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F-16 Fighting Falcon

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F-16 Fighting Falcon
A USAF F-16 over Iraq after refueling, 2008
RoleMultirole Fighter
National originUnited States
ManufacturerGeneral Dynamics
Lockheed Martin
First flight2 February 1974
Introduction17 August 1978
StatusActive
Primary usersUnited States Air Force
25 other users (see operators)
Number built4,500+
Unit costF-16A/B: US$14.6 million (1998 dollars)[1]
F-16C/D: US$18.8 million (1998)[1]
VariantsF-16 VISTA
Developed intoGeneral Dynamics F-16XL
Mitsubishi F-2

The Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force. Designed as a lightweight, daytime fighter, it evolved into a successful multirole aircraft. The F-16's versatility is a paramount reason it has proven a success on the export market, having been selected to serve in the air forces of 25 nations.[2] The F-16 is the largest Western jet fighter program with over 4,400 aircraft built since production was approved in 1976.[2] Though no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, advanced versions are still being built for export customers. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation,[3] which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.[4]

The Fighting Falcon is a dogfighter with numerous innovations including a frameless, bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while under high g-forces, and reclined seat to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and has 11 hardpoints for mounting various missiles, bombs and pods. It was also the first fighter aircraft deliberately built to sustain 9-g turns. It has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one, providing power to climb and accelerate vertically—if necessary.[1] Although the F-16's official name is "Fighting Falcon", it is known to its pilots as the "Viper", due to it resembling a viper snake and after the Battlestar Galactica starfighter.[5][6][7] In addition to active, and reserve USAF units, the aircraft is used by the USAF aerial demonstration team, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and as an adversary/aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy.

The F-16 is scheduled to remain in service with the U.S. Air Force until 2025.[8] The planned replacement is the F-35 Lightning II, which will gradually begin replacing a number of multirole aircraft among the air arms of the program's member nations.

Development

Origins

File:F-16 Fighting Falcon.ogv
F-16 Fighting Falcon video by USAF

Real-world experience in the Vietnam War revealed some shortcomings in American fighter capabilities, and the need for better air-to-air training for fighter pilots.[9] The need for new air superiority fighters led the USAF to initiate two concept development studies in 1965: the Fighter Experimental (FX) project originally envisioned a 60,000 lb (27,200 kg) class twin-engine design with a variable-geometry wing, and the Advanced Day Fighter (ADF), a lightweight design in the 25,000 lb (11,300 kg) class which would out-perform the MiG-21 by 25%. However, the first appearance of the Mach-3-capable MiG-25 'Foxbat' in July 1967 resulted in the ADF effort being deemphasized in favor of the FX program, which would produce the F-15, a 40,000 lb (18,100 kg) class aircraft.[10]

Based on his experiences in the Korean War and as a fighter tactics instructor in the early 1960s Colonel John Boyd and mathematician Thomas Christie developed the Energy-Maneuverability (E-M) theory to model a fighter aircraft's performance in combat. Maneuverability was the key to a process Boyd called the "OODA Loop" (for "Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action"). Boyd's work called for a small, lightweight aircraft with an increased thrust-to-weight ratio.[11][12] A 1965 Air Force study suggested equipping its squadrons with a mix of high and low cost fighters as being the most economical.[13]

Lightweight Fighter program

In the late 1960s Boyd gathered around him a group of like-minded innovators that became known as the "Lightweight Fighter Mafia". In 1969, the "Fighter Mafia" was able to secure funds for a "Study to Validate the Integration of Advanced Energy-Maneuverability Theory with Trade-Off Analysis". General Dynamics received $149,000 and Northrop $100,000 to develop design concepts that embodied Boyd’s E-M theory – a small, low-drag, low-weight, pure fighter with no bomb racks; their work would lead to the YF-16 and YF-17, respectively.[14][15]

Although the Air Force’s FX proponents remained hostile to the concept because they perceived it as a threat to the F-15 program, the ADF concept (revamped and renamed as the ‘F-XX’) gained civilian political support under the reform-minded Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard, who favored the idea of competitive prototyping. As a result in May 1971, the Air Force Prototype Study Group was established, with Boyd a key member, and two of its six proposals would be funded, one being the Lightweight Fighter (LWF) proposal. The Request for Proposals issued 6 January 1972 called for a 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) class air-to-air day fighter with a good turn rate, acceleration and range, and optimized for combat at speeds of Mach 0.6–1.6 and altitudes of 30,000–40,000 ft (9,150–12,200 m). This was the region in which the USAF expected most future air combat to occur, based on studies of the Vietnam, Six-Day War, and Indo-Pakistani wars. The anticipated average flyaway cost of a production version was $3 million. This production plan, though, was only notional as the USAF was under no obligation to acquire the aircraft and, in fact, had no firm plans to procure the winner, which was to be announced in May 1975.[16][17]

Five companies responded and in March 1972, the Air Staff announced the winners for the follow-on prototype development and testing phase were Boeing’s Model 908-909 and General Dynamics’ Model 401; however, after further review, the Source Selection Authority (SSA) would demote Boeing’s entry to third place, after Northrop’s P-600. GD and Northrop were awarded contracts worth $37.9 million and $39.8 million to produce the YF-16 and YF-17, respectively, with first flights of both prototypes planned for early 1974. To overcome resistance in the Air Force hierarchy, the 'Fighter Mafia' and other LWF proponents successfully advocated the idea of complementary fighters in a high-cost/low-cost force mix (in part, to be able to afford sufficient fighters to sustain overall USAF fighter force structure requirements); this "high/low mix" concept would gain broad acceptance by the time of the flyoff between the prototypes, and would define the relationship of the F-15 and F-16 – and, subsequently, the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.[18][19]

Flyoff

A right side view of a YF-16 and a Northrop YF-17, each armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

The first YF-16 was rolled out on 13 December 1973, and its 90-minute-long maiden first flight was made at the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) at Edwards AFB, California, on 2 February 1974. Its actual first flight occurred accidentally during a high-speed taxi test on 20 January. While gathering speed, a roll-control oscillation caused a fin of the port-side wingtip-mounted missile and then the starboard stabilator to scrape the ground, and the aircraft then began to veer off the runway. The GD test pilot, Phil Oestricher, decided to lift off to avoid wrecking the machine, and safely landed it six minutes later. The slight damage was quickly repaired and the official first flight occurred on time. The YF-16’s first supersonic flight was accomplished on 5 February 1974, and the second YF-16 prototype flew for the first time on 9 May 1974. This was followed by the first flights of the Northrop’s YF-17 prototypes, which were achieved on 9 June and 21 August 1974, respectively. Altogether, the YF-16s would complete 330 sorties during the flyoff, accumulating a total of 417 flight hours; the YF-17s would accomplish 268 sorties.[20]

Air Combat Fighter competition

Three factors would converge to turn the LWF into a serious acquisition program. First, four North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies of the U.S. – Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway – were looking to replace their F-104G fighter-bomber variants of the F-104 Starfighter interceptor; furthermore, they were seeking an aircraft that their own aerospace industries could manufacture under license, as they had the F-104G. In early 1974, they reached an agreement with the U.S. that if the USAF placed orders for the aircraft winning the LWF flyoff, they would consider ordering it as well. Secondly, while the USAF was not particularly interested in a complementary air superiority fighter, it did need to begin replacing its F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers. Third, the U.S. Congress was seeking to achieve greater commonality in fighter procurements by the Air Force and Navy. The Congress, in August 1974, redirected funds for the Navy’s VFAX program to a new Navy Air Combat Fighter (NACF) program that would essentially be a navalized fighter-bomber variant of the LWF. These requirements meshed relatively well, but the timing of the procurement was driven by the timeframe needs of the four allies, who had formed a “Multinational Fighter Program Group” (MFPG) and were pressing for a U.S. decision by December 1974. The U.S. Air Force had planned to announce the LWF winner in May 1975, but this decision was advanced to the beginning of the year, and testing was accelerated. To reflect this new, more serious intent to procure a new aircraft, along with its reorientation toward a fighter-bomber design, the LWF program was rolled into a new Air Combat Fighter (ACF) competition in an announcement by U.S. Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger in April 1974. Schlesinger also made it clear that any ACF order would be for aircraft in addition to the F-15, which essentially ended opposition to the LWF.[21][22][23]

ACF also raised the stakes for GD and Northrop because it brought in further competitors intent on securing the lucrative order that was touted at the time as “the arms deal of the century”. These were Dassault-Breguet’s Mirage F1M-53, the SEPECAT Jaguar, and a proposed derivative of the Saab Viggen styled the “Saab 37E Eurofighter” (which is not to be confused with the later and unrelated Eurofighter Typhoon). Northrop also offered another design, the P-530 Cobra, which looked very similar to its YF-17. The Jaguar and Cobra were dropped by the MFPG early on, leaving two European and the two U.S. LWF designs as candidates. On 11 September 1974, the U.S. Air Force confirmed firm plans to place an order for of the winning ACF design sufficient to equip five tactical fighter wings. On 13 January 1975, Secretary of the Air Force John L. McLucas announced that the YF-16 had been selected as the winner of the ACF competition.[24]

The chief reasons given by the Secretary for the decision were the YF-16’s lower operating costs; greater range; and maneuver performance that was “significantly better” than that of the YF-17, especially at near-supersonic and supersonic speeds. The flight test program revealed that the YF-16 had superior acceleration, climb rates, endurance, and (except around Mach 0.7) turn rates. Another advantage was the fact that the YF-16 – unlike the YF-17 – employed the Pratt & Whitney F100 turbofan engine, which was the same powerplant used by the F-15; such commonality would lower the unit costs of the engines for both programs.[23][25]

Shortly after selection of the YF-16, Secretary McLucas revealed that the USAF planned to order at least 650 and up to 1400 of the production version of the aircraft. The U.S. Air Force initially ordered 15 “Full-Scale Development” (FSD) aircraft (11 single-seat and 4 two-seat models) for its flight test program, but this would be reduced to 8 (6 F-16A and 2 F-16B). The Navy, however, announced on 2 May 1975, that it had decided not to buy the navalized F-16; instead, it would develop an aircraft derived from the YF-17, which would eventually become the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet.[26]

Moving into production

File:F-16C Fighting Falcon.JPEG
A USAF F-16C of the Colorado Air National Guard (COANG) disengages from a refueling boom (fuel port is still open) over Canada.

Manufacture of the FSD F-16s got underway at General Dynamics’ Fort Worth, Texas plant in late 1975, with the first example, an F-16A, being rolled out on 20 October 1976, followed by its first flight on 8 December. The initial two-seat model achieved its first flight on 8 August 1977. The initial production-standard F-16A flew for the first time on 7 August 1978 and its delivery was accepted by the USAF on 6 January 1979. The F-16 was given its formal nickname of “Fighting Falcon” on 21 July 1980, and it entered USAF operational service with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB on 1 October 1980.[27]

On 7 June 1975, the four European partners, now known as the European Participation Group, signed up for 348 aircraft at the Paris Air Show. This was split among the European Participation Air Forces (EPAF) as 116 for Belgium, 58 for Denmark, 102 for the Netherlands, and 72 for Norway. These would be produced on two European production lines, one in the Netherlands at Fokker’s Schiphol-Oost facility and the other at SABCA’s Gossellies plant in Belgium; production would be divided among them as 184 and 164 units, respectively. Norway’s Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk and Denmark’s Terma A/S also manufactured parts and subassemblies for the EPAF aircraft. European co-production was officially launched on 1 July 1977 at the Fokker factory. Beginning in mid-November 1977, Fokker-produced components were shipped to Fort Worth for assembly of fuselages, which were in turn shipped back to Europe (initially to Gossellies starting in January 1978); final assembly of EPAF-bound aircraft began at the Belgian plant on 15 February 1978, with deliveries to the Belgian Air Force beginning in January 1979. The Dutch line started up in April 1978 and delivered its first aircraft to the Royal Netherlands Air Force in June 1979. In 1980 the first aircraft were delivered to the Royal Norwegian Air Force by SABCA and to the Royal Danish Air Force by Fokker.[23][28][29]

Since then, a further production line has been established at Ankara, Turkey, where Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has produced 232 Block 30/40/50 F-16s under license for the Turkish Air Force during the late 1980s and 1990s, and has 30 Block 50 Advanced underway for delivery from 2010; TAI also built 46 Block 40s for Egypt in the mid-1990s. Korean Aerospace Industries opened another production line for the KF-16 program, producing 140 Block 52s from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. If India selects the F-16IN for its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft procurement, a sixth F-16 production line will be established in that nation to produce at least 108 fighters.[30]

Evolution

After selection, the YF-16 design was altered for the production F-16. The fuselage was lengthened 10.6 in (0.269 m), a larger nose radome was fitted to house the AN/APG-66 radar, wing area was increased from 280 sq ft (26 m2) to 300 sq ft (28 m2), the tailfin height was decreased slightly, the ventral fins were enlarged, two more stores stations were added, and a single side-hinged nosewheel door replaced the original double doors. These modifications increased the F-16's weight approximately 25% over that of the YF-16 prototypes.[31][32][33]

One needed change that would originally be discounted was the need for more pitch control to avoid deep stall conditions at high angles of attack. Model tests of the YF-16 conducted by the Langley Research Center revealed a potential problem, but no other laboratory was able to duplicate it. YF-16 flight tests were not sufficiently extensive to resolve the issue, but relevant flight testing on the FSD aircraft demonstrated that it was a real concern. As a result, the horizontal stabilizer areas were increased 25%; this so-called "big tail" was introduced on the Block 15 aircraft in 1981 and retrofitted later on earlier production aircraft. Besides significantly reducing (though not eliminating) the risk of deep stalls, the larger horizontal tails also improved stability and permitted faster takeoff rotation.[34][35][36]

In the 1980s, the Multinational Staged Improvement Program (MSIP) was conducted to evolve new capabilities for the F-16, mitigate risks during technology development, and ensure its currency against a changing threat environment. The program upgraded the F-16 in three stages. Altogether, the MSIP process permitted quicker introduction of new capabilities, at lower costs, and with reduced risks compared to traditional stand-alone system enhancement and modernization programs.[37] The F-16 has involved in other upgrade programs including service life extension programs in the 2000s.[38]

Design

Overview

File:F16cannon.JPG
The four-vent cannon port on a F-16A

The F-16 is a single-engined, supersonic, multi-role tactical aircraft. The F-16 was designed to be a cost-effective combat "workhorse" that can perform various kinds of missions and maintain around-the-clock readiness. It is much smaller and lighter than its predecessors, but uses advanced aerodynamics and avionics, including the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire (RSS/FBW) flight control system, to achieve enhanced maneuver performance. Highly nimble, the F-16 can pull 9-g maneuvers and can reach a maximum speed of over Mach 2.

The F-16 is equipped with an M61 Vulcan 20 mm cannon in the left wing root with the F-16A distinguished by having four vents behind the port for the M61 cannon whereas the subsequent F-16C has only two vents behind the cannon port.[39]

Early models could also be armed with up to six AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking short-range air-to-air missiles (AAM), including a single missile mounted on a dedicated rail launcher on each wingtip. Some variants can also employ the AIM-7 Sparrow long-range radar-guided AAM, and more recent versions can be equipped with the AIM-120 AMRAAM. It can also carry other AAM; a wide variety of air-to-ground missiles, rockets or bombs; electronic countermeasures (ECM), navigation, targeting or weapons pods; and fuel tanks on eleven hardpoints – six under the wings, two on wingtips and three under the fuselage.

General configuration

F-16CJ-50C from 20 Fighter Wing (Shaw AFB) armed with air-to-air and SEAD ordnance

The F-16 design employs a cropped-delta planform incorporating wing-fuselage blending and forebody vortex-control strakes; a fixed-geometry, underslung air intake inlet supplying airflow to the single turbofan jet engine; a conventional tri-plane empennage arrangement with all-moving horizontal “stabilator” tailplanes; a pair of ventral fins beneath the fuselage aft of the wing’s trailing edge; a single-piece, bird-proof “bubble” canopy; and a tricycle landing gear configuration with the aft-retracting, steerable nose gear deploying a short distance behind the inlet lip. There is a boom-style aerial refueling receptacle located a short distance behind the rear of the canopy. Split-flap speedbrakes are located at the aft end of the wing-body fairing, and an arrestor hook is mounted underneath the aft fuselage. Another fairing is situated at the base of the vertical tail, beneath the bottom of the rudder, and is used to house various items of equipment such as ECM gear or drag chutes. Several later F-16 models, such as the F-16I variant of the Block 50 aircraft, also have a long dorsal fairing “bulge” that runs along the “spine” of the fuselage from the rear of the cockpit to the tail fairing; these fairings can be used to house additional equipment or fuel.[30][40]

The air intake was designed to be "far enough forward to allow a gradual bend in the air duct up to the engine face to minimize flow losses and far enough aft so it wouldn’t weigh too much or be too draggy or destabilizing."[41]

The F-16 was designed to be relatively inexpensive to build and much simpler to maintain than earlier-generation fighters. The airframe is built with about 80% aviation-grade aluminum alloys, 8% steel, 3% composites, and 1.5% titanium. Control surfaces such as the leading-edge flaps, tailerons, and ventral fins make extensive use of bonded aluminum honeycomb structural elements and graphite epoxy laminate skins. The F-16A had 228 access panels over the entire aircraft, about 80% of which can be reached without work stands. The number of lubrication points, fuel line connections, and replaceable modules was also greatly reduced compared to its predecessors.[30][33]

Although the USAF’s LWF program had called for an aircraft structural life of only 4,000 flight hours, and capable of achieving 7.33 g with 80% internal fuel, GD’s engineers decided from the start to design the F-16’s airframe life to last to 8,000 hours and for 9-g maneuvers on full internal fuel. This proved advantageous when the aircraft’s mission was changed from solely air-to-air combat to multi-role operations. However, changes over time in actual versus planned operational usage and continued weight growth due to the addition of further systems have required several structural strengthening programs.[42]

Wing and strake configuration

F-16CG-40B from Aviano Air Base on display at Paris Air Show

Aerodynamic studies in the early 1960s demonstrated that the phenomenon known as “vortex lift” could be beneficially harnessed by the utilization of highly swept wing configurations to reach higher angles of attack through use of the strong leading edge vortex flow off of a slender lifting surface. Since the F-16 was being optimized for high agility in air combat, GD’s designers chose a slender cropped-delta wing with a leading edge sweep of 40° and a straight trailing edge. To improve its ability to perform in a wide range of maneuvers, a variable-camber wing with a NACA 64A-204 airfoil was selected. The camber is adjusted through the use of leading-edge and trailing edge flaperons linked to a digital flight control system (FCS) that automatically adjusts them throughout the flight envelope.[30][42]

This vortex lift effect can be increased by the addition of an extension of the leading edge of the wing at its root, the juncture with the fuselage, known as a strake. The strakes act as a sort of additional slender, elongated, short-span, triangular wing running from the actual wing root to a point further forward on the fuselage. Blended fillet-like into the fuselage, including along with the wing root, the strake generates a high-speed vortex that remains attached to the top of the wing as the angle of attack increases, thereby generating additional lift. This allows the aircraft to achieve angles of attack beyond the point at which it would normally stall. The use of strakes also permits the use of a smaller, lower-aspect-ratio wing, which in turn increases roll rates and directional stability, while decreasing aircraft weight. The resulting deeper wingroots also increase structural strength and rigidity, reduce structural weight, and increase internal fuel volume.[42] As a result, the F-16’s high fuel fraction of 0.31 gives it a longer range than other fighter aircraft of similar size and configuration.[33]

Flight controls

Negative static stability

The YF-16 was the world’s first aircraft intentionally designed to be slightly aerodynamically unstable. This technique, called "relaxed static stability" (RSS), was incorporated to further enhance the aircraft’s maneuver performance. Most aircraft are designed with positive static stability, which induces an aircraft to return to its original attitude following a disturbance. However, positive static stability hampers maneuverability, as the tendency to remain in its current attitude opposes the pilot’s effort to maneuver; on the other hand, an aircraft with negative static stability will, in the absence of control input, readily depart from level and controlled flight. Therefore, an aircraft with negative static stability will be more maneuverable than one that is positively stable. When supersonic, a negatively stable aircraft actually exhibits a more positive-trending (and in the F-16’s case, a net positive) static stability due to aerodynamic forces shifting aft between subsonic and supersonic flight. At subsonic speeds, however, the fighter is constantly on the verge of going out of control.[43][44]

Fly-by-wire

To counter this tendency to depart from controlled flight—and avoid the need for constant minute trimming inputs by the pilot—the F-16 has a quadruplex (four-channel) fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system (FLCS). The flight control computer (FLCC), which is the key component of the FLCS, accepts the pilot’s input from the stick and rudder controls, and manipulates the control surfaces in such a way as to produce the desired result without inducing a loss of control (known as "departing" controlled flight). The FLCC also takes thousands of measurements per second of the aircraft’s attitude, and automatically makes corrections to counter deviations from the flight path that were not input by the pilot, thereby allowing for stable flight. This has led to a common aphorism among F-16 pilots: “You don’t fly an F-16; it flies you.”[45]

Wisconsin ANG F-16s over Madison, Wisconsin. The tail of the lead ship in this formation was a special 60th Anniversary scheme for the 115th Fighter Wing

The FLCC further incorporates a series of limiters that govern movement in the three main axes based on the jet’s current attitude, airspeed and angle of attack, and prevent movement of the control surfaces that would induce an instability such as a slip or skid, or a high angle of attack inducing a stall. The limiters also act to prevent maneuvering that would place more than 9 g's of force on the pilot or airframe.[33][46]

Unlike the YF-17 which featured a FBW system with traditional hydromechanical controls serving as a backup, the F-16’s designers took the innovative step of eliminating mechanical linkages between the stick and rudder pedals and the aerodynamic control surfaces. The F-16’s sole reliance on electronics and wires to relay flight commands, instead of the usual cables and mechanical linkage controls, gained the F-16 the early moniker of "the electric jet". The quadruplex design permits “graceful degradation” in flight control response in that the loss of one channel renders the FLCS a “triplex” system.[47] The FLCC began as an analog system on the A/B variants, but has been supplanted by a digital computer system beginning with the F-16C/D Block 40.[33][48][49]

Cockpit and ergonomics

One of the more notable features from a pilot’s perspective is the F-16’s exceptional field of view from the cockpit, a feature that is vital during air-to-air combat. The single-piece, bird-proof polycarbonate bubble canopy provides 360° all-round visibility, with a 40° down-look angle over the side of the aircraft, and 15° down over the nose (compared to the more common 12–13° of its predecessors); the pilot’s seat is mounted on an elevated heel line to accomplish this. Furthermore, the F-16's canopy lacks the forward bow frame found on most fighters, which obstructs some of the pilot’s forward vision. (The length of the tandem arrangement of two-seat F-16s does, however, necessitate a structural frame between the pilots.)[30][33][50]

File:F16 Cockpit, Asian Aerospace 2006.JPG
F-16 Ground Trainer Cockpit (F-16 MLU version)

The rocket-boosted ACES II zero/zero ejection seat is reclined at an unusually high tilt-back angle of 30°; the seats in older and contemporary fighters were typically tilted back at around 13–15°. The F-16’s seat-back angle was chosen to improve the pilot’s tolerance of high g forces, and to reduce his susceptibility to gravity-induced loss of consciousness. The increased seat angle, however, has also been associated with reports of increased risk of neck ache when not mitigated by proper use of the head-rest.[51] Subsequent U.S. jet fighter designs have more modest tilt-back angles of 20°.[30][33][52] Because of the extreme seat tilt-back angle and the thickness of its polycarbonate single-piece canopy, the F-16’s ejection seat lacks the steel rail canopy breakers found in most other aircraft’s ejection systems. Such breakers shatter a section of the canopy should it fail to open or jettison to permit emergency egress of the aircrew. On the F-16, crew ejection is accomplished by first jettisoning the entire canopy; as the relative wind pulls the canopy away from the plane, a lanyard triggers the seat’s rockets to fire.[53]

The pilot flies the aircraft primarily by means of a side-stick controller mounted on the right-hand armrest (instead of the more common center-mounted stick) and an engine throttle on the left side; conventional rudder pedals are also employed. To enhance the pilot’s degree of control of the aircraft during high-g combat maneuvers, a number of function switches formerly scattered about the cockpit have been moved to "hands on throttle-and-stick (HOTAS)" controls found on both of these controllers. Simple hand pressure on the side-stick controller causes the transmission of electrical signals via the FBW system to adjust the various flight control surfaces used for maneuvering. Originally, the side-stick controller was non-moving, but this arrangement proved uncomfortable and difficult for pilots to adjust to, sometimes resulting in a tendency to "over-rotate" the aircraft during takeoffs, so the control stick was given a small amount of “play”. Since its introduction on the F-16, HOTAS controls have become a standard feature among modern fighters (although the side-stick application is less widespread).[33][54]

The F-16 cockpit also has a head-up display (HUD), which projects visual flight and combat information in the form of symbols and alphanumeric characters in front of the pilot without obstructing his view. Being able to keep his head “out of the cockpit” further enhances the pilot’s situational awareness of what is occurring around him.[55] Boeing’s Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) is also available from Block 40 onwards for use with high-off-boresight air-to-air missiles like the AIM-9X. JHMCS permits cuing the weapons system to the direction in which the pilot’s head is facing—even outside the HUD’s field of view—while still maintaining his situational awareness.[56] JHMCS was first operationally deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.[57]

The pilot obtains further flight and systems status information from multi-function displays (MFD). The left-hand MFD is the primary flight display (PFD), which generally shows radar and moving-map displays; the right-hand MFD is the system display (SD), which presents important information about the engine, landing gear, slat and flap settings, fuel quantities, and weapons status. Initially, the F-16A/B had only a single monochrome cathode ray tube (CRT) display to serve as the PFD, with system information provided by a variety of traditional “steam gauges”. The MLU introduced the SD MFD in a cockpit made compatible for usage of night-vision goggles (NVG).[35] These CRT displays were replaced by color liquid crystal displays on the Block 50/52.[30] The Block 60 features three programmable and interchangeable color MFDs (CMFD) with picture-in-picture capability that is able to overlay the full tactical situation display on the moving map.[58]

Radar

The F-16A/B was originally equipped with the Westinghouse (now Northrop Grumman) solid-state AN/APG-66 pulse-Doppler fire-control radar. Its slotted planar-array antenna was designed to be sufficiently compact to fit into the F-16’s relatively small nose. In uplook mode, the APG-66 uses a low pulse-repetition frequency (PRF) for medium- and high-altitude target detection in a low-clutter environment, and in downlook employs a medium PRF for heavy clutter environments. It has four operating frequencies within the X band, and provides four air-to-air and seven air-to-ground operating modes for combat, even at night or in bad weather. The Block 15’s APG-66(V)2 model added a new, more powerful signal processor, higher output power, improved reliability, and increased range in a clutter or jamming environments. The Mid-Life Update (MLU) program further upgrades this to the APG-66(V)2A model, which features higher speed and memory.[33][59] Taiwan's Block 20 has APG-66(V)3 that added CW mode in order to guide AIM-7M initially sold to Taiwan in the US announced 1992 deal. The APG-66(V)3 radar already able to guide AMRAAM BVR missiles.

The mechanically scanned AN/APG-68 X-band pulse-Doppler radar, an evolution of the APG-66, was introduced with the F-16C/D Block 25. The APG-68 has greater range and resolution, as well as 25 operating modes, including ground-mapping, Doppler beam-sharpening, ground moving target, sea target, and track-while-scan (TWS) for up to ten targets. The Block 40/42’s APG-68(V)1 model added full compatibility with Lockheed Martin Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red for Night (LANTIRN) pods, and a high-PRF pulse-Doppler track mode to provide continuous-wave (CW) target illumination for semi-active radar-homing (SARH) missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow. The Block 50/52 F-16s initially received the more reliable APG-68(V)5 which has a programmable signal processor employing Very-High-Speed Integrated Circuit (VHSIC) technology. The Advanced Block 50/52 (or 50+/52+) are equipped with the APG-68(V)9 radar which has a 30% greater air-to-air detection range, and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mode for high-resolution mapping and target detection and recognition. In August 2004, Northrop Grumman received a contract to begin upgrading the APG-68 radars of the Block 40/42/50/52 aircraft to the (V)10 standard, which will provide the F-16 with all-weather autonomous detection and targeting for the use of Global Positioning System (GPS)-aided precision weapons. It also adds SAR mapping and terrain-following (TF) modes, as well as interleaving of all modes.[30][33]

The F-16E/F is outfitted with Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-80 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, making it only the third fighter to be so equipped.[58][60] Northrop Grumman has continued to develop this system into the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR).[61]

In July 2007, Raytheon announced that it was developing a new Raytheon Next Generation Radar (RANGR) based on its earlier AN/APG-79 AESA radar as an alternative candidate to Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-68 and AN/APG-80 for new-build F-16s as well as retrofit of existing ones.[30][62] On 1 November 2007, Boeing selected this design for development under the USAF’s F-15E Radar Modernization Program (RMP).[63]

Propulsion

Mechanics actuating an F-16 exhaust nozzle.

The powerplant first selected for the single-engined F-16 was the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 afterburning turbofan, a slightly modified version of the F100-PW-100 used by the F-15. Rated at 23,830 lbf (106.0 kN) thrust, it remained the standard F-16 engine through the Block 25, except for new-build Block 15s with the Operational Capability Upgrade (OCU). The OCU introduced the 23,770 lbf (105.7 kN) F100-PW-220, which was also installed on Block 32 and 42 aircraft; while not offering a noteworthy difference in thrust, it introduced a Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC) unit that improved reliability and reduced the risk of engine stalls (an unwelcome occasional tendency with the original "-200" that necessitated a midair engine restart). Introduced on the F-16 production line in 1988, the "-220" also supplanted the F-15’s "-100," thereby maximizing commonality. Many of the "-220" jet engines on Block 25 and later aircraft were upgraded from mid-1997 to the "-220E" standard, which further enhanced reliability and maintainability, including a 35% reduction of the unscheduled engine removal rate.[23][33][64][65]

Development of the F100-PW-220/220E was the result of the USAF’s Alternate Fighter Engine (AFE) program (colloquially known as “the Great Engine War”), which also saw the entry of General Electric as an F-16 engine provider. Its F110-GE-100 turbofan, however, required modification of the F-16’s inlet; the original inlet limited the GE jet’s maximum thrust to only 25,735 lbf (114.5 kN), while the new Modular Common Inlet Duct allowed the F110 to achieve its maximum thrust of 28,984 lbf (128.9 kN) in afterburner. (To distinguish between aircraft equipped with these two engines and inlets, from the Block 30 series on, blocks ending in "0" (e.g., Block 30) are powered by GE, and blocks ending in "2" (e.g., Block 32) are fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines.)[35][64][66][67][68]

Further development by these competitors under the Increased Performance Engine (IPE) effort led to the 29,588 lbf (131.6 kN) F110-GE-129 on the Block 50 and 29,100 lbf (129.4 kN) F100-PW-229 on the Block 52. F-16s began flying with these IPE engines on 22 October 1991 and 22 October 1992, respectively. Altogether, of the 1,446 F-16C/Ds ordered by the USAF, 556 were fitted with F100-series engines and 890 with F110s.[30] The United Arab Emirates’ Block 60 is powered by the General Electric F110-GE-132 turbofan, which is rated at a maximum thrust of 32,500 lbf (144.6 kN), the highest ever developed for the F-16 aircraft.[58][66][69]

Operational history

Due to their ubiquity, F-16s have participated in numerous conflicts, most of them in the Middle East.

First combat successes: Bekaa Valley and Osiraq raid (1981)

The F-16’s first air-to-air combat success was achieved by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) over the Bekaa Valley on 28 April 1981, against a Syrian Mi-8 helicopter, which was downed with cannon fire following an unsuccessful attempt with an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile (AAM).[70] Several months later, on 14 July 1981, the IAF achieved the first F-16 "kill" of another fighter with a successful AAM shoot-down of a Syrian MiG-21.[71]

On 7 June 1981, eight Israeli F-16s, escorted by F-15s, executed Operation Opera, their first employment in a significant air-to-ground operation. This raid severely damaged Osirak, an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction near Baghdad, to prevent the regime of Saddam Hussein from using the reactor for the creation of nuclear weapons.[72]

Operation Peace for Galilee (1982)

The following year, during Operation Peace for Galilee (Lebanon War) Israeli F-16s engaged Syrian aircraft in one of the largest air battles involving jet aircraft, which began on 9 June and continued for two more days. At the end of the conflict, the Israeli Air Force credited their F-16s with 44 air-to-air kills, mostly of MiG-21s and MiG-23s, while suffering no air-to-air losses of their own.[70][73] F-16s were also used in their ground-attack role for strikes against targets in Lebanon.

Soviet/Russian sources also state the Syrians lost only six MiG-23MFs and four export MiG-23MSs in the Bekaa Valley, while the other fourteen MiG-23s shot down by the Israelis were MiG-23BN ground-attack variants. At the same time, Syrian MiG-23s managed to shoot down at least five F-16s, two F-4Es, and a BQM-34 unmanned reconnaissance plane.[74]

Incidents during the Soviet-Afghan War (1986–1988)

During the Soviet-Afghan war, between May 1986 and January 1989, Pakistan Air Force F-16s shot down at least 10 intruders from Afghanistan. Four of the kills were Afghan Su-22s bombers, three were Afghan transports (two An-26s and one An-24), and one was a Soviet Su-25 bomber. Most of these kills were achieved using the AIM-9 Sidewinder, but a Su-22 was destroyed by cannon fire and the one An-24 crash landed after being forced to land upon interception.[75]

Afghanistan claimed to have shot down one Pakistani F-16A during an encounter on 29 April 1987; the pilot ejected safely and landed in Pakistani territory. Pakistani authorities admitted to having lost a fighter jet to enemy fighters, but suggested that it may have been either an F-16 or an F-6 and insisted it was attacked over Pakistani territory.[76] Subsequently, Pakistani officials confirmed that the loss was an F-16, but asserted it was accidentally shot down in a friendly fire incident during a dogfight with enemy aircraft over Pakistani territory. According to this claim, Flight Lieutenant Shahid Sikandar Khan’s F-16 was hit by an AIM-9 missile fired by another F-16 piloted by Squadron Leader Amjad Javed.[77]

Operation Desert Storm (1991)

File:F-16 Mrkoww.JPG
A F-16C on the hardstand at McChord AFB, Washington.

In Operation Desert Storm of 1991, 249 USAF F-16s flew 13,340 sorties in strikes against Iraq, the most of any Coalition aircraft. Falcons often had AGM-65s (up to six), or two Mk84 2,000 lbs bombs (middle underwing pylons), two 1,400 lts tanks fuel, two AIM-9 and a underbelly ECM pod, such as the AN/ALQ-131. F-16Ds from the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB were used as spotter aircraft to search and find Iraqi SAMs and Republican Guard troops. They were armed with up to six Mk82s, Cluster Bombs, and LGBs. These aircraft were also equipped with LANTIRN and binoculars.[citation needed] Three aircraft were lost to confirmed enemy action: two to enemy radar guided SA-6 and SA-3 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs)[78][79] and one to a shoulder launched SA-16 missile.[80] Other F-16s were damaged in accidents and by hostile ground fire but were able to return to base and be repaired.[81][82] In all, seven F-16 were lost during Desert Storm combat operations between January 16 and February 28.[83]

F-16s formed the basis of the largest strike package (72 aircraft) flown during the war - "Package Q", a daylight raid against targets in downtown Baghdad on 19 January. It was during the "Package Q" mission that two F-16s, from 614th TFS 'Lucky Devils', part of the 401st TFW (P), flying from Doha, Qatar were lost to SAMs with their pilots (Capt Mike "Cujo" Roberts and Maj 'Tico' Tice downed, respectively, by a SA-2 and SA-3)becoming POWs.[84] This mission also marked the largest single operational F-16 strike package flown to date.[85]

F-16s were used also as Wild Weasel shooters, with AGM-88 HARM missiles, together with older F-4Gs (480th TFS, 52nd Wing)[86]. There were only 13 F-16s with HARMs, all based at Incirlik Air Base, together with 12 F-4Gs. Phantoms had the powerful AN/APR-47 and with these systems, they did the more difficult tasks (attacking the mobile radar sites); F-16s were only recently fitted with HARMs, and the bulk of USAF SEAD was still the F-4G (another 48 were at Sheik Isa, Bahrain). F-16s flew escort/Wild Weasel missions escorting them and striking pre-planned targets. The 138th Fighter Squadron (174th TFW, New York ANG) used 24 F/A-16s equipped with a 30 mm gunpod, the GPU-5/A 'Pave Claw', a four-barreled derivative of the A-10 Thunderbolt's GAU-13 cannon, but this proved a failure owing to excess vibration and inadequate gunsights.[87][88]

Interwar Air Operations over Iraq (1991-2003)

From the end of Desert Storm until the invasion of Iraq in 2003, USAF F-16s patrolled the Iraqi no-fly zones. Two air-to-air victories were scored by USAF F-16s in Operation Southern Watch.[89] On 27 December 1992, a USAF F-16D shot down an Iraqi MiG-25 in UN-restricted airspace over southern Iraq with an AIM-120 AMRAAM; this was the first USAF F-16 kill since the F-16 was introduced; and was also the first AMRAAM kill.[90] On 17 January 1993, a USAF F-16C destroyed an Iraqi MiG-23 with an AMRAAM missile for the second USAF F-16 victory.[91]

F-16s returned to Iraq in December 1998 as part of the Operation Desert Fox bombing campaign to "degrade" Iraq's ability to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction.[92]

Venezuelan coup attempt (1992)

On 27 November 1992, two Venezuelan F-16s took part in the November Venezuelan Coup Attempt on the side of the government over the city of Barquisimeto and its Military Air Base. In particular, the two F-16As strafed targets on the ground and shot down two OV-10 Broncos with AIM-9Ps and one AT-27 Tucano with cannon fire as these rebel-flown aircraft attacked loyalist army positions. To avoid hitting civilian targets, the two F-16s flew in the outer perimeter of the city, while one rebel OV-10 Bronco tried to engage combat.[93]

Balkans (1994–1995 and 1999)

Tail and canopy of F-16CG in Belgrade Aviation Museum, Serbia

F-16s were also employed by NATO during Bosnian peacekeeping operations in 1994-95 in ground-attack missions and enforcing the no-fly-zone over Bosnia (Operation Deny Flight). The first incident took place on 28 February 1994, 4 J-21 and 2 IJ-21 Jastrebs and 2 J-22 Oraos had violated the no-fly-zone to conduct a bombing run on Novi Travnik. The pilots of the 2 J-22s spotted the F-16s above them and after their attack, they left the area in low-level flight towards Croatia, where the U.S. jets could not follow. Meanwhile, the rest of the group was engaged and attacked, first by two USAF F-16Cs, which scored three kills. The remaining J-21 was taken out by a different pair of USAF F-16Cs. Of the six Yugoslavian jets engaged, four were shot down (one by AMRAAM and the others by Sidewinders).[94][95] On 2 June 1995, one F-16C was lost to a Serb 2K12 Kub SAM (NATO reporting name: SA-6 "Gainful") while on patrol over Bosnia. Its pilot, Scott O'Grady, ejected and was later rescued by a USMC CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopter on 8 June.[96]

NATO F-16s also participated in air strikes against Serbian forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina during Operation Deliberate Force in August-September 1995, and again in Operation Allied Force over Yugoslavia from March-June 1999. During Allied Force, F-16s also achieved one or two aerial victories: one by a Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM, which shot down a Yugoslavian MiG-29 with an AMRAAM, and possibly another by a USAF F-16C which fired two AMRAAMs at a Yugoslavian MiG-29. However, in the latter case, the Serbs claimed to have subsequently found fragments of a 9K32M Strela-2M NATO designation: SA-7b) MANPAD in the wreckage of this MiG-29, suggesting it was mistakenly downed by Serbian infantry.[97]

On 2 May 1999, a USAF F-16CG was lost over Serbia. It was shot down by an S-125 Neva SAM (NATO: SA-3) near Nakucani. Its pilot; Lt. Col David Goldfein, the commander of 555th Fighter Squadron, managed to eject and was later rescued by a combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) mission.[98][99] The remains of this aircraft are on display in the Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum, Belgrade International Airport.

Aegean incidents (1996 and 2006)

On 8 October 1996, during an air-to-air confrontation over the Aegean Sea in Athens FIR, a Greek Mirage 2000 fired an R550 Magic and shot down a Turkish F-16D, which the Greek Government claims it violated Greek Airspace, while the Turkish government claims was on a training mission north of the Greek island of Samos, close to the Turkish mainland. The Turkish pilot died, while the co-pilot ejected and was rescued by Greek forces.[100][101] While the Turkish government admits the loss, the Greek government officially denies the shootdown occurred.[102][verification needed]

On 23 May 2006, two Greek F-16 Block 52+ jets were scrambled to intercept a Turkish RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft and its two F-16 escorts off the coast of the Greek island of Karpathos, within Athens FIR. A mock dogfight ensued between the two sides’ F-16s, which ended in a midair collision between a Turkish F-16 and a Greek F-16. The Turkish pilot ejected safely after his jet was destroyed, but the Greek pilot died when his canopy and cockpit were destroyed during the collision.[103]

Kargil War (1999)

Although F-16As of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) did not see combat in the 1999 Kargil War, they were initially employed in patrolling the border to ensure Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters did not cross the line of control. Later in the war, lack of spare parts due to sanctions imposed on Pakistan forced the PAF to withdraw its F-16 fleet from regular patrol duties. The PAF's main opposition was the MiG-29, used by the IAF to provide fighter escort for Mirage 2000 which were attacking enemy targets with precision guided munitions. According to Indian sources, IAF MiG-29 of 47 (Black Archers) squadron tracked two PAF F-16As close to Indian air space with their radars, but they were ordered not to attack because no official declaration of war had been issued.[104] Pakistani sources state that the number of border violations by Indian aircraft dropped noticeably when F-16s were on patrol and that there were several cases of PAF F-16 and IAF Mirage 2000 tracking each other with their radars, but again no combat took place.[105]

Operations in Afghanistan (2001–present)

An F-16 of the Royal Netherlands Air Force over Afghanistan

F-16s have been used by the United States in Afghanistan since 2001. In 2002, a tri-national detachment known as the European Participating Air Forces (Danish, Dutch and Norwegian) of 18 F-16s in the ground attack role deployed to Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Since April 2005, eight Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s, joined by four Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s in February 2006, have been supporting International Security Assistance Force ground troops the southern provinces of Afghanistan. The detachment is known as the 1st Netherlands-Norwegian European Participating Forces Expeditionary Air Wing (1 NLD/NOR EEAW).[106] On 31 August 2006, a Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM crashed in Ghazni province and the pilot, Capt. Michael Donkervoort, was killed.[107] No cause was determined, but the investigation referenced the fact that a camel spider and other creatures had recently been found in the cockpits of Dutch aircraft in Afghanistan.[108][109]

Invasion of Iraq and post-war operations (2003–present)

US F-16s participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the only loss suffered over Iraq during this phase was an F-16CG of the 388th Fighter Wing’s 421st Fighter Squadron that crashed near Baghdad on 12 June 2003 when it ran out of fuel.[110]

A US Army MIM-104 Patriot SAM fire-control radar was damaged on 25 March 2003 following a hit by an AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile fired from an USAF F-16C on a patrol over southern Iraq, when the radar established a lock-on onto the fighter and the F-16 RWR classified it as a SA-2 radar.[111] On 7 June 2006, two USAF F-16s dropped two 500 lb (230 kg) guided bombs (one GBU-12 Paveway LGB and one GBU-38 GPS-guided “smart” bomb) destroying an al-Qaeda safehouse, killing Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.[112]

An F-16CG crashed near Fallujah on 27 November 2006 while on a low-altitude ground-strafing run; although under fire, according to the official USAF report, the apparent cause was due to flying into the ground while attempting to maintain visual identification of targeted enemy vehicles. The pilot, Major Troy Gilbert, was killed.[113][114] Two other F-16s were lost in Iraq a month apart, on 15 June and 15 July 2007 in separate noncombat-related accidents,[115][116][117][118] On 12 November 2008, an F-16C was destroyed in a ground fire at Balad Air Base in Iraq after a failed takeoff. The pilot was uninjured.[119] On 25 February 2009, a USAF F-16 shot down an Iranian Ababil-3 UAV that had violated Iraqi airspace. This so far marks the only confirmed air-to-air kill of the war.[120]

Second Lebanon War (2006)

Israeli Air Force F-16I with CFTs and dorsal spine

Israeli F-16s, the bomber workhorse of the Israel Defense Forces, participated in the 2006 Lebanon War. The only reported F-16 loss was an IDF F-16I that crashed on 19 July when one of its tires burst as it took off for Lebanon from an air base in the Negev. The pilots ejected safely and there were no casualties on the ground.[121] Israeli F-16's shot down three Hezbollah-operated Ababil UAVs during the war.[122]

Gaza War (2008-2009)

Israelis Defence Force F-16s were used in attacks in the Gaza strip in December 2008. The attacks were aimed at Hamas, and other militants, but also killed many civilians and other non-combatants.[123] No F-16s were lost.

Operations in North-West Pakistan (May 2009–present)

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) have been using their F-16A fleet to attack militant positions and support the Pakistan Army's operations in North-West Pakistan against the Taliban insurgency. Since May 2009, PAF F-16s have used 500 lb and 2,000 lb unguided and laser-guided bombs to attack caves, tunnels, training camps, ammunition dumps and hide-outs used by the militants. Over 100 combat missions have been flown in South Waziristan and over 300 in the Swat Valley as of 29 July 2009. Prior to the operations in the Swat Valley, approximately 10 of the PAF's F-16s were fitted with high-resolution infra-red sensors for reconnaissance purposes, supplied by the United States, to provide the Pakistani military with detailed imagery of the area.[124]

Lockheed Martin had indicated back in May 2007 that it would be supplying Pakistan with 18 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP) with deliveries starting in 2008.[125]

Variants

F-16 on static display at Farnborough Airshow, 2006.

F-16 models are denoted by sequential block numbers to denote significant upgrades. The blocks cover both single- and two-seat versions. A variety of software, hardware, systems, weapons carriage, and structural enhancements have been instituted over the years to gradually upgrade the F-16 and retroactively implement the upgrades in previously delivered aircraft.

While many F-16s were produced according to these block designs, there have been many other variants with significant changes, usually due to modification programs. Other changes have resulted in role-specialization, such as the close air support and reconnaissance variants. Several models were also developed to test new technology. The F-16 design also inspired the design of other aircraft, which are considered derivatives.

F-16A/B

The F-16A (single seat) and F-16B (two seat) were initially equipped with the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 pulse-doppler radar, Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan, rated at 14,670 lbf (64.9 kN) and 23,830 lbf (106.0 kN) with afterburner. The A and B variants include Blocks 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20. The USAF bought 674 F-16As and 121 F-16Bs, with delivery completed in March 1985. The F-16A/B had a unit cost of US$14.6 million (1992).

Early blocks (Block 1/5/10) featured relatively minor differences between each. Most were later upgraded to the Block 10 configuration in the early 1980s. Block 15 aircraft was the first major change in the F-16. It featured larger horizontal stabilizers, the addition of two hardpoints to the chin inlet, an improved AN/APG-66(V)2 radar, and increased capacity for the underwing hardpoints. Block 15 also gained the Have Quick II secure UHF radio. The horizontal stabilizers were enlarged by 30% to counter the additional weight of the new hardpoints. Block 15 is the most numerous variant of the F-16, with 983 produced.

Block 20 added some F-16C/D block 50/52 capability: Improved AN/APG-66(V)3 radar with added CW mode to guide 2 types of BVR missiles — AIM-7M Sparrow missiles and AIM-120 AMRAAM, carriage of AGM-45 Shrike(not release to Taiwan), AGM-84 Harpoon, and AGM-88 HARM(not release to Taiwan) missiles, as well as the LANTIRN navigation and targeting pod. The Block 20 computers are significantly improved in comparison to that of the earlier versions that later integrated into post 1997 Block 50/52, and also getting color MFD. The Republic of China (Taiwan) received 150 F-16A/B Block 20 aircraft.[126]

F-16C/D

F-16C (single seat) and F-16D (two seat) variants were introduced in service in 1984. The Block 25 was the first C/D block. It added all-weather capability with beyond-visual-range (BVR) AIM-7 and AIM-120 air-air missiles.[127] Block 25 introduced a substantial improvement in cockpit avionics, and improved AN/APG-68 radar. Block 25s were first delivered with the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 engine and later upgraded to the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220E. A total of 209 Block 25 aircraft were delivered.[128] A total of 1,261 F-16Cs and 205 F-16Ds were delivered to the USAF.[129] The F-16C/D had a unit cost of US$18.8 million (1998).[1]

Block 30/32 was the first block of F-16s affected by the Alternative Fighter Engine project under which aircraft were fitted with the traditional Pratt & Whitney engines or, for the first time, the General Electric F110-GE-100. From this point on, blocks ending in "0" (e.g., Block 30) are powered by GE, and blocks ending in "2" (e.g., Block 32) are fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines. The first Block 30 F-16 entered service in 1987. Major differences include the carriage of the AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-88 HARM, and the AIM-120 missiles. From Block 30D, aircraft were fitted with larger engine air intakes (called a Modular Common Inlet Duct) for the increased-thrust GE engine. A total of 733 Block 30/32 aircraft were produced and delivered to six countries.[130]

Block 40/42 entered service in 1988. It is the improved all-day/all-weather strike variant equipped with LANTIRN pod; also unofficially designated the F-16CG/DG, the night capability gave rise to the name "Night Falcons". This block features strengthened and lengthened undercarriage for LANTIRN pods, an improved radar, and a GPS receiver. From 2002, the Block 40/42 increased the weapon range available to the aircraft including JDAM, AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD) and the (Enhanced) EGBU-27 Paveway “bunker-buster”. A total of 615 Block 40/42 aircraft were delivered to 5 countries.[131]

Block 50/52 F-16 was first delivered in late 1991; the aircraft are equipped with improved GPS/INS, and the aircraft can carry a further batch of advanced missiles: the AGM-88 HARM missile, JDAM, JSOW and WCMD. Block 50 aircraft are powered by the F110-GE-129 while the Block 52 jets use the F100-PW-229; said aircraft are unofficially designated F-16CJ.[132]

Block 50/52 Plus (or 50/52+), which is also known as the "Advanced Block 50/52", was first delivered in April 2003 to the Hellenic Air Force. Its main differences are the addition of support for conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), dorsal spine compartment, APG-68(V9) radar, and JHMCS helmet.[132] The CFTs are mounted above the wing, on both sides of the fuselage. They provide an additional 450 US gallon (2,045 L) of fuel for increased range or time on station and free up underwing hardpoints for weapons. They can be easily removed if needed. The optional dorsal spine compartment is located behind the cockpit and extends to the tail. It adds adds 30 cubic feet (850 L) for more internal avionics and chaff/flare dispensers. This option is extremely common in the two-seat versions, but can not be mounted on single seat versions.[133]

F-16E/F

A United Arab Emirates Air Force F-16E Block 60 taking off after taxiing out of the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas (adjacent to NAS Fort Worth JRB).

The F-16E (single seat) and F-16F (two seat) are the latest version of the F-16. They do not exist in the USAF inventory and are currently an export variant only. Originally, the single-seat version of the General Dynamics F-16XL was to have been designated F-16E, with the twin-seat variant designated F-16F. This was sidelined by the Air Force's selection of the competing F-15E Strike Eagle in the Enhanced Tactical Fighter fly-off in 1984. The 'Block 60' designation had also previously been set aside in 1989 for the A-16, but this model was also dropped.[134] The F-16E/F designation now belongs to a special version developed especially for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and is sometimes unofficially called the "Desert Falcon".

Block 60 is based on the F-16C/D Block 50/52. It features improved radar, avionics and conformal fuel tanks; it has only been sold to the United Arab Emirates. At one time, this version was incorrectly thought to have been designated "F-16U". A major difference from previous blocks is the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-80 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which gives the airplane the capability to simultaneously track and destroy ground and air threats. The Block 60's General Electric F110-GE-132 engine is a development of the -129 model and is rated at 32,500 lbf (144 kN). The Block 60 allows the carriage of all Block 50/52-compatible weaponry as well as AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) and the AGM-84E Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM). The CFTs provide an additional 450 US gallon (2,045 L) of fuel, allowing increased range or time on station and frees up hardpoints for weapons instead of underwing fuel tanks. The MIL-STD-1553 data bus is replaced by MIL-STD-1773 fiber-optic data bus which offers a 1000 times increase in data-handling capability. UAE funded the entire $3 billion Block 60 development costs, and in exchange will receive royalties if any of the Block 60 aircraft are sold to other nations. A press report stated that this is "the first time the US has sold a better aircraft[F-16] overseas than its own forces fly".[135]

F-16IN

India initially sent the RFI for a F-16C/D Block 52+ configuration aircraft for the ongoing Indian MRCA competition to supply the Indian Air Force with 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft. On 17 January 2008, Lockheed Martin offered a customized version of the F-16, the F-16IN Super Viper for the Indian MMRCA contract.[136] The F-16IN, which is similar to the F-16 Block 60, will be a 4.5 generation aircraft.

Lockheed Martin has described the F-16IN as “the most advanced and capable F-16 ever.” Based closely on the F-16E/F Block 60 as supplied to the UAE, the features on the F-16IN include Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs); AN/APG-80 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar,[137] GE F110-132A engine with 32,000 pounds (143 kN) of thrust with FADEC controls; electronic warfare suite and infra-red searching (IRST); advanced all-color glass cockpit with three large displays; and a helmet-mounted cueing system.[138]

As of September 2009, F-16IN Super Viper completed a part of the field trials. Lockheed Martin officials said that the phase I of field trials was over and the week-long training phase was in preparation for Phase II of field trials begins on 7 September and will last two weeks.

Operators

Operators of F-16 as of 2007

Over 4,400 F-16s have been sold to 25 foreign air forces.[139]

Notable accidents

  • On 8 May 1975, while practicing a 9-g aerial display maneuver with the second YF-16 (tail number 72-1568) at Fort Worth prior to being sent to the Paris Air Show, one of the main landing gear jammed. The test pilot, Neil Anderson, had to perform an emergency gear-up landing and chose to do so in the grass, hoping to minimize damage and to avoid injuring the many GD employees observing the display. The aircraft was only slightly damaged (inlet duct buckling, fuselage station 227 bulkhead cracks, etc.). It was scheduled to appear at the Paris air show but due to the mishap the first prototype (tail number 72-1567) was sent.
  • On 11 February 1992, an F-16 from the Royal Netherlands Air Force crashed into the city of Hengelo. The fighter suffered engine failure shortly after takeoff and the pilot tried to return to the nearby Twenthe air base. The pilot ejected and landed safely on the roof of a building. The F-16 crashed between the houses, without causing any injuries on the ground.
  • During a joint Army-Air Force exercise being conducted at Pope AFB, North Carolina, on 23 March 1994, F-16D (AF Serial No. 88-0171) of the 23d Fighter Wing / 74th Fighter Squadron was at the center of a multi-aircraft accident with a USAF C-141 aircraft that was embarking US Army paratroopers, since known as the "Green Ramp disaster". This mishap resulted in 24 fatalities and at least 80 others injured.[140]
  • On 27 March 2000, an Israeli Air Force F-16D-30F of 109 Sq based at Ramat David Air Base, crashed into the Mediterranean Sea during a training flight 17 nmi (31 km) off the coastal village of Atlit in northern Israel. The pilot, Major Yonatan Begin, was a grandson of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. Neither he nor his co-pilot, Lt. Lior Harari, had notified their ground controllers of any problems.[141][142]
  • On 15 September 2003 an Air Force Thunderbird F-16C crashed and exploded during an air show in Mountain Home, Idaho. The pilot managed to safely eject from the F-16 without receiving any injury.[143][specify]

Specifications (F-16C Block 30)

Data from USAF sheet,[1] International Directory of Military Aircraft,[146] AerospaceWeb,[147] [129]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 49 ft 5 in (15.06 m)
  • Wingspan: 32 ft 8 in (9.96 m)
  • Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
  • Wing area: 300 ft² (27.87 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A204 root and tip
  • Empty weight: 18,900 lb (8,570 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 26,500 lb (12,000 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 42,300 lb (19,200 kg)
  • Powerplant:F110-GE-100 afterburning turbofan
    • Dry thrust: 17,155 lbf (76.3 kN)
    • Thrust with afterburner: 28,600 lbf (127 kN)

Performance

File:F-16 M61.jpeg
M61A1 on display.
Armament

Avionics

Notable appearances in media

The F-16 can be seen in movies such as Blue Thunder, The Jewel of the Nile, the Iron Eagle series, X2, The Sum of All Fears, Cloverfield, Eagle Eye and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It also appears, in a more negative light, in the 1992 TV movie Afterburn.

Due to its widespread adoption, the F-16 has been a popular model for computer flight simulators, appearing in over 20 games. Some of them are: Falcon series (1987-2005), F-16 Combat Pilot (1988) F-16 Fighting Falcon (1984), Jet (1989), Strike Commander (1993), iF-16 (1997), F-16 Multi-role Fighter (1998), F-16 Aggressor (1999), The Ace Combat Series and Thrustmaster "HOTAS Cougar" flight simulator controller (exacting reproduction of those found in the F-16 Block 40/50). The F-16 is also one of two aircraft available in the built-in flight simulator in Google Earth.

Gallery

See also

United States Air Force portal

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

References

Notes

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  10. ^ Richardson 1990, p. 7.
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Bibliography

  • Darling, Kev. F-16 Fighting Falcon (Combat Legend). London: Airlife, 2003. ISBN 1-84037-399-7.
  • Drendel, Lou. F-16 Fighting Falcon - Walk Around No. 1. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Books, 1993. ISBN 0-8974-7307-8.
  • Gunston, Bil. United States Military Aircraft of the 20th Century London: Salamander Books Ltd, 1984. ISBN 0-86101-163-5.
  • Hehs, Eric. "Harry Hillaker — Father of the F-16." Code One: An Airpower Projection Magazine, April/July 1991.
  • Hillaker, Harry. "John Boyd, USAF Retired, Father of the F-16." Code One: An Airpower Projection Magazine, April/July 1997.
  • Hoh, Roger H. and David G. Mitchell. "Flying Qualities of Relaxed Static Stability Aircraft – Volume I: Flying Qualities Airworthiness Assessment and Flight Testing of Augmented Aircraft." Federal Aviation Administration (DOT/FAA/CT-82/130-I), September 1983. Retrieved: 16 June 2008.
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  • Williams, Anthony G. and Gustin, Dr Emmanuel. Flying Guns: The Modern Era. Ramsbury, UK:The Crowood Press, 2004. ISBN 1 86126 655 3.

External links

 

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