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Every Jet Flown By The USAF Thunderbirds

If you've seen the Thunderbirds, you know they put on an incredible show. But do you know how many different jets the team has performed in? Here's every aircraft they've piloted since the Thunderbirds began performing in 1953.

1) F-84G Thunderjet

The Thunderbirds were activated on May 25, 1953. Their first aircraft, the straight-wing F-84G, was also the primary strike aircraft used by the US in the Korean war.

1-F-84G Wikipedia

2) F-84F Thunderstreak

In 1955, the Thunderbirds moved to the swept-wing F-84F, which they flew for 91 air shows.

2-F-84F Thunderbirds Wikipedia

3) F-100 Super Sabre

The Thunderbirds first supersonic aircraft, the F-100, took flight in 1956. Thunderbird F-100 pilots demonstrated sonic booms at airshows until the FAA banned supersonic flight over the US.

3-f-100 Wikipedia

4) F-105 Thunderchief

The Thunderbirds used the F-105 for six airshows in 1964. After a structural failure of an F-105 while practicing for a show, the team switched back to the F-100.

4-f-105 Wikipedia

5) F-4 Phantom II

What's unique about the F-4? Besides being an awesome jet, it's the only aircraft that's been flown by the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels. The F-4s showed up in 1969 with a new white paint scheme over the entire aircraft. Special white paint was developed to cover high-temp areas of the jet.

5-f-4 Airman Magazine

6) T-38 Talon

After the 1973 oil crisis, the team switched to the T-38 Talon. Five T-38s used the same amount of fuel as one F-4. The jets flew until 1982, when a four-plane diamond loop impacted the ground, killing all pilots. A mechanical problem with the #1 aircraft caused the crash.

6-t-38 Wikipedia

7) F-16 Fighting Falcon

Following a six month investigation, the Thunderbirds resumed flying in 1983 with the F-16. After 30 years, the F-16 is still roaring through the sky in Thunderbird colors of red, white and blue.

7-f-16-1 USAF
7-f-16-2 USAF
7-f-16-5 USAF
7-f-16-6 USAF
7-f-16-8 USAF
7-f-16-4 USAF
7-f-16-7 USAF

The Thunderbirds are performing at Sun 'n Fun on April 25th and 26th. If you're in the area, don't miss it.

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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