During a failed coup attempt by Hugo Chavez's Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 in 1992, the second in that year, anti-government forces included commandeered OV-10 Broncos and other tactical aircraft seized at Venezuelan Air Force bases. This led to the crazy close-in, low-level engagement between one of those Broncos and a M61 cannon-slinging F-16A pilot loyal to the Venezuelan government. This incident can be seen the relatively astonishing video below.
The footage is remarkable as it is shot by a bystander on the ground and shows the F-16 turning into the OV-10 before popping its speed brakes and letting loose a burst of 20mm cannon shells. The OV-10E stood little chance against the marauding Viper, and its shattered airframe burst into flames before careening into the ground. The whole engagement appears to have occurred just a couple hundred feet in the air. It was one of three kills by two F-16 pilots, including one more Bronco and a AT-27 Tucano, that occurred during the coup attempt.
Venezuelan F-16s are something of an oddity as they originally were the first Vipers exported to South America. In 1982 a deal was signed between Venezuela and the U.S. government for 18 Block 15 F-16As and six F-16B models. The jets would replace aging Mirage IIIs that made up the backbone of the country's tactical air arm. Originally Venezuela was slated to received downgraded J79 turbojet powered F-16/79s, but Reagan opened up export restrictions killing that program and allowing for F-16A/Bs to be exported to second tier allies.
By the mid 2000s, under then firebrand President Hugo Chavez, the U.S. embargoed all arms sales to Venezuela. As a result, the country's F-16s would be useless within a matter of months—or at least that was the plan. Instead the Venezuelan Air Force kept their F-16s flyable outside of OEM support—a major undertaking to say the least. At one time in his turbulent relationship with the U.S., Chavez, who was livid over the embargo, said he would sell the jets and their sensitive systems to Iran.
In the end Venezuela turned more heavily toward Russia and other sources for their military technology and weaponry needs. Eventually the Venezuelan Air Force took delivery of two dozen Russian Su-30MK2s to augment their F-16s in the high-end multi-role fighter role.
Some sources state that Venezuela's remaining F-16s have received upgrades and support from Israel, including the addition of Python IV air-to-air missiles and laser targeting pods. Also there had been rumors that Venezuela supplied Iran with an F-16 for technical exploitation, although this has never been proven.
What we do know is that Venezuela has kept its Vipers viable in some part via leveraging the black market for parts. Considering nearly 5,000 F-16s have been built, and many A/B models have since been retired, the ability to obtain critical components is likely less challenging than one would think.
Also of note, American-built F-16s have been involved in other coup attempts, most notably the one that occurred in Turkey in July of 2016. During the failed power-grab, F-16s flown by anti-Erdogan aligned pilots played a major role, including flying down streets at high-speed in afterburner and assaulting key targets. F-16 pilots loyal to the sitting administration also played a role and even protected the President's aircraft. The historic event that has had massive impacts on Turkish society offered its own incredible imagery of F-16s in action, but nothing as dynamic as what was recorded in Venezuela on November 27th, 1992.
Our friend Thomas Newdick offered up a picture of a Venezuelan Viper toting a LITENING targeting pod of Israeli origin as suspected.
Here is video supposedly showing the second Bronco being shot down. Amazing that both engagements were caught on tape like this if this isn't another angle of the first video.
Hat tip to @juanmab on Twitter for sending this over.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com