Dark Falcon - Belgian F-16 Demo Team
10.000ft above Belgium the howling sound of the Lockheed Martin’s F-16AM Fighting Falcon F100 jet engine could clearly be heard. No wonder, as the Demo Pilot for the Belgian Air Force, Sr. Cpt Darte, callsign „Vador“, knows how to place his jet only meters behind the open ramp of the C-130 Hercules photoship. Time to stop worrying about cold feet and frozen fingers: hit the shutter to get the shots!
Where? Belgian Airspace / Florennes Airbase
When? May 2019
In 1979 the first F-16 joined the fleet of the Belgium Air Force (BAF) to replace the venerable F-104 Starfigher. That was 40 years ago. Since that day the BAF has decided to set up an F-16 Demo Team to present their jet and Belgian military pilot skills , and it still continues that tradition today. In 2018 Vador became the 19th F-16 pilot to continue that tradition for three consecutive years.
Obviously the everyday job of the whole Demo Team is to promote the capabilities of the Belgian Air Force, mainly during airshows at home and abroad.
Vador and the "Dark Falcon"
To really stand out, the team has created a stunning paint scheme on the F-16A MLU „Fighting Falcon“, serial FA-101. With Vadors callsign and the close association to the ‚Dark Side‘, the main topic for the painting of F-16 was quickly found. The F-16 was to become the „Dark Falcon“.
As with every non-ordinary paintjob, hurdles obviously had to be overcome. A main issue was the radome color, that consists of a special paint that does not interfere with the radar, and usually is gray. But for the envisaged scheme a black nose was foreseen, and luckily in the end the team succeeded to let a black radome being produced for the display jet. Also the remaining colors on the fuselage had to make use of the standard grey tones normally found on the F-16. Even though this does not really sound fancy, one clearly has to admit that the designers did a stunning job with these restrictions.
Belgian F-16A Fighting Falcon Display - An Airshow Favorite
Whereas the scheme on the fuselage stays the same during Vador’s three-year-long assignment as the F-16 Demo Pilot, the tail will change every year. In this year it shows the head of a falcon and also includes a red inscription „F-16 40 years“. A special colorspot is the Belgian flag on the left taileron. For the visits abroad the respective national flag is applied on the right taileron, a special feature to appreciate the reception by airshow organizers and recognize the friendship of airshow enthusiasts around Europe.
And for sure airshow visitors will also appreciate Vador’s 2019 airshow routine, including spectacular and technical maneuvers such as very closed ‚sliding‘ rolls and 8-point-roll, which demands accuracy and extreme timing.
Special Guests: 349 & 350 Squadron "D-Day" Jets
Joining this photo flight were further also two more special decorated F-16 Fighting Falcons. One jet from each 349 and 350 Squadron received „D-Day“ stripes on its wing and fuselage and a special scheme on the tail showing a Supermarine Spitfire flying over the landing beaches in Normandy. They were marked to commemorate the D-Day 75th anniversary, the landing of the Allies in Normandy and the beginning of the end of the World War II. They showed up first in formation, were joined by „Vador“ for a 3-ship formation of BAF F-16s over Belgium, and then left to hand over the stage for the actual task of the mission: getting great shots of the „Dark Falcon“!
And to conclude this photo report some more photos from Florennes Air Force Base:
Thanks to the Belgian Air Force, the „Dark Falcon Team“ in the air and on ground, 2nd Tactical Wing of the Air Component of the Belgian Armed Forces at Florennes Air Force Base and Nicolas for this very special opportunity!
Note: text written using excerpts from „F-16 Dark Falcon“, a special limited edition of the Duke Hawkins series, published by HMH Publications.
Belgian Air Force F-16AM "Dark Falcon" Air-Air Photo Gallery
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