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Breathtaking Views from Backseat of a Thunderbird 4

This fun clip barely scratches the surface of the F-16’s unprecedented acrobatic capabilities. Which is a bit ironic, considering that the “Fighting Falcon” was the first combat aircraft intentionally designed to be aerodynamically unstable. Most planes are carefully engineered to provide “positive stability,” meaning if the pilot let go of the controls the aircraft would return to straight and level flight without guidance.

The F-16’s unstable lines, or “negative stability,” actually helps it dive, climb and bank far tighter than any traditional jet fighter/bomber could. As America’s first fly-by-wire fighter, the Falcon’s computer handles all the flight control details and frees the pilot to focus on what’s happening outside the plane. Or in the words of several veteran pilots, “You don’t fly an F-16; it flies you.”

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All of which ensures these light and fast warbirds are not just the perfect platform for Thunderbird stunts, but one of the best weapons available for dominating the skies. Despite entering service way back during the Cold War in 1978, this rugged and ultra-maneuverable jet is the most popular fighter in the 21st Century, by a wide margin. Thanks to an elaborate series of hi-tech upgrades, more than 2,600 F-16’s are still flying with 28 different nations. Of course, the Fighting Falcon’s cheap price tag — just 1/10th the cost of a new F-35 — sure doesn’t hurt its popularity.

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The Falcon’s extensive combat history has cemented its reputation as one of the most lethal aircraft in modern service. Besides dropping uncountable tons of ordinance in thou