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The Lockheed Martin (formerly General Dynamics) F-16 Fighting Falcon represents the full range of capabilities possessed by the Air Force's tactical fighters. This highly maneuverable multi-role fighter has proven to be one of the world's best precision tactical bombers and air-to-air combat aircraft.
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The only modifications needed to prepare the aircraft for its air demonstration role are installing a smoke-generating system in the space normally reserved for the 20mm cannon, and the painting of the aircraft in Thunderbird colors.
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The Thunderbirds were officially activated June 1, 1953, as the 3600th Air Demonstration Team at Luke AFB, Ariz. Their first aircraft was the straight-winged F-84G Thunderjet, a combat fighter-bomber that had seen action in Korea. Early in 1955 the team transitioned to the swept-winged F-84F Thunderstreak.
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 In June 1956, the team moved to its current home at Nellis. At the same time theThunderbirds traded the veteran F-84 for the world's first supersonic fighter, the F-100 Super Sabre -- an aerial platform that would serve the Thunderbirds for 13 years.
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More than 1,000 demonstrations were flown in the Super Sabre, thrilling spectators around the world.

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The team changed briefly to the Republic F-105 Thunderchief. After only six shows, in 1964, due to an extensive modification that became necessary on all Thunderchiefs, the Thunderbirds returned to the F-100.
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From 1969 to 1973, the Thunderbirds flew the Air Force's front-line fighter, the F-4E Phantom. In 1974, the Thunderbirds converted to the T-38 Talon, the world's first supersonic trainer. 
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The T-38 was more fuel-efficient and less costly to maintain than the larger F-4.
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Early in 1983, the Thunderbirds reinstituted their traditional role of demonstrating the Air Force's front-line fighter capabilities.
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Transition to the F-16A allowed the team to retain manpower and fuel efficiency while demonstrating to spectators the latest in fighter technology.
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