The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. It is highly maneuverable and has proven itself in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and allied nations.
In an air combat role, the F-16’s maneuverability and combat radius (distance it can fly to enter air combat, stay, fight and return) exceed that of all potential threat fighter aircraft. It can locate targets in all weather conditions and detect low flying aircraft in radar ground clutter. In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 can fly more than 500 miles (860 kilometers), deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft, and return to its starting point. An all-weather capability allows it to accurately deliver ordnance during non-visual bombing conditions
In designing the F-16, advanced aerospace science and proven
reliable systems from other aircraft such as the F-15 and F-111 were
selected. These were combined to simplify the airplane and reduce its
size, purchase price, maintenance costs and weight. The light weight of
the fuselage is achieved without reducing its strength. With a full
load of internal fuel, the F-16 can withstand up to nine G’s — nine
times the force of gravity — which exceeds the capability of other
current fighter aircraft.
F-16 Fighting Falcon’s cockpit and its bubble canopy give the pilot
unobstructed forward and upward vision, and greatly improved vision
over the side and to the rear.
The seat-back angle was expanded from the usual 13 degrees to 30
degrees, increasing pilot comfort and gravity force tolerance. The
pilot has excellent flight control of the F-16 through its
“fly-by-wire” system. Electrical wires relay commands, replacing the
usual cables and linkage controls. For easy and accurate control of the
aircraft during high G-force combat maneuvers, a side stick controller
is used instead of the conventional center-mounted stick. Hand pressure
on the side stick controller sends electrical signals to actuators of
flight control surfaces such as ailerons and rudder.
F-16 Fighting Falcon’s Avionics systems include a highly accurate
inertial navigation system in which a computer provides steering
information to the pilot. The plane has UHF and VHF radios
plus an instrument landing system. It also has a warning system and
modular countermeasure pods to be used against airborne or surface
electronic threats. The fuselage has space for additional avionics
The F-16A, a single-seat model, first
flew in December 1976. The first operational F-16A was delivered in
January 1979 to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
The F-16B, a two-seat model, has tandem cockpits that are about the
same size as the one in the A model. Its bubble canopy extends to cover
the second cockpit. To make room for the second cockpit, the forward
fuselage fuel tank and avionics growth space were reduced. During training, the forward cockpit is used by a student pilot with an instructor pilot in the rear cockpit.
All F-16s delivered since November 1981 have built-in structural and
wiring provisions and systems architecture that permit expansion of the
multirole flexibility to perform precision strike, night attack and
beyond-visual-range interception missions. This improvement program led
to the F-16C and F-16D aircraft, which are the single- and two-place
counterparts to the F-16A/B, and incorporate the latest cockpit control
and display technology. All active units and many Air National Guard
and Air Force Reserve units have converted to the F-16C/D.
The F-16 was built under an unusual agreement creating a consortium
between the United States and four NATO countries: Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands
and Norway. These countries jointly produced with the United States an
initial 348 F-16s for their air forces. Final airframe assembly lines
were located in Belgium andthe Netherlands . The consortium’s F-16s are
assembled from components manufactured in all five countries. Belgium
also provides final assembly of the F100 engine used in the European
F-16s. Recently, Portugal joined the consortium. The long-term benefits
of this program will be technology transfer among the nations producing
the F-16, and a common-use aircraft for NATO nations. This program
increases the supply and availability of repair parts in Europe and improves the F-16’s combat readiness.
USAF F-16 multirole fighters were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm, where more sorties
were flown than with any other aircraft. These fighters were used to
attack airfields, military production facilities, Scud missiles sites
and a variety of other targets.
During Operation Allied
Force, USAF F-16 multirole fighters flew a variety of missions to
include suppression of enemy air defense, offensive counter air,
defensive counter air, close air support and forward air controller missions. Mission results were outstanding as these fighters destroyed radar sites, vehicles, tanks, MiGs and buildings.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the F-16 has been a major component of the
combat forces committed to the Global War on Terrorism flying thousands
ofsorties in support of operations Noble Eagle (Homeland Defense), Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom
F-16 Fighting Falcon General Technical Characteristics
Primary Function: Multirole fighter
Builder: Lockheed Martin Corp.
Power Plant: F-16C/D: one Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or General Electric F110-GE-100/129
Thrust: F-16C/D, 27,000 pounds
Length: 49 feet, 5 inches (14.8 meters)
Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)
Wingspan: 32 feet, 8 inches (9.8 meters)
Speed: 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude)
Ceiling: Above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 37,500 pounds (16,875 kilograms)
Range: More than 2,000 miles ferry range (1,740 nautical miles)
M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon with 500 rounds; external stations can
carry up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and
air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods
Unit cost: F-16A/B , $14.6 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars); F-16C/D,$18.8 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
Crew: F-16C, one; F-16D, one or two
Date Deployed: January 1979
Inventory: Active force, F-16C/D, 738; Reserve, F-16C/D, 69; and Air National Guard, F-16C/D,