the Monk's aircraft with proudly unfolded polish white-red flag beneath the canopy glass. I feel goose bumps all over my body. But there's no time now for standing still with a dropped jaw... I'm here to make the specific job done. I'm adjusting my camera while trying to make a few sharp initial shots of the pilots that are at one's fingertips it seems now, they're really really close behind, maybe about the length of the CASA that we're flying right now which is 30 meters top! Monk comfortably placed in this unique cockpit of the F-16 lifts up the combined display-visor glass of his JHMCS helmet and rises up his thumb.
From this moment on.. till the very end of today's shooting these words echoing in my head: "Aviator - winged ruler of a world without boundaries" along of course with the melody from the "Polish Airmen's March".
F-16 - DID YOU KNOW THAT…?
I am very proud of the fact that so beautiful, timeless and legendary aircraft as the F-16 is passing 10 years of active service flying with the red-white chessboard - the Polish Air Force insignia on its tail. Ok, so maybe I act now like a regular pilot allegedly in the middle of the date and say: "that's about me, let's talk about my plane now..." That's right. Exactly. What is the essence and marvel of this design? What cause that over a 4600 F-16 have been built until now? Therefore did you know that.... Yeah, I know that you most likely probably already know it - which is great. But maybe out there is still someone who doesn't know? So, let's see...
Did you know that the concept of F-16 was developed by pilots? More specifically, by the so-called Fighter Mafia whose undisputed leader was Colonel John Richard "40 seconds" Boyd, the author of innovative and revolutionary for those times concept called Energy-Maneuverability (E-M) also known as Energetic Combat Maneuvering. By the way, did you know from where the "40 seconds" nickname came from? John Richard Boyd while serving as an instructor in the newly created Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis (Nevada), while executing a training air combat flight along with upcoming of next trainees groups he let each and every one of them take a 6 o'clock position directly behind him and then after the command "Fight's On!" within 40 seconds or less he turns the roles, from pure defensive maneuvering position to an offensive one, from being hunted to be a hunter! If the time of converting the status took longer than 40 seconds, Boyd had to pay the opponent forty US dollars (40$!). Apparently nobody ever had to pay especially giving the fact that many of the Aviation Aces made their trip to Nellis to prove themselves against Boyd.
Did you know that John Boyd, defense analysts and mathematicians Tom Christie, Pierre Sprey, Chuck Myers, test pilot Col. Everest Riccioni and aeronautical engineer Harry Hillaker formed the core of the self-dubbed "Fighter Mafia" which worked behind the scenes in the late 1960s to pursue a lightweight fighter (LWF) as an alternative to the F-15. The group was also instrumental in a return to air-combat maneuverability being the defining quality of fighter planes, after the Vietnam War showed that long-range missile systems of the time were insufficient as the sole deciding factor in air combat. The group strongly believed that an ideal fighter - dogfighter should rely on its acceleration and maneuverability instead of high maximum speed - which was a key design factor for many previous designs.
Did you know that by combining the knowledge and enthusiasm of Fighter Mafia a new technologies were incorporated in almost every element of the newly designed aircraft that were totally visionary and innovative for those times? As a result of which, it turned out that the F-16 not only met USAF requirements for a highly maneuverable light combat aircraft (LWF), but by far exceeded them.
Did you know that during the initial Research and Development phase many separate aerodynamics designs concepts were evaluated resulting in final model 401-16B which eventually layed the basis for the future F-16. A blended wing-body, wing-root extensions, leading edge flaps and enhanced wing-surface control provided extra lift and control. Relaxed static stability combined with active Fly-By-Wire flight controls improved response time and replaced heavy hydro-mechanical systems with lighter and smaller electronic systems. Such a unparalleled design ensures stability and maneuverability in areas inaccessible to earlier fighters.
Did you know that a one of the key yet very unusual feature of a newly designed F-16 was a single, bottom-located, fixed normal shock inlet? It turns out to be way better, simpler, less costly, and significantly lower in weight and drag. During an extensive Research and Development stage over a 50 different inlet variants were tested as a consequence giving the final optimazed design. It turns out that such configuration gives a significant advantage over a side-mounted variable-geometry inlets (commonly used previously) mainly because the airflow disturbed by the fuselage does not interferences the intake's airflow within the entire flight envelope and the whole range of disposable angles of attack.
Did you know that the very first flight of the YF-16 - the F-16 prototype occurred by accident? 20th January 1974 test pilot Phil Oestricher had progressed to a point of quick taxi runs. However there were some technical problems with engine nozzle therefore the aircraft became unable of slowing down and felt into dangerous oscillation. Oestricher decided to save the situation. He concluded that the best option in this position would be to take off from the ground, so he did. He made a six-minute flight that ended with a successful landing. In this way, there was the first flight of the YF-16, so called Zero Flight. Roughly two weeks later on February 2, 1974, Phil Oestricher made a lasting, one and a half hour flight, which was considered the first official maiden flight of the YF-16.
Did you know that one of the key but rarely highlighted feature of the F-16 resulting from the whole of idea and knowledge behind it, which led to its creation is the fact that, compared with other jetfighters F-16 practically does not lose energy or loses it way slower than others in turns? Merit in this is both an excellent statically unstable aerodynamic configuration, the active flight control system and formidable, powerful engine!
Did you know that the engine chosen for the F-16 was the Pratt & Whitney F100 model, which was specially developed for F-15? Specially for the F-16 the derivative version of it was developed known as F100-PW-200.
Did you know that at the time of the settlement of a contract for light maneuvering combat aircraft (won by General Dynamics YF-16), the rejected project of Northrop YF-17 was further developed and made a career in the United States Navy? It is became known later as the F/A-18 Hornet!
Did you know that the same assumptions that led at the foot of the F-16 project later became the basis for the creation of a new air combat tactics the Air Combat Maneuvering and Basic Fighter Maneuvering? It is now the very standard for all modern fighter pilots.
Did you know that the solutions that are found in the F-16 cockpit architecture give the pilot tremendous advantage over other aircrafts, those are features like: the distinctive bubble canopy giving the pilot unrestricted view 360 degrees in all directions, active-care-free Flight Control System, the ACES ejection seat with unprecedented 30 degree tilt-back that help pilot to cope with high g-loads during maneuvering, side-stick control that senses only the pilot's pressure force instead of stick movement in place of traditional central stick - this is best proven by the fact that there is a saying popular among the fighter pilots community... that is: "it is not that much you getting into the F-16, you wear it, like a glow or a piece of clothing".
PS. They're also saying that: "flying this plane is the first best thing you can do with yours trousers on". ;)
Did you know that the HOTAS system makes that the F-16 pilot during combat maneuvering can focus solely on the tactics and not waste time and attention for switching number of individual systems in the cabin? All systems can be operated using multiple set of buttons both on the side stick-joystick and throttle engine control.
Did you know that side stick controller is more natural to the pilot and is way more comfortable both in maneuvering and long duration flights?
Did you know that the two years after the F-16 enter into active service the official nickname has been given which was Fighting Falcon but among the pilots from the very beginning it was affectionally known as the Viper, which apparently came from the fact of distinct resemblance to the serpent's head as well as it's responsive distinctive and unique style of flying which could be described as not much flying but rather sneaking up in a way that mimics the move of a snake. Also it have something to do with the Battlestar Galactica Viper - the fighter from Star Wars Series that have been rapidly gaining on popularity in those days.
Did you know that the F-16, despite so much popularity and presence over all modern battlefields, has never been shot down in aerial combat referring alone 72 confirmed victories?
Did you know that in June 1981 the F-16 carried out one of the most spectacular combat mission in the Aviation History? 8 Israelis F-16s flew the distance of 860 nautical miles (1600km) one way at very low altitude over enemy territory to bomb the Iraqi Nuclear Plant? The aircrafts were fueled to the limit and heavily armed with two 2000lbs unguided bomb each. They've reached the target as planned performing a surgical strike to eliminate the reactor site without having to refuel in the air, all 8 Vipers safely returned to base.
Did you know that Poland when buying F-16s back in 2003, bought the most modern export version of that airplane at that time which was F-16 Block 52+ Advanced?
Did you know that original F-16 was designed solely as a lightweight air-to-air day fighter? However the reality quickly showed its huge potential and transformed F-16 into multirole fighter! F-16 Block 52+ is a versatile multirole fighter capable of entire spectrum of missions from air-to-air such as DCA, OCA or CAP to air-to-ground like CAS, AI, SEAD ending with real-time Tactical Air Reconnaissance. Thanks to Viper's massive weapon load and the variety of munition combined with air-to-air refueling capability a single F-16 is capable of performing several different types of missions within one flight! It's worth to mention that Polish F-16 are truly exceptional with respect of advanced latest avionics package they use thus becoming the "green-eyed monster" object among Fighter Pilot's community.
Did you know that the Polish F-16 aircraft can be equipped with additional fuel tanks, so-called Conformal Fuel Tanks or CFT? These tanks can hold more than 1,700 liters of fuel, which depend on the mission profile can extensively increase the operational range from 20 to 40%. They are designed so that they generate very little air resistance, which can be compared with the resistance that is generated by a single AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. The installation of the tanks on the aircraft can be completed within a two hours.
Did you know that polish F-16 thanks to its latest avionics software enhancements are the only ones right now that are capable of carrying two long range AGM-158 standoff missiles?
Did you know that the F-16 was the first aircraft capable of obtaining and maintaining the overload value of +9g? F-16 can maintain g-load of +9g even with external load with a set of six AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles stored under its wings!
Did you know that in a smooth-clean configuration the F-16 thanks to its large thrust to weight ratio can accelerate in a vertical climb?
Did you know that individual production Blocks of the F-16 varies among one another in size and shape of the air intake as well as the type of the engine? Blocks 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 32, 42 and 52 use Pratt&Whitney family F100 type engines while Blocks 30, 40, 50 and 60 use General Electric family F110 type. Corresponding Blocks uses also different intakes. The Pratt&Whitney-equipped Blocks aircrafts all have the smaller inlet, called a "normal shock inlet" or NSI while the large GE-equipped ones have the bigger inlet which is referred as "modular common intake duct" or MCID. The bigger inlet or so called "big mouth" is 12 inches or 30cm wider and slightly differs in shape.
Did you know that the F-16 in an air-to-air configuration and at high altitudes is able to achieve and sustain supersonic speed otherwise known as Supercruise using only so called dry thrust or MIL power without using an actual afterburner?
Did you know that the F-16 is able to take a load of fuel and weapons which is roughly equal to its own weight? Among the modern fighters it is a feat without precedent.
Did you know that the F-16 is the only aircraft in the world in which the afterburner's flame actually exceeds the length of the fuselage itself? :)
Did you know that according to Lockheed Martin F-22 test pilots, the only plane that at low altitudes up to 10 000ft has better acceleration than the Raptor is the F-16?
Did you know that every modern type of a fighter relates and compares the terms of its design to the F-16? F-16 is the reference point for any comparison hence being figuratively and in practice, an icon of modern air combat?
Did you know that the F-16 is the only fighter plane in the world that for over a decade and a half has its own active website - fan page the F-16.net? Fans of this aircraft have there at their disposal a complete database regarding every single produced airframe which allows to track the very status of a particular airplane? Fans having discussions about practically every possible F-16 related subject and many other related topics?
And so on. You can talk about this aircraft endlessly.
As Norbert - "That_Viper_Guy" says:
“One thing is certain - among the warplanes there are many beautiful machines, and each has features that can impress and captivate one's eye, but none brings together so many aesthetic and functional characteristics which in such a unique way make up one of a kind whole and a distinctive shape of a the fighter - not the fastest, not the most modern of all, but – “the fighter pilot’s fighter”. Light, airy, smart and even ethereal but predacious shape! A beautiful, unique combination of apparent opposites! The living legend, the most iconic fighter ever, formidable, affordable, agile, versitale and reliable sophisticated, powerful war-machine and the king of vortex. Those sexy, gentle kinda feminine lines and curves with an element of raw men's power to it! Truly captivating. Eight tons piece of machine that thrills people all around the air shows everywhere in the world even now after nearly half a century since its first appearance. The fighter owning the hearts of so many all around the world…"
F-16 is alike the perfect predator which at first is able easily hypnotize and deceive its prey with its own beauty to all of the sudden made an ultimate, final strike with grace and pin point precision.
BACK TO OUR MISSION
Time has come, meanwhile, we have finished shooting in the area and started to heading back over Poznan. So over the preflight briefing we planned a flight-back in a formation with an open ramp, hunting for some extra shots.
We're almost over the city now, which makes itself felt after a fairly strong turbulence. Once again we are being dropped off like pancakes in a frying pan. Those who seats have the best positions in this conditions, because they bounce and fall on their own bottom "soft parts". Those who do kneel and (God oh no!) do not have kneepads, pound the floor mercilessly. Those who stand, fortunately have helmets on their heads - otherwise their heads would painfully felt that. I do not know too much about the topography of the Poznan. Especially from the air. Especially fighting to keep my kneeling position, and not to mention trying to catch planes in the lens at the same time. Down low I recognize distinguishable oblong reservoir. Yes - that's for sure Malta Lake. Not once, not twice I watched some rowing game competitions, during which frequently shown bird's-eye view on that place. The turbulences are terrible I must say. Down low flows a mass of the buildings, so I'm taking pictures hoping some of them are going to be the good ones. Time will come for further interpretation and making them up a bit. The only thing that I'm still able to recognize are the buildings of the Old Brewery and the famous spire of Poznań trade fair. After a moment a runway shows up. Is It Ławica Airport?
And another airstrip passing by and for us it's a clear sign we're coming for a landing approach to the place from which we took off earlier that day - the Krzesiny Air Base.
Flashing warning light went off. The ramp door are closing. The last act of that fabulous play comes to an end. I've been tired, battered, sweaty and happy ... with a sense of a job well done! I love it! Moments like this are damn worth living!
Finally I would like to thank all those who contributed to the fact that I found myself in this astonishingly beautiful photo-paradise and those who together with me made countless frames filled nobly with planes. Thanks to General Command of the Armed Forces, 2nd Tactical Wing, Lt. Col. Szczepan Głuszczak, Bartek Bera, Piotrek Łysakowski - Thank You very much!
All pictures from that flight You can find here - GALERIA