Livery f15 thunderbirds.
The USAF went with the F-16 instead of the F-15 for cost reasons. The Thunderbirds had flown the F-4 in the late 60s & early 70s, but exchanged them for the T-38 because of the oil embargo after the 1973 Yom Kippur War between the Arabs and Israelis.
The decision to convert from the T-38 was undertaken in 1982, a few months after the T-birds diamond had plowed into the desert floor during a practice session (I was on the flightline at my training base when we got the word of a T-38 crash…then 4 x T-38s…then 4 x T-38s doing a loop - and at that point, we knew it was the Thunderbirds).
Both the F-15A and F-16 were stressed for 9Gs (though I’m not sure today’s F-15s can still do that), so the bigger fighter should have been able to put on an impressive show. Having watched the T-birds fly the F-4, a big, loud plane makes a real impression. It would have been a sight to see had they chosen the Eagle. However, the US economy was still struggling mightily, so it would have been a tough sell to Congress to justify a twin-engine frontline fighter as a T-38 replacement. Further, at that time we only had plans to buy about 750 F-15s, but over twice that number of F-16s. Once having made the decision to acquire F-16s, there was never any going back.
One of the things that was such a disappointment about the T-38 was that they could fly extremely close together and not look particularly impressive. The bird was just too small and slender. The F-4, on the other hand, was huge and looked amazing in the diamond formation. It was also earth-shatteringly loud. I can only imagine what the diamond would have looked like with “the Great Bird, Rodan.” That’s a sight I would have loved to have seen.
A repaint of the payware aircraft Pizzagalli.ch F-15.
Livery by Pizzagalli.ch