F-16 Fighting Falcon

From Academic Kids

Missing image
F-16 Fighting Falcon over Iraq

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a modern multi-role jet fighter aircraft built in the United States. Designed as a lightweight fighter, it evolved into a successful multi-role aircraft. The F-16 was developed by General Dynamics. In 1993 General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation, now Lockheed Martin. The Falcon's versatility is a paramount reason it was a success on the export market, and is serving 24 countries. It is the largest and probably most significant Western fighter program, with over 4000 models built. Though no longer produced for the USAF, it is still produced for export.

The Fighting Falcon is regarded as a superb dogfighter, with innovations such as the bubble canopy, side-mounted control stick, and reclined seat. It was also the first US fighter aircraft to match the English Electric Lightning's capability of turning at the rate of 9 g (88 m/s²) turns during flight. Although the F-16's official popular name is "Fighting Falcon," it is well-known as the "Viper," the General Dynamics codename for the project during its early development.




The F-16 originates in a set of specifications the United States Department of Defense issued in 1974. The deficiencies of the F-4 Phantom II in aerial combat in the Vietnam War, particularly at close ranges, shaped the specifications for the F-15. An informal and influential group nicknamed the "Fighter Mafia", among them systems analyst Pierre Sprey, test pilot Charles E. Meyers, and instructor pilot John Boyd, believed the F-15 was a move in the wrong direction. They argued that the F-15 was too large and expensive. Designed as a fast interceptor, it had a wide turn radius and was not well suited to close range dogfighting. The Fighter Mafia argued for a lighter fighter with superb maneuverability, that was cheap enough to deploy in numbers. These specifications became the Lightweight Fighter(LWF) program, begun in 1971.

The LWF specified a plane weighing 20,000 pounds (9,000 kg), half the weight of the F-15, stressing low cost, small size, range, and stressing maneuverability - turn rate and acceleration - at the expense of top speed. Its ideal operating environment was intended to be under Mach 1.6 and 40,000 feet (12,000 m). Two companies were chosen during the concept stage: General Dynamics with the YF-16 design and Northrop with a design which bore the name YF-17 Cobra.

The LWF faced significant opposition in the Air Force because it was seen as competition to the F-15, the Air Force's premier fighter program. To head off opposition the project was redesignated Air Combat Fighter (ACF). At this time, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway were seeking a replacement for their F-104 Starfighters, and formed the Multinational Fighter Program Group to choose a replacement. Both ACF aircraft were in consideration, as well as the Dassault Mirage F1 and the Saab Viggen. Also during this time, the Navy was looking for a low-cost alternative to the F-14 Tomcat, a similarly expensive, costly interceptor as the F-15, in a program called VFAX. Congress directed the Navy to use the same aircraft as the ACF programme. As the VFAX was envisioned to be a multi-role aircraft, this requirement made it into the ACF specifications as well, staving off direct competition with the F-15 as it was pitched to be a counterpart.

On January 13, 1975, the Air Force chose the YF-16 as the winner of the ACF competition as it gave superior performances across the board and promised to be cheaper to procure and maintain. It also used the same engine as the F-15, which F-15 supporters believed would help their program. There were also political concerns with keeping General Dynamics in business after the end of the F-111 program. The US Navy chose to have the YF-17 design developed into the F/A-18 because it offered twin-engined reliability, then viewed as essential for over-water operations.

The plane was offered to NATO members, and made an appearance at the 1975 Paris Air Show. The MFPG nations agreed to purchase 348 planes, with final assembly to take place in Belgium and various parts subcontracted among them.

Missing image
The USAF Thunderbirds perform an echelon pass. While performing the pass the F-16 Fighting Falcons fly between 18 and 24 inches apart at an average speed of 400 mph.


Initially, the F-16 was manufactured in two models: A (single-seat combat version) and B (combat-capable two-seat trainer). The F-16A first took flight in December 1976 and was first delivered to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing in January 1979. In the same month, they were delivered to the Belgian Air Force. The F-16 is the first American fighter to be concurrently deployed domestically and abroad. The B model is a trainer version with an extended canopy to accommodate a second pilot, also reducing fuel and avionics growth space. Typically the student sits in the rear cockpit.

In the 1980s, the F-16A/B was superseded by the F-16C/D with improved avionics and engine. The F-16 has been continually upgraded throughout its production history; block designations reflect significant upgrades and are outlined below. The empty weight of F-16 grew from 15,600 pounds (Block 10 F-16A) to 19,200 (Block 50 F-16C).

Due to their ubiquity, the F-16s have participated in numerous conflicts, most of them in the Middle East. In 1981, 4 Israeli F-16s participated in a raid that destroyed Osiraq, an Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad. The following year, during the invasion into Lebanon, Israeli F-16s engaged on numerous occasions with Syrian aircraft, ending up victorious at all times but one. F-16s were also used afterwards in their ground-attack role for strikes against targets in Lebanon. In the Gulf War of 1991, F-16 from the air forces of the Coalition participated in the strikes against Iraq.

The Air Force now operates Block 40/42 and 50/52 F-16C's on active duty, while Block 25 and 30/32 airframes have been moved to the Air National Guard.

The F-35 "Joint Strike Fighter" is the F-16's intended replacement, possessing slightly improved performance and most importantly, stealth technology, which will enhance its survivability in the modern battlespace.

Design characteristics

The F-16 is a single engine, multi-mission tactical aircraft. It is equipped with built-in M61 Vulcan cannon, and can be equipped with air-to-air missiles. However, the F-16 can also perform ground-support tasks if necessary. For that task, it can be equipped with a large variety of missiles or bombs.

From the very beginning, the F-16 was intended to be a cost-effective "workhorse," that could perform various kinds of missions and maintain around-the-clock readiness. It is much simpler and lighter than its predecessors, but uses advanced aerodynamics and avionics (including the first use of fly-by-wire, earning it the nickname of "the electric jet") to maintain good performance.

Missing image
F-16 C/J Fighting Falcon

Ergonomics and visibility

The pilot sits high in the fuselage with the canopy support-bow behind him, out of his line of view. This and the bubble canopy give the pilot optimal visibility, a feature vital during air-to-air combat. The seat is reclined 30 degrees instead of the usual 13, to aid in dealing with G-forces. The control stick is mounted on the right armrest rather than between the legs as is traditional, to aid in maneuvering during high-g turns. It should be noted that pilots of planes with traditionally mounted control sticks are known to switch hands to allow themselves to pull-push on the canopy to fight G-forces, which is not an option with the side-mounted stick. In addition, a holographic Head-Up Display displayed vital information in the pilot's field of view.

Fly by wire

The F-16 was the first aircraft without direct linkages from the pilot's controls to the plane's control surfaces. Instead, his control inputs are translated to digital input to computers (quadruple redundant on the F-16) which then interpret the optimal control changes to implement those directions. This is known as a fly-by-wire system. It is faster to respond, more efficient (as it automatically utilizes all control surfaces, enabling the elimination of unwanted side effects like sideslip), and can result in a smoother flight as the computer can respond to external conditions faster than a human can. More importantly, coupled with input from the flight instruments, the computer can keep an inherently unstable aircraft in stable flight through continuous tweaks to the control surfaces. This enables the following:

Negative stability

An aircraft with Negative Stability will, in the absence of control input, depart from level and controlled flight. Aircraft have typically designed with Positive Stability (where a plane tends to move towards level flight in the absence of control input) for safety reasons. However, positive stability hampers maneuverability, as the tendency to enter level flight interferes with flight maneuvers, and so a plane with negative stability will be more maneuverable. With a fly-by-wire system, such a plane can be kept in stable flight, its instability kept in check by the flight computers.

The YF-16 was the world's first aircraft to be aerodynamically unstable by design. With its rearward center of gravity, its natural tendency during flight is to pitch up, rather than down, as most conventional aircraft do. Level flight is created by the elevator pushing the tail up rather than down, and therefore pushing the entire aircraft up. With the elevator working with the wing rather than against it, wing area, weight, and drag are reduced. The aeroplane is constantly on the verge of flipping up or down totally out of control. This tendency is constantly caught and corrected by the fly-by-wire control system, so quickly that neither the pilot nor an outside observer could know anything was happening.


F-16 models are denoted by sequential block numbers to denote significant upgrades. The blocks cover both single and two-seater versions. An intricate Multinational Staged Improvement Program was instituted to gradually upgrade the F-16 and retroactively implement the upgrades in delivered aircraft.

F-16 A/B

The F-16 A/B was 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), 23,830 lbf (106.0 kN) with afterburner. The USAF bought 674 F-16A's and 121 F-16B's, with delivery completed in March 1985.

  • Blocks 1/5/10
    Early blocks with relatively minor differences between each. Most were later upgraded to the Block 10 configuration in the early 80's. There were 94 Block 1, 197 Block 5, and 312 Block 10 aircraft produced.
  • Block 15
    The first major change in the F-16, the Block 15 aircraft featured larger horizontal stabilisers, the addition of two hardpoints to the chin inlet, improved AN/APG-66 radar, increased capacity of underwing hardpoints. The F-16 gained the Have Quick I secure UHF radio. To counter the additional weight of the new hardpoints, the horizontal stabilizers were enlarged by 30%. Block 15 is the most numerous variant of the F-16, with 983 produced. The last one was delivered in 1996 to Malaysia.
  • Block 15 OCU
    From 1987 Block 15 aircraft were delivered to the Operational Capability Upgrade (OCU) standard, which featured improved F100-PW-220 turbofans with digital control interface, the ability to fire the AGM-65, AMRAAM, and AGM-119 Penguin missiles, countermeasures and cockpit upgrades, improved computers and data bus. its maximum takeoff weight increased to 37,500 lb (17,000 kg). 214 aircraft received this upgrade, as well as some Block 10 aircraft, retroactively.
  • Block 20
    150 Block 15 OCU's for Taiwan.

F-16 C/D

  • Block 25
    The Block 25 F-16C first flew in June 1984 and entered USAF service in September. The aircraft are fitted with the Westinghouse AN/APG-86 radar, have a precision night attack capability and are fitted with the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220E turbofan, with digital control interface. The USAF is the sole user of this variant, with 209 models delivered.
  • Block 30/32
    The first aircraft subject to the Alternative Fighter Engine project under which aircraft could be fitted with the traditional Pratt & Whitney engines or for the first time the General Electric F110. Blocks ending in 0 are powered by GE, blocks ending in 2 are fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines.
    The first Block 30 F-16 entered service in 1987. Major difference include the carriage of the AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-88 HARM missiles. From Block 30D aircraft were fitted with enlarged inlets for the increased thrust GE engine, Block 32s were not modified in this way. 733 were produced and delivered to six countries.
  • Block 40/42 (F-16 CG/DG)
    Entering service in 1988, the Block 40/42 is the improved all-day/all-weather strike variant with LANTIRN pod, the night capability gives rise to the name "Night Falcons". The block features strengthened and lengthened undercarriage for LANTIRN pods, improved radar, and a GPS receiver. From 2002 the Block 40/42 increases the weapon range available to the aircraft including JDAM, JSOW, WCMD and the (Enhanced) EGBU-27. 615 aircraft were delivered to 5 countries.
  • Block 50/52 (F-16 CJ/DJ)
    Block 50/52 was first delivered in late 1991, the aircraft are equipped with improved GPS/INS. All aircraft feature helmet-mounted-cueing allowing off-boresight air-to-air missile firing. The aircraft can carry a further batch of advanced missiles; the Harpoon 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.
  • Block 50D/52D Wild Weasel An advanced Supression of Enemy Air Defences "Wild Weasel" capability is provided by the AN/ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System (HTS), allowing greater range and more precision by utilizing the known range mode of the HARM. It can carry the ALQ-119 Electronic Jamming Pod for self protection. With the retirement of the F-4G Wild Weasel, the 50/52D is now the sole provider of SEAD missions.
  • Block 50/52 Plus
    These aircraft are fitted with the latest avionics and provisions for Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs). All two-seat "Plus" airframes include the enlarged Avionics Dorsal Spine which adds 30 cubic feet (850 L) to the airframe for more avionics with only small increases in weight and drag.
  • F-16 CCIP
    The Common Configuration Implementation Program seeks to standardise all Block 40/42/50/52 F-16s to 50/52 configuration for simplified training and maintenance.

F-16 E/F

  • Block 60
    Based on the F-16C/D, it features conformal fuel tanks and improved radar and avionics; it has only been sold to the United Arab Emirates. The General Electric F110-132 is a development of the -129 model and is rated at 32,500 lbf (144 kN). A major difference from previous Blocks is the Northrop Grumman APG-80 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. Block 60 allows the carriage of all Block 50/52 aircraft-compatible weaponry as well as ASRAAM and the AGM-84E Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM). The CFTs provide an additional 450 US gallons (2,045 litres) of fuel allowing increased range or time on station. This has the added benefit of freeing up hardpoints for weapons, i.e. hardpoints that would have been occupied by underwing fuel tanks.

Other variants

  • F-16/79 - Modified export-version F-16A designed for use with the outdated J79 turbojet engine in answer to President Jimmy Carter's directive to curtail arms proliferation by selling only reduced capability weapons. However, numerous exceptions were made, and with the later relaxation of the policy under President Carter and cancellation under President Reagan, no copies were ultimately sold.
  • F-16/101 - Modified F-16A designed for use with the General Electric F101 turbofan engine from the B-1A program. GE attempted to rework the engine for fighter usage, but it was never adopted for the F-16.
  • F-16ADF - upgraded Block 15 for United States Air National Guard's fighter interception mission (hence the name Air Defense Fighter). Begun in 1989, 270 airframes were upgraded. Avionics were upgraded, and a spotlight fitted forward and below the cockpit, for night time identification.
  • F-16I - a version with improved avionics, manufactured for Israel. Its avionics were significantly modified with Israeli components, and conformal fuel tanks fitted to increase its range.
  • F-16 MLU - (Mid Life Update) An update of the F-16 A/B for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, the Belgian Air Force, the Royal Danish Air Force and the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
  • F-16N - 26 Block 30 aircraft delivered to the U.S. Navy for use as aggressor trainers.
  • KF-16 - 180 licensed by Lockheed Martin in 1990's. Almost 2,500 parts changed from the original F-16E/F. Also in the late 1990's, Lockheed and KAI produced the first Korean Indigenous plane, the T-50/A-50. Modeled from the original F-16. About $22 million in cost and the South Korean government has ordered 94 planes in 2004. About 1200 expected to be sold.


Main article: Operators of the F-16 Fighting Falcon

Total delivered or on order as of 2004:

  • Unit cost:
    • F-16A/B: 1998USD 14.6 million
    • F-16C/D: 1998USD 18.8 million
    • late models: 1998USD 26.9 million

Recent discussion with the Indian ministry of defence indicates that the F-16 could be bought by the Indian Air Force. The United States government has also expressed interest in the co production of F-16's in India. This development will tremendously increase the significance of the F-16's in the South Asian power equation.


Specifications (F-16)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 (A/C), 2 (B/D)
  • Length: 47 ft 8 in (14.52 m)
  • Wingspan: 31 ft (9.45 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 8 in (5.09 m)
  • Wing area: 300 ft² (27.87 m²)
  • Empty: 18,238 lb (8,272 kg)
  • Loaded: 26,463 lb (12,003 kg)
  • Maximum takeoff: 42,300 lb (19,187 kg)
  • Powerplant:
    • F-16A/B: Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan, 14,670 lbf (64.9 kN), afterburning 23,830 lbf (106.0 kN)
    • F-16C/D:
      • Block 25/32/42: Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 turbofan, 14,590 lbf (64.9 kN), afterburning 23,770 lbf (105.7 kN)
      • Block 30/40: General Electric F110-GE-100 turbofan, 17,155 lbf (76.3 kN), afterburning 28,984 lbf (128.9 kN)
      • Block 50: General Electric F110-GE-129 turbofan, 17,155 lbf (76.3 kN), afterburning 28,984 lbf (128.9 kN)
      • Block 52: Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan, 17,000 lbf (75.6 kN), afterburning 28,500 lbf (127 kN)
    • F-16E/F: General Electric F110-GE-132 turbofan, 19,000 lbf (84.5 kN), afterburning 32,500 lbf (144.6 kN)


  • Maximum speed: 1,350 mph (2,173 km/h)
  • Range: 340 miles (547 km)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,240 m)
  • Rate of climb: 50,000 ft/min 15,240 m/min
  • Wing loading: lb/ft² (kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight:




The F-16 can be seen in the 1983 film Blue Thunder and 1986 Iron Eagle.

External links

  • F-16 images (http://www.20roundmag.com)
  • http://www.sulman4paf.tk/
  • F-16.net (http://www.f-16.net) Extensive and up-to-date F-16 Fighting Falcon resource.
  • [1] (http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/f-16.htm) The F-16 Weapons Platform
  • [2] (http://www.geocities.com/lionaq2003/Gallery_FIGHTING_FALCON.html)

Related content

Related development: Mitsubishi F-2

Comparable aircraft: IAI Lavi - AIDC Ching-Kuo - Chengdu J-10

Designation series: YF-12 - F-14 - F-15 - F-16 - F-17 - F/A-18 - F-20

See also


Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

de:General Dynamics F-16

fi:F-16 Fighting Falcon fr:General Dynamics F-16 Falcon he:F-16 it:F-16 ja:F-16 (戦闘機) nl:F-16 no:F-16 Fighting Falcon pl:F-16 Fighting Falcon pt:F-16 Falcon sl:Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon


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