The following video gives a hint of what a standard day of pilot deployed in Afghanistan looks like: high performance takeoff with an armed plane (in this case an F-16C belonging to the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard), rendez-vous with a KC-135 for an aerial refueling at dusk, combat air patrol before RTB (Return To Base) to Bagram.
Noteworthy: the beginning of the video doesn’t show the departure of the Viper from Bagram Air Field. Instead, it seems to show a fast low passage over the airport.
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.
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From what I understand the F-16 is actually more aerodynamic when carrying wingtip missiles, as the missiles basically act as winglets.
Also, I think since the attack on Pearl Harbor pretty much all U.S aircraft operating overseas – especially in combat zones – carry some form of air-to-air armament “just in case”.