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The General Dynamics 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 . Over 4,400 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Though no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, improved versions are still 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 is a dogfight er with numerous innovations including a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while maneuvering, reclined seat to reduce the effect of g-force s on the pilot and the first use of a relaxed static stability /fly-by-wire flight control system that makes it a highly nimble aircraft. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and has 11 hardpoint s for mounting weapons, and other mission equipment . 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 '' Colonial Viper starfighter.

In addition to USAF active, reserve, and air national guard units, the aircraft is used by the USAF aerial demonstration team, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds , and as an adversary/aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy . The F-16 has also been selected to serve in the air forces of 25 other nations.

Development

Lightweight Fighter program

Experience in the Vietnam War revealed the need for air superiority fighters and better air-to-air training for fighter pilots. Based on his experiences in the Korean War and as a fighter tactics instructor in the early 1960s Colonel John Boyd with mathematician Thomas Christie developed the Energy-Maneuverability theory to model a fighter aircraft's performance in combat. Boyd's work called for a small, lightweight aircraft with an increased thrust-to-weight ratio . A 1965 Air Force study suggested equipping its squadrons with a mix of high and low cost fighters as being the most economical. In the late 1960s, Boyd gathered around him a group of like-minded innovators that became known as the "Fighter Mafia ". In 1969, the group secured DoD funding for General Dynamics and Northrop to study design concepts based on the Energy-Maneuverability theory.

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 Advanced Day Fighter concept (revamped and renamed "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 Proposal s issued 6 January 1972 called for a 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 . This was the region where USAF studies predicted most future air combat to occur. The anticipated average flyaway cost of a production version was $3 million. This production plan, though, was only notional as the USAF had no firm plans to procure the winner.

Finalists selected and flyoff

Five companies responded and in 1972, the Air Staff selected General Dynamics’ Model 401 and Northrop’s P-600 for the follow-on prototype development and testing phase. 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.

The first YF-16 was rolled out on 13 December 1973, and its 90-minute-long maiden 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 1974. 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. The YF-16s completed 330 sorties during the flyoff, accumulating a total of 417 flight hours; the YF-17s flew 268 sorties.

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 s. In early 1974, they reached an agreement with the U.S. that if the USAF ordered the LWF winner, 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-4 and F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers. Third, the U.S. Congress sought greater commonality in fighter procurements by the Air Force and Navy. 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. The four European allies 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 more serious intent to procure a new 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 extinguished opposition to the LWF.

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”. Northrop offered the P-530 Cobra, which was 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. candidates. On 11 September 1974, the U.S. Air Force confirmed firm plans to place an order for 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.

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. 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.

Shortly after selection of the YF-16, Secretary McLucas revealed that the USAF planned to order at least 650 and up to 1,400 of the production version of the aircraft. The U.S. Air Force initially ordered 15 “Full-Scale Development” (FSD) aircraft (11 single-seat and four two-seat models) for its flight test program, but this was reduced to eight (six F-16A single-seaters and two F-16B two-seaters). In the Navy Air Combat Fighter (NACF) competition, the Navy announced on 2 May 1975 that it selected the YF-17 as the basis for what would become the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet .

Moving into production

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, entering USAF operational service with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB on 1 October 1980.

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.

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.

Evolution

After selection, the YF-16 design was altered for the production F-16. The fuselage was lengthened , a larger nose radome was fitted to house the AN/APG-66 radar, wing area was increased from to , 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.

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.

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. The F-16 has been involved in other upgrade programs including service life extension programs in the 2000s.

Design

Overview

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 Fighting Falcon includes innovations such as a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control during combat maneuvers, and reclined seat to reduce the effect of g-force s on the pilot. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon in the left wing root and has 11 hardpoint s for mounting various missiles, bombs and pods. It was also the first fighter aircraft purpose built to sustain 9-''g'' turns. It has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one, providing power to climb and accelerate vertically.

The F-16A is 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.

Early models could also be armed with up to six AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking short-range air-to-air missile s (AAM), including a single missile mounted on a dedicated rail launcher on each wingtip. Some variants can also employ the AIM-7 Sparrow medium-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 pod s; and fuel tanks on eleven hardpoints – six under the wings, two on wingtips and three under the fuselage.

General configuration

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 chute s. 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.

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."

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 alloy s, 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.

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. 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.

Wing and strake configuration

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 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 flaperon s linked to a digital flight control system (FCS) that automatically adjusts them throughout the flight envelope . The F-16 has a moderate wing loading, which is lower when fuselage lift is considered.

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. 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.

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. This 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 deviate 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 the fighter is constantly on the verge of going out of control.

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. 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; coordinated turn is also obtained in such a way that it updates itself by thousands of instructions and produces the required control deflection that comes from dynamics of F-16, 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.”

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 a 9 ''g'' load on the pilot or airframe.

Though the FLCC's limiters work well to limit each axis of movement, it was discovered in early production flight testing that "assaulting" multiple limiters at high angles of attack and slow speed can result in angles of attack far exceeding the 25-degree threshold of limiting. This is colloqually referred to as simply "departing". Depending on the attitude of the aircraft, it may settle into a deep stall; a near-freefall at 50° to 60° AOA, either upright or inverted. In this "pocket" of very high AOA, the aircraft's attitude is stable, but being far above stall AOA, the control surfaces do not operate effectively. Further, the pitch limiter of the jet, sensing the high AOA, "freezes" the stabilators in an extreme pitch-up or pitch-down in an attempt to recover. To recover, an override is provided that disables the pitch-limiting, which then allows the pilot to "rock" the aircraft's nose up and down using pitch control, eventually overcoming the 50° threshold and achieving a nose-down attitude which will reduce AOA and allow a return to controlled flight.

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. 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.

The F-16 program has suffered from spotty controls on Electrostatic Discharge and 70 to 80% of the electronics on the C/D models are ESD sensitive.

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° look-down 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 necessitates a structural frame between the pilots.)

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 has also been associated with reports of increased risk of neck ache when not mitigated by proper use of the head-rest. Subsequent U.S. jet fighter designs have more modest tilt-back angles of 20°. 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 aircraft, a lanyard triggers the seat’s rockets to fire.

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).

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.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. JHMCS was first operationally deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom .

The pilot obtains further flight and systems status information from multi-function display s (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). These CRT displays were replaced by color liquid crystal display s on the Block 50/52. 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.

Fire-Control Radar

The F-16A/B was originally equipped with the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 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. 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 AN/APG-68 , 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 10 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.

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. Northrop Grumman has continued to develop this system into the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR).

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.

Propulsion

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.

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 required modification of the F-16’s inlet; the original inlet limited the GE jet’s maximum thrust to 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.)

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. 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.

Operational history

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

United States

The F-16 is being used by the USAF active, reserve, and Air National Guard units, the USAF aerial demonstration team, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds , and as an adversary/aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy .

The U.S. Air Force has flown the F-16 in combat during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and in the Balkans later in the 1990s. F-16s have patrolled the no fly zones in Iraq during Northern Watch and Southern Watch . They have served during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the 2000s.

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

Israel

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 Syria n Mi-8 helicopter, which was downed with cannon fire. 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 Iraq i nuclear reactor under construction near Baghdad , to prevent the regime of Saddam Hussein from using the reactor for the creation of nuclear weapons .

The following year, during Operation Peace for Galilee (Lebanon War ) Israel i 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. Israeli Air Force F-16s were credited with numerous air-to-air kills during the conflict. F-16s were also used in their ground-attack role for strikes against targets in Lebanon . IAF F-16s participated in the 2006 Lebanon War and during the attacks in the Gaza strip in December 2008.

Pakistan

During the Soviet-Afghan war , between May 1986 and January 1989, Pakistan Air Force F-16s shot down at least 10 intruders from Afghanistan. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16As 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 .

The PAF has been using their F-16 fleet to attack militant positions and support the Pakistan Army 's operations in North-West Pakistan against the Taliban insurgency since May 2009.

Turkey

On 8 October 1996, seven months after the escalation over Imia/Kardak , a Greek Dassault Mirage 2000 fired an R550 Magic missile and shot down a Turkish F-16D over the Aegean Sea . One pilot was killed, while the other crew member ejected and was rescued by Greek forces. The Turkish government claimed that the F-16 was on a training mission north of the Greek island of Samos, close to the Turkish mainland.

Other

The Royal Netherlands Air Force , Royal Norwegian Air Force and Venezuela have flown the F-16 on combat missions. A Dutch F-16AM shot down a Serbian MiG-29 during the Kosovo war in 1999.

Variants

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 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 . Older F-16s are to be converted into drone targets .

F-16A

/B : The F-16A (single seat) and F-16B (two seat) were initial production variants. These variants include the Block 1, 5, 10 and 20 versions. Block 15 was the first major change to the F-16 with larger horizontal stabilizers. It is the most numerous F-16 variant with 475 produced.

F-16C

/D : 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. Block 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).

F-16E

/F : The F-16E (single seat) and F-16F (two seat) are newer F-16 variants. The Block 60 version is based on the F-16C/D Block 50/52 and has been developed especially for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It features improved AN/APG-80 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, avionics, conformal fuel tank s (CFTs), and the more powerful GE F110-132 engine.

F-16IN

For the ongoing Indian MRCA competition for the Indian Air Force , Lockheed Martin is offering the customized ''F-16IN Super Viper''. The F-16IN is based closely on the F-16E/F Block 60 and features conformal fuel tanks; AN/APG-80 AESA radar, GE F110-132A engine with FADEC controls; electronic warfare suite and infra-red searching (IRST); updated all-color glass cockpit; and a helmet-mounted cueing system.

Operators

Over 4,450 F-16s have been delivered to the U.S. and 25 other air forces.

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Notable accidents and incidents

*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 Twente 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 simulating an engine-out approach when it collided with a USAF C-130E. Both F-16 crew members ejected, but their aircraft, on full afterburner, continued on an arc towards Green Ramp and struck a USAF C-141 that was embarking US Army paratroopers. This accident resulted in 24 fatalities and at least 80 others injured. It has since been known as the "Green Ramp disaster ".

*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 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.

*On 15 September 2003, a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird F-16C crashed during a Mountain Home, Idaho air show. Capt. Christopher Stricklin attempted a "Split S" maneuver based on an incorrect mean-sea-level altitude of the airfield. Climbing to only above ground level instead of , Stricklin had insufficient altitude to complete the maneuver, but was able to guide the aircraft away from the spectators and ejected less than one second before impact. The pilot survived with only minor injuries; the aircraft was destroyed. US Air Force procedure for demonstration "Split-S" maneuvers was changed to require pilots and air controllers to both work in above mean-sea-level altitudes.

*On 13 September 2009, an Israeli Air Force F-16A crashed while on a training flight over the southern Hebron hills, killing pilot Assaf Ramon. Assaf was the son of Ilan Ramon , a former F-16 pilot and Israel's first astronaut, killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster .

*On 26 August 2010, two Greek Air Force F-16s collided in mid-air off the south-western coast of Crete , killing one and injuring two pilots.

Specifications (F-16C Block 30)

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 adoption by numerous users, 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 .