The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft originally developed for the USAF.
Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft.
Over 4,600 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976.
Although no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, improved versions are being built for export customers.
In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.
The Fighting Falcon’s key features include a frameless bubble canopy for good visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while manoeuvring, an ejection seat reclined 30 degrees from vertical to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot, and the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire flight control system that helps to make it an agile aircraft.
The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and 11 locations for mounting weapons and other mission equipment.
The F-16’s official name is “Fighting Falcon”, but “Viper” is commonly used by its pilots and crews, because of a perceived resemblance to a viper snake as well as to the fictional Colonial Viper starfighter from the television program Battlestar Galactica which aired at the time the F-16 entered service.
In addition to active duty in the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, and Air National Guard units, the aircraft is also used by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, and as an adversary/aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy.
The F-16 has also been procured to serve in the air forces of 25 other nations.
As of 2015, it was the world’s most numerous fixed-wing aircraft in military service.
The F-16 is a single-engine, highly manoeuvrable, supersonic, multi-role tactical fighter aircraft.
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 manoeuvre performance.
Highly agile, the F-16 was the first fighter aircraft purpose-built to pull 9-g manoeuvres and can reach a maximum speed of over Mach 2.
Innovations include a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, a side-mounted control stick, and a reclined seat to reduce g-force effects on the pilot.
It is armed with an internal M61 Vulcan cannon in the left-wing root and has multiple locations for mounting various missiles, bombs and pods.
It has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one, providing power to climb and vertical acceleration.
The F-16 was designed to be relatively inexpensive to build and simpler to maintain than earlier-generation fighters.
The airframe is built with about 80% aviation-grade aluminium alloys, 8% steel, 3% composites, and 1.5% titanium.
The leading-edge flaps, stabilators, and ventral fins make use of bonded aluminium honeycomb structures and graphite epoxy lamination coatings.
The number of lubrication points, fuel line connections, and replaceable modules is significantly lower than preceding fighters; 80% of the access panels can be accessed without stands.
The air intake was placed so it was rearward of the nose but forward enough to minimize air flow losses and reduce aerodynamic drag.
Although the LWF program called for a structural life of 4,000 flight hours, capable of achieving 7.33 g with 80% internal fuel; GD’s engineers decided to design the F-16’s airframe life for 8,000 hours and for 9-g manoeuvres on full internal fuel.
This proved advantageous when the aircraft’s mission changed from solely air-to-air combat to multi-role operations.
Changes in operational use and additional systems have increased weight, necessitating multiple structural strengthening programs.
F-16 models are denoted by increasing block numbers to denote upgrades.
The blocks cover both single- and two-seat versions.
A variety of software, hardware, systems, weapons compatibility, and structural enhancements have been instituted over the years to gradually upgrade production models and retrofit delivered aircraft.
While many F-16s were produced according to these block designs, there have been many other variants with significant changes, usually because of 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.
Older F-16s are being converted into QF-16 drone targets.
The F-16A (single seat) and F-16B (two seat) were initial production variants.
These variants include the Block 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20 versions.
Block 15 was the first major change to the F-16 with larger horizontal stabilizers.
It is the most numerous of all F-16 variants with 475 produced.
Many F-16A and B aircraft have been upgraded to the Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) Block 20 standard, becoming functionally equivalent to mid-production C/D models.
The F-16C (single seat) and F-16D (two seat) variants entered production in 1984.
The first C/D version was the Block 25 with improved cockpit avionics and radar which added all-weather capability with beyond-visual-range (BVR) AIM-7 and AIM-120 air-air missiles.
Blocks 30/32, 40/42, and 50/52 were later C/D versions.
The F-16C/D had a unit cost of US$18.8 million (1998).
Operational cost per flight hour has been estimated at $7,000 to $22,470 or $24,000, depending on calculation method.
The F-16E (single seat) and F-16F (two seat) are newer F-16 Block 60 variants based on the F-16C/D Block 50/52. The United Arab Emirates invested heavily in its development.
It features improved AN/APG-80 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, avionics, conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), and the more powerful General Electric F110-GE-132 engine.
For the Indian MRCA competition for the Indian Air Force, Lockheed Martin offered the F-16IN Super Viper.
The F-16IN is based on the F-16E/F Block 60 and features conformal fuel tanks; AN/APG-80 AESA radar, GE F110-GE-132A engine with FADEC controls; electronic warfare suite and Infra-red search and track (IRST) unit; updated glass cockpit; and a helmet-mounted cueing system.
As of 2011, the F-16IN is no longer in the competition.
In 2016, Lockheed Martin offered the new F-16 Block 70/72 version to India under the Make in India program.
In 2016, Indian government offered to purchase 200 (potentially up to 300) fighters in a deal worth $13–15bn.
As of 2017, Lockheed Martin has agreed to manufacture F-16 Block 70 fighters in India with the Indian defence firm Tata Advanced Systems Limited.
The new production line could be used to build F-16s for India and for exports.
In September 2010, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency informed the United States Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale of 18 F-16IQ aircraft along with the associated equipment and services to the newly reformed Iraqi Air Force.
Total value of sale is estimated at US$4.2 billion.
The F-16N was an adversary aircraft operated by the United States Navy.
It is based on the standard F-16C/D Block 30 and is powered by the General Electric F110-GE-100 engine and is capable of Super cruise.
The F-16N has a strengthened wing and is capable of carrying an Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) pod on the starboard wingtip.
Although the single-seat F-16Ns and twin-seat (T)F-16Ns are based on the early-production small-inlet Block 30 F-16C/D airframe, they retain the APG-66 radar of the F-16A/B.
In addition, the aircraft’s 20 mm cannon has been removed, as has the ASPJ, and they carry no missiles.
Their EW fit consists of an ALR-69 radar warning receiver (RWR) and an ALE-40 chaff/flare dispenser.
The F-16Ns and (T)F-16Ns have the standard Air Force tailhook and undercarriage and are not aircraft carrier capable.
Production totalled 26 airframes, of which 22 are single-seat F-16Ns and four are twin-seat TF-16Ns.
The initial batch of aircraft were in service between 1988 and 1998.
At that time, hairline cracks were discovered in several bulkheads and the Navy did not have the resources to replace them, so the aircraft were eventually retired, with one aircraft sent to the collection of the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola, Florida, and the remainder placed in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB.
These aircraft were later replaced by embargoed ex-Pakistani F-16s in 2003.
The original inventory of F-16Ns were previously operated by adversary squadrons at NAS Oceana, Virginia, NAS Key West, Florida and the former NAS Miramar, California.
The current F-16A/B aircraft are operated by the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon, Nevada.
At the 2012 Singapore Air Show, Lockheed Martin unveiled plans for the new F-16V variant with the V suffix for its Viper nickname.
It features an AN/APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a new mission computer and electronic warfare suite, automated ground collision avoidance system, and various cockpit improvements; this package is an option on current production F-16s and can be retrofitted to most in service F-16s.
First flight took place 21 October 2015.
Lockheed and AIDC both invested in the development of the aircraft and will share revenue from all sales and upgrades.
Upgrades to Taiwan’s F-16 fleet began in January 2017.
The first country to confirm the purchase of 16 new F-16V Block 70/72 was Bahrain.
Greece announced the upgrade of 84 F-16C/D Block 52+ and Block 52+ Advanced (Block 52M) to the latest V (Block 70/72) variant in October 2017.
Slovakia announced on 11 July 2018 that it intends to purchase 14 F-16V Block 70/72 aircraft.
Lockheed Martin has redesignated the F-16V Block 70 as the “F-21” in its offering for India’s fighter requirement.
Taiwan’s Republic of China Air Force announced on 19 March 2019 that it formally requested the purchase of an additional 66 F-16V jets.
The Trump administration approved the sale on 20 August 2019.
On 14 August 2020, Lockheed Martin was awarded a US$62 billion contract by the US DoD that includes 66 new F-16s at US$8 billion for Taiwan.
In September 2013, Boeing and the U.S. Air Force tested an unmanned F-16, with two US Air Force pilots controlling the airplane from the ground as it flew from Tyndall AFB over the Gulf of Mexico.
49 ft 5 in (15.06 m)
32 ft 8 in (9.96 m)
16 ft (4.9 m)
300 sq ft (28 m2)
18,900 lb (8,573 kg)
26,500 lb (12,020 kg)
Max take-off weight
42,300 lb (19,187 kg)
7,000 pounds (3,200 kg) internals
1 × General Electric F110-GE-129 afterburning turbofan (for Block 50 version),