F-16 Fighting Falcon, General Dynamics

F-16 Fighting Falcon Photo by Berry Vissers

The F-16 was the most successful fighter of its generation. In early 1997 about 3600 had been delivered (it's in use with over 17 air forces), and production was expected to exceed 4000. The F-16 began life as a research project for a very light fighter, optimized for dogfighting. The project looked promising enough to develop a real fighter from it, but common sense dictated that manoeuvrability is not the only requirement for a fighter, and the production F-16 is heavier and bigger than the original concept. Still, it is one of the best dogfighting aircraft. Typical for the F-16 are the wings of cropped delta configuration, blended with the fuselage, and with long forward wing extensions.

Type: F-16A
Function: fighter
Year: 1976
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 * 105.7kN P&W F100-PW-220
Wing Span: 10.00 m
Length: 15.03 m
Height: 5.09 m
Wing Area: 27.90 m2
Empty Weight: 7387 kg
Max.Weight: 17010 kg
Max. Speed: Mach 2.05
Ceiling: 16750 m
Max. Range: 3900 km
Armament: 1*g 20 mm 9276 kg payload
Unit cost: 20 million USD

Type: F-16C/D Fighting Falcon
Country: USA
Export: Bahrain/Greece/Israel/Egypt/NZ/UAE/Singapore/South Korea/Oman/Chile
Function: Multirole Fighter
In Service date: 1979
Crew: 1
Engines: 1 x 131,6 kN (29590 lbs) General Electric F110
Wing Span: 10.00 m
Wing area: 27.88 m2
Wing Aspect Ratio: 3.09
Length: 15.03 m
Height: 5.03 m

Empty Weight: 8581 kg
Internal Fuel Weight: 3105 kg
Max.Weight: 19187 kg
Maximum Speed: Mach 2.0
Ferry Range: 4215 km

Combat Radius: 900 km
Internal Armament: 1*g 20 mm
G-limits: 9/-3.5
Maximum instantenous turn rate: 26 degrees/second
Maximum sustained turn rate: 18 degrees/second
TWR(50% fuel, 2 EM A2A missile, 2 IR A2A missile): ~1.26:1
TWR(100% fuel, 2 EM A2A missile, 2 IR A2A missile): ~1.1:1

The Lockheed (formerly General Dynamics) F-16 Fighting Falcon is the most numerous fighter in the West. Many F-16A/Bs have seen over a decade of service, being modernised in operational upgrade programs. The Fighting Falcon was conceived as lightweight 'no frills' fighter for air-to-air combat but despite this, and despite its small dimensions and light weight, has evolved into a versatile and effective multi-role workhorse. First flown on 20 January 1974, the service-test YF-16 defeated Northtrop's YF-17 in a fly-off competition. The first of eight FSD F-16A airframes flew in 1975, the first FSD F-16B in 1977. The two-seat version retains wing and fuselage dimensions of the single seater while sacrificing 1,500 lb (680 kg) of fuel.

Nicknamed the 'Viper', the F-16 cuts a unique silhouette, with its shock-inlet air intake located under the forward fuselage below its pilot. The Falcon's unusual shape features wing/body blending and large leading-edge root extensions to enhance lift at high angles of attack. While its high Alpha capability is limited by comparison with that of the F/A-18 and the latest Russian 'super-fighters' its very high trust to weight ratio, fast roll rate and high wing lift make it a very agile fighter. Among its once novel characteristics, the F-16 is statically unstable, relying on a central computer and electronic 'Fly By Wire' controls to remain controllable.

The F-16A pilot sits on a zero-zero ACES II canted to recline 30°. This improves average g tolerance and necessitates provision of a limited movement pressure-sensing sidestick controller in place of a conventional joystick. The cockpit has HUD and multifunction displays, and a one-piece canopy of blown polycarbonate with no windscreen and thus no framing forward of the pilot's shoulder line. This gives an incomparable all-round view, the F-16's most radically new feature and a great boon for dogfighting. The two-seat F-16B has full combat capability, but with reduced fuel capacity.

The F-16A/B is armed with a General Electric M61A1 Vulcan, 20-mm cannon with 511 rounds, located on the port side at the blend between wing and fuselage. On a typical mission, an F-16A/B can carry as much as 16,700 lb (7575 kg) of ordnance, including Mk 20 Rockeye and CBU-87 cluster bombs, Mk 83 and Mk 84 500-lb (227-kg) and 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and GBU-10 and GBU-15 guided weapons. Except for ADF variants, all F-16A/Bs now have air-to-ground work as their primary duty, with air combat important but secondary. Still, pilots praise the manoeuvrability, high g tolerance, heat-seeking missiles and gun, all which enable them to 'yank and bank' with an enemy fighter. Pilots are not pleased about what one fliers calls "the conscious decision not to give it a radar missile" to fight beyond visual range, claiming that "we don't have a long enough spear to do battle with 'Floggers' and 'Fulcrums'."

NATO's search for an F-104 replacement led in June 1975 to the 'sale of the century' in which Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway selected the F-16A/B. SABCA in Belgium was responsible for the manufacture of 221 aircraft mainly for Belgium and the Denmark, whilst Fokker in Holland built 300 aircraft primarily for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Norway. Some Dutch aircraft are equipped with a centerline tactical reconnaissance pod, and are designated F-16A(R). Subsequent OCUs have brought improvements to F-16A/Bs on both continents, while additional countries have taken the A model 'Viper' into their inventories. Many of these nations were initially offered the significantly inferior J79-powered F-16/79, but were able to buy the full-standard F100-engine F-16 when President Reagan relaxed some of the arms sales controls imposed by his predecessor.

Service Entry
Delivery of operational USAF F-16A/Bs began in January 1979 to the 338th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, UT. Despite teething troubles with engine malfunctions and structural cracks, the F-16 developed into a superb fighter-bomber. The F100-PW-100 engine encountered problems, including ground-start difficulties, compressor stalls, fuelpump breakdowns and afterburner malfunctions, most of which were corrected early in the aircraft's career. The F-15, which shared a common powerplant, suffered similar problems, an ironic development when this commonality was a powerful factor in the selection of the F-16 over the rival Northtrop YF-17.

Versions of the F-16A were tested with APG-65 radar and J79 and YJ101 engines. In December 1975, the first YF-16 was rebuilt with twin canards added, to become the USAF Flight Dynamics Laboratory's CCV (Control-Configured Vehicle). General Dynamics   converted the fifth FSD F-16A into the AFTI (Advanced Fighter Technology Integration) aircraft, or AFTI/F-16A. The AFTI/F-16A has a triplex digital flight-control system, larger vertical canard surfaces at the air intake, and a thick dorsal spine; this aircraft was used in recent close air support studies before being laid up by funding constraints. The SCAMP (Supersonic Cruise and Manoeuvring Prototype), or F-16XL, was yet another special version with a 'cranked delta' wing. Two F-16XLs, a single- and a two-seater, have gone on to participate in various research efforts.

The F-16A/B was built in distinct production blocks numbered 1, 5, 10, and 15. Forty-three F-16A/B Block 1s (21 F-16As and 22 F-16Bs) can be distinguished from later Fighting Falcons by their black radomes. F-16A/B Block 5s numbered 126 (99 F-16As and 27 F-16Bs). F-16A/B Block 10 consists of 170 aeroplanes including 145 F-16As and 25 F-16Bs, in addition to all surviving earlier machines which have been upgraded.

F-16A/B Block 15 introduced the first important changes to the F-16. Noteworthy in Block 15 is the extended horizontal stabilator, or 'big tail', now standard on these and all subsequent Fighting Falcons. Pilots prefer the small tail for dogfighting but the big tail gives greater rudder authority when carrying a heavy ordnance load. Because of the wing cracks and afterburner problems, the USAF is expected to retire all of its pre-Block 15 'small tail' ships by the mid-1990s, making Block 15s the oldest F-16s in service. Block 15 compromises 457 American aircraft (410 F-16As, 47 F-16Bs), 270 of which were chosen for conversion to F-16A/B ADF with interceptor duties.

European Upgrades
The OCU (Operational Capabilities Upgrade) program, adopted by Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway, improves the avionics and fire control systems, adds ring-laser INS and provides for the upgrading of the F100-PW-200 engine to F100-PW-220E. From 1988 exports were to Block 15 OCU standard, while surviving F-16A/Bs of the AFRES and ANG were upgraded with F100-PW-220Es. Further improvements planned for the F-16A/B include the MLU (Mid-life update) which brings the cockpit to Block 50 standard with wide-angle HUD and NVG capability. New avionics include a modular mission computer, APG-66(V2A) radar and Navstar GPS. Options include wiring for intake-mounted FLIR and helmet-mounted sight. The four European nations are customers for MLU aircraft, and the aircraft offered to Taiwan are also to this standard. USAF aircraft will adopt some of the MLU features.

F-16C and F-16D
The Lockheed (General Dynamics) F-16C Fighting Falcon first flew on 19 June 1984. F-16C and two-seat F-16D models are distinguished by an enlarged base or 'island' leading up to the vertical fin with a small blade antenna protruding up from it. This space was intended for the internal ASPJ (airborne self-protection jammer) which the USAF abandoned in favor of continuing use of external ECM pods.

Compared with earlier versions, the F-16C/Ds gives the pilot a GEC wide-angle HUD and a function keyboard control at the base of the HUD (located in a console to his left in earlier ships) and an improved data-display with key items of information located at 'design eye' level for HOTAS flying. F-16C/Ds employ Hughes APG-68 multi-mode radar with increased range, sharper resolution and expanded operating modes, and have a weapons interface for the AGM-65D Maverick and AMRAAM missiles.

F-16C single-seat and combat-capable F-16D two-seat fighters introduced progressive changes, some installed at the factory and other parts of MSIP II (avionics, cockpit and airframe changes) and MSIP III (further systems installation) programs, aimed at enhancing the Fighting Falcons's ability to fly and fight at night.

F-16C/D aircraft retain the unique, low-slung configuration of earlier Fighting Falcons variants, with fuselage-wing 'blending', fly-by-wire controls, ACES II ejection seat, and a blown polycarbonate canopy which, in these later versions, has a gold tint because of its lining of radar reflecting materials. F-16C/D models retain the General Electric M61A1 20-mm cannon with 515 rounds and a capability for the delivery of up to 16,700 lb (7575 kg) of ordnance, including most bombs and missiles in the inventory.

Block 25 aircraft entered production in July 1984 and numbered 319, 289 F-16Cs and 30 F-16Ds. With Block 30/32 came configured (formerly 'common') engine bay with options for the GE F110-GE-100 (Block 40) or P&W F100-PW-220 (Block 42).

F-16C Blocks 30 and 40 are powered by the General Electric F110-GE-100 offering 28, 984 lb (128.9 kN), while F-16C Blocks 32 and 42 Falcons introduced 23,840-lb (106.05-kN) thrust Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200s. This powerplant change brought a need to alter the contours of the F-16's air intake to accommodate the larger amount of air ingested. Because the change was not made initially, early F-16C/D Block 30s are 'small inlet' aeroplanes, the 1-ft (0.30-m) larger air intake having become standard for GE power on 'big inlet' ships after deliveries began. USAF F-16C/D delivery totals slightly favor the GE engine.

F-16C/D Block 32 aeroplanes are identical to those in Block 30 but for the F100-PW-220 engine, introduction of which marks a maturing of the original F-16 powerplant. While the improved P&W engine is not as powerful as the GE-powerplant, it is lighter and crew chiefs consider it 'smarter' and more dependable then earlier P&W models. In addition, Block 30/32 aircraft have the capability for carriage of AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-88A HARM anti-radiation missiles, and AIM-120 AMRAAM. Avionics hardware changes are also introduced with Block 30/32, which total 501 aircraft, comprising 446 F-16Cs and 55 F-16Ds. In addition to tactical squadrons, the F-16C/D Block 32 is flown by the USAF's Adversary Tactics Division on aggressor duties, and by the 'Thunderbirds' aerial demonstration team.

F-16C/D Block 40/42 Night Falcon aircraft began to come off the Fort Worth production line in December 1988. This version introduces LANTIRN navigation and targeting pods, Navstar GPS navigation receiver, AGM-88B HARM II, APG-68V radar, digital flight controls, automatic terrain following and, as a consequence, increased take-off weight. Greater structural strength increases the Night Falcon's 9-g capability from 26,900 lb (12201 kg) to 28,500 lb (12928 kg).

The heavier all-up weight has resulted in larger landing gear to accommodate LANTIRN, bulged landing gear doors and the movement of landing lights to the nose gear door. Block 40/42 Night Falcons have been delivered to the USAF, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Bahrain. An AMRAAM-equipped Block 42 F-16D became the first USAF 'Viper' to score an air-to-air victory by downing an Iraqi Mig-25 on 27 December 1992. In 1994 F-16s shot down three Serbian aircraft over Bosnia.

A total of 249 F-16 Fighting Falcons was deployed to Operation Desert Storm and flew almost 13,500 sorties, the highest sortie total for any aircraft in the war, while maintaining a 95.2 per cent mission capable rate, 5 per cent better than the F-16's peacetime rate. F-16s attacked ground elements in the Kuwaiti Theatre of Operations, flew anti 'Scud' missions, destroying military production, chemical production facilities, and airfields.

In December 1991, General Dynamics began delivering F-16C/D Block 50 and 52 aircraft. First flight date for Block 50 was 22 October 1991. The first Block 50s went to the 338th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, UT, in 1992, followed by delivery to USAFE's 52nd FW. Block 50/52 'Vipers' introduced the Westinghouse AN/APG-68(V5) radar with improved memory and more modes, new NVG-compatible GEC HUD, and improved avionics computer. Numerous other additions to Block 50/52 include a Tracor AN/ALE-47 chaff/flare dispenser, ALR-56M radar warning receiver, Have Quick IIA radio, Have Sync anti-jam VHF and full HARM integration.

These latest F-16s are powered by the IPE (Improved Performance Engine) versions of GE and P&W engines, the 29,588-lb (131.6-kN) F110-GE-229 and 29,100-lb (129.4-kN) F100-PW-220, respectively. Problems arose with developmental test ships for the Block 52 program in July 1991, and these had to be refitted with older F100 variants until Pratt & Whitney IPE's fourth fan blade could be redesigned.

Around 100 USAF F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft are being raised to Block 50/52D standard, with provision for the ASQ-213 pod carried under the starboard side of the intake. This pod is known at the HARM Targeting System, and provides the F-16 with a limited Wild Weasel defence suppression capability to argument the dwindling F-4G force. Further USAF programs now include the RF-16 tactical reconnaissance aircraft carrying the ATARS IR/EO sensor pod, fitment of head-steered FLIR sensor and helmet-mounted sights and modifications of Block 30/32/40/42 aircraft for the CAS/BAI mission.

In 1991, USAF began studying an MRF (Multi-Role Fighter) which would replace the F-16 in the 21st century. The future of MRF is doubtful, especially since USAF F-16C/Ds (in contrast to ageing F-16A 'small tail' Block 10s) have a relatively low airframe hours and will not need early replacement. The proposed Block 60/62 F-16 would utilise some technology developed for the F-22 to answer the MRF requirement.

The F-16C/D has been widely exported. Licensed production is undertaken by TAI in Turkey and Samsung Aerospace in South Korea. Many F-16Ds delivered to Israel have been subsequently fitted with a very bulged spine, housing unidentified indigenous avionics reportedly associated with the Wild Weasel/SAM suppression role. No. 101 Squadron now seems to be entirely equipped with these aircraft.

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