The American General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, unofficially known as "Viper" (after a starfighter from the show Battlestar Galactica.) by its pilots, first flew on February 2nd 1974, and was introduced about four, and a half years later, on August 17th, 1978. It was originally designed to be a lightweight fighter, but successfully evolved from that to become a multirole aircraft. Production run started in the year 1976, and until now, there are 4 200 built. Although production has stopped for the United States Air Force, F-16s are still being built for export to other countries. It is currently in service with 24 different nations, and is the largest Western Fighter Program in History. This success is due to the versatility of this aircraft, and also to the price that comes along with it (about U.S.$20 million).
An F-16C of the United States Air Force, 120th Fighter Squadron, 140th Fighter Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, returns to Cold Wing Canada, after disengaging from a refueling boom (Note fuel port is still open.), during the second Tiger Meet of the Americas. For a squadron to be invited to this event, only one simple criterion is required, which is the unit must have a Tiger, or any other Big Cat as their unit's insignia, or mascot. (Photographed by SMSGT John P. Rohrer, United States Air Force. September 17th, 2003.)Origin...
The McDonnel Douglas F-15 Eagle, developed after the United States Air Force underestimated the abilities of the Soviet MiG-25 "Foxbat", was, to the 'fighter mafia', a jet fighter that was too large, and expensive. This particular group agitated for the development of the Light Weight Fighter program, and eventually won a tiny sum of money to conduct studies into such a design ($149 000~$715 000 year 2000 dollars.). In May 1971, the United States Congress finally proposed funding the Light Weight Fighter Program with $50 million, and an additional $ 12 million the next year. Two companies, General Dynamics, and Northrop were selected to build prototypes for head-to-head testing. In 1974, the prototypes were ready, and begun extensive testing. The conclusion was decided on 13th January, 1975, when the Secretary of the Air Force announced the selection of the General Dynamics' YF-16, beating Northrop's YF-17. However, the YF-17 design was not totally abandoned, even though being a lightweight fighter, it was scaled up to become the F/A-18 Hornet, introduced on 7th January, 1983, which is almost equal to the size of the original F-15 Eagle, although a bit smaller.
The McDonnel Douglas F-16 Fighting Falcon, built as a lightweight fighter, is simpler, and lighter than its predecessors, but has advanced aerodynamics, and avionics. It has only one engine, contrary to the other aircrafts currently in service with the United States Military. It was the first jet aircraft to use fly-by-wire systems, which earned it the nickname, "electric jet".
The Fighting Falcon is the first deliberate fighter designed to hold-up in 9-g turns.The reclined seat (30 degrees, 13 degrees is typical.) reduces the effects of the g-forces acting on the pilot when in a sharp turn, and the side-mounted control stick eases the pilot's control over the aircraft when under high g-forces. These are not the only features of the F-16 Fighting Falcon that makes it a dogfighter, but are the most essential ones.
The F-16 also has a single-piece, bubble canopy giving the pilot an unobstructed field of view that is critical in a dogfight, and any other situations. A reclined seat (30 degrees. Normally, a jet's seat is reclined around only 13 degrees.) increases the area of the pilot's view, while the Heads Up Display (H.U.D.) aids the pilot in understanding the situation around him/her, without looking down at his instrument panel. The cockpit of the F-16 uses the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (J.H.M.C.S.), which was first deployed operationally during Operation Iraqi Freedom (From Block 52 onwards.). In addition, the Fighting Falcon's F100-PW-229 Engine boosts the thrust-to-weight ratio of this jet to greater than one, which enables it to accelerate in a vertical climb, that is when it is necessary. This is also present in the McDonnel Douglas F-15 Eagle.
General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon accelerating in a vertical climb. (No elaborate description, place, date, or photographer available. I apologize for any inconvenience caused.)
Setbacks, and controversies...
The features of the F-16 which General Dynamics had claimed to be helpful to the pilot in high g-turns remains controversial to this day. The reclined seat makes it difficult to look at the rear of the aircraft, as well as putting the pilot at more risk of a neck ache. Some have even suggested that the reclined seat's actual benefit to in terms of g-capability is very close to zero, while the real reason is to let the seat fit in the cockpit. The side-mounted stick makes it hard to operate controls on the centre, or the other side of the cockpit, forcing the pilot to use his left hand to do the job. As the F-16's canopy is single-piece, it is much thicker than in most aircraft, where only the portion between the nose, and the cockpit frame has to be thick enough to reduce any damage caused by a bird. This thickness results to a heavy canopy, which offsets the speed, and maneuverability of the Fighting Falcon, but only by a little.
Nevertheless, some of these features are present in newer planes, such as the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor, which has a single-piece canopy as well.
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon has a major setback that could cause the death of any one of its pilots. Stalling. Although it is highly maneuverable, the relaxed weight-to-lift distribution, and stability of the design causes unpredictable, and difficult stall behavior. Stalling on a typical aircraft would cause it to assume a nose-down attitude, which is easily correctable, as that attitude allows for a restoration of proper airflow over the control surfaces, and wings. However, stalling for an F-16 includes either assuming a level attitude, while actually falling out of the sky, or preferring to retain its attitude at that moment. Recovering from any of the two situations is one of the last thing a pilot wants to focus on in a dogfight. The first thing the pilot must know is that air does not pass over the control surfaces of the aircraft in the intended direction, which means that he has almost no control over the aircraft's attitude. Fortunately, the Flight Control Computer prevents the pilot from placing the aircraft in a "high-alpha" situation, by limiting the Angle of Attack. This, however, only reduces the risk of stalls, as they can still occur at the right moment. And if it does, the alpha-limiter will freeze the control surfaces, which actually does more harm than good, as it prevents the pilot from doing the appropriate actions to recover. It therefore must be overridden for the pilot to regain control.
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon uses a M61 Vulcan gatling gun, and can carry rockets, air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, as well as, anti-ship missiles. It could also carry a variety of bombs, even a B61 nuclear bomb. For a full list of its armament, please scroll down to the Specifications section.
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon participated in... (2008)
- the 1981 raid that severely damaged an Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad (Osiraq.). The F-16s were flown by Israeli pilots.
- the 1981 first air-to-air "kill" for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, when Israeli pilots shot down a Syrian Mi-8 helicopter, and MiG-21 "Fishbed".
- the 1982 Lebanon War, or Operation Peace for Galilee.
- the Soviet-Afghan War, which lasted from 1986-1988.
- Operation Desert Storm. Five were lost in combat. (August 2nd, 1990- February 28th, 1991.)
- the 1992 November Venezuelan Coup Attempt on the side of the loyalists. Two F-16 Fighting Falcons, under the hands of Venezuelan pilots, took part.
- Operation Southern Watch, when F-16s of the United States Air Force had two air-to-air victories.
- Bosnian peacekeeping operations in 1994- 1995. The F-16s were employed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
- in the engagement between a Greek Mirage 2000, and a Turkish F-16D (The serial number is 91-0023.) over the Aegean Sea on October 1oth, 1996. It was the first, and only confirmed air-to-air kill of an F-16 Fighting Falcon. The co-pilot was rescued by Greek forces, while the pilot did not make it.
- Operation Desert Fox's bombing campaign (1998.).
- Operation Allied Force. The F-16s were employed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
- the Kargil War.
- the United States intervention in Afghanistan since 2001.
- Operation Enduring Freedom.
- Operation Iraqi Freedom.
- Two F-16s killed the Al-Qaeda leader of Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi (June 7th, 2006.), who was in an Al-Qaeda safehouse during the bombing raid. The F-16s accurately delivered two 500-pound guided bombs, one being an L.G.B. G.B.U.-12 bomb, and the other one being a G.P.S.-38 bomb, onto the target.
- the 2006 Lebanon War. However, General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon participation is not confirmed.
- Bahrain (22.).
- Belgium (90.)
- Chile ( 28.).
- Denmark (48 in active duty+21 in storage.).
- Egypt (220.).
- Greece (131+30 on order.).
- Jordan (58.).
- Indonesia (12.).
- Israel (322.).
- Italy (34; Leased from the United States Air Force.)
- Morocco (24 on order.).
- Netherlands (82 in active duty+18 in storage.).
- Norway (74 deliver, and 54 (2007.) in service.).
- Oman (12.).
- Pakistan (34 in active duty+44 on order+Further option of 34 more General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons.).
- Poland (48.).
- Portugal (45.).
- Singapore (76.).
- Republic of China (Taiwan.) (150.).
- South Korea (180. 40 F-16C/D, and 140 KF-16C/D. KF-16C/D is built under license by the Korean Aerospace Industries.).
- Thailand (61.).
- Turkey (240 in active duty+30 on order. The F-16s are built under license by Turkish Aerospace Industries.).
- United Arab Emirates (80.).
- United States of America (1 245.). 1 F-16A Block 15, 197 F-16C/D Block 25, 350 F-16 C/D Block 30, 51 F-16C/D Block 32, 222 F-16C/D Block 40, 174 F-16C/D Block 42, 198 F-16C/D Block 50, and 52 F-16C/D Block 52. United States Air Force...Active-701. Reserve-54. Air national Guard-490. United States Navy...Active-40.
- Venezuela (28.).
Length: 49 ft 5 in (14.8 m).
Wingspan: 32 ft 8 in (9.8 m).
Height: 16 ft (4.8 m).
Wing area: 300 ft² (27.87 m²).
Airfoil: NACA 64A204 root and tip.
Empty weight: 18,200 lb (8,270 kg).
Loaded weight: 26,500 lb (12,000 kg).
Max takeoff weight: 42,300 lb (19,200 kg).
Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 afterburning turbofan.
Dry thrust: 14,590 lbf (64.9 kN).
Thrust with afterburner: 23,770 lbf (105.7 kN).
Alternate powerplant: 1× General Electric F110-GE-100 afterburning turbofan.
Dry thrust: 17,155 lbf (76.3 kN).
Thrust with afterburner: 28,600 lbf (128.9 kN).
At sea level: Mach 1.2 (915 mph, 1,460 km/h).
At altitude: Mach 2+ (1,500 mph, 2,414 km/h).
Combat radius: 340 NM (295 mi, 550 km) on a hi-lo-hi mission with six 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs.
Ferry range: >2,100 NM (2,420 NM, 3,900 km).
Service ceiling: >50,000 ft (15,239 m).
Rate of climb: 50,000 ft/min (254 m/s).
Wing loading: 88.2 lb/ft² (431 kg/m²).
Thrust/weight: For F100 engine: 0.898, For F110: 1.095.
Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan gatling gun, 511 rounds.
Rockets: 2¾ in (70 mm) CRV7.
2× AIM-7 Sparrow or,
6× AIM-9 Sidewinder or,
6× AIM-120 AMRAAM or,
6× AGM-45 Shrike or,
6× AGM-65 Maverick or,
4× AGM-88 HARM.
2× AGM-84 Harpoon or,
4× AGM-119 Penguin.
2× CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition or,
2× CBU-89 Gator mine or,
2× CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon or,
Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser capable or,
4× GBU-10 Paveway II or,
6× GBU-12 Paveway II or,
6× Paveway-series laser-guided bombs or,
4× JDAM or,
4× Mark 84 general-purpose bombs or,
8× Mark 83 GP bombs or,
12× Mark 82 GP bombs or,
B61 nuclear bomb.