Monday, January 9, 2012


F-16 Falcon

General Dynamics / Lockheed Martin

F-16 Falcon

Since it's introduction thirty years ago 4,500 of these aircraft have been sold to the U.S. Air Force and other nations of the world.  It is a highly maneuverable, high performance jet with a proven combat record and at under $20 million per unit it is less expensive than many other Western jets.  


Crew:                    1

Power:                  Pratt & Whitney 10,824 kg / 23,830 lb afterburning thrust
                              F100-PW-100 turbofan engine

Max. Speed:        2125 kph / 1320 mph
Ceiling:                 15,250 m / 50,000 ft
Range:                  580 km / 360 miles
Climb:                   15,250 m / 50,000 ft per minute

Weight -
Empty:                  6607 kg / 14,567 lb
Max. Take Off:     14,968 kg / 33,000 lb

Size -
Wingspan:           10 m / 32 ft 10 in including wingtip air-to-air missiles
Wing Area:          28.9 sq m / 300 sq ft
Length:                 15.03 m / 49 ft 4 in
Height:                 5.01 m / 16 ft 5 in

                             1 - 20 mm / 0.78 in cannon
                             9 - hardpoints
                             5435 kg / 12,000 lb air-to-air missiles, bombs, rockets


AGM-65 Maverick

Designed to initially be a lightweight dogfighter the U.S. Air Force wanted the additional weight and size needed for the F-16 to become a respectable aircraft for ground support missions.  They preferred not to risk the more expensive F-15 being shot down in a close air support role.  During Operation Desert Storm in 1991 the Falcon, or Viper as pilots call it, flew more sorties than any other aircraft any many of these attacked ground targets.

AIM-7 Sparrow missile

The bubble canopy gives the pilot unobstructed vision and the 30 degree seat-back angle enables greater G-force tolerance.  The aircraft itself can withstand up to 9 Gs with a full load of internal fuel.  Using proven systems from the F-15 and F-111 reduced development time and cost in designing the F-16.

Side-Stick Controller

The F-16 was one of the first warplanes featuring fly-by-wire controls where a computer interprets the pilot's instructions to operate the flight controls.  The conventional flight stick has been replaced by a side-stick controller to provide easier, more accurate control during high G-force maneuvers.  The fly-by-wire control system does set envelope testing performance limits that make it less capable than the best Russian fighters.

Conformal Fuel Tanks

Lack of internal fuel capacity in the F-16 has been a limitation that this aerodynamic add-on attempts to remedy.   Adding size and bulk enhances its ground support role while diminishing its original intention of being a lean, lightweight high-performance dogfighter.  Its flexible design has enabled it to maintain sales over thirty years.  

Unscheduled Departure

In 2003 Poland became the first former Warsaw Pact nation to purchase the F-16.  President Carter agreed to the sale of F-16s to Israel in 1980 to replace their aging A-4s and Mirage IIIs.  The following year Israel used their new aircraft to destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor then under construction.  In 1982 Israel's F-16s were credited with downing 44 Syrian MiGs over the Bekaa Valley.  


As of 2003 the F-16 has shot down 69 aircraft in aerial combat without a loss.  It has gained two tons in weight since its inception but its overall capability has increased.  It has become the most numerous of Western interceptors since first replacing the F-104 Starfighter.  

Armed for Ground Support

The F-16 is expected to be replaced by the F-35 Joint Strike Force fighter over the next few years.  This new fifth generation fighter has been delayed by developmental problems which is not surprising with sophisticated military hardware.  With the F-35 coming in at over $120 million per copy, several times the cost of an F-16, it is not surprising this Pentagon project has come in for criticism.  The question remains whether the United States, given its current battle with deficits, will stick with its original intention of purchasing 2,400 of these aircraft.    




1 comment:

  1. Double-check, but it appears the missile on the wing-tip rail in the picture captioned "AIM-7 Sparrow missile" is most likely an AIM-120 AMRAAM.