F-16 Fighting Falcon Multi Role Fighter Aircraft Of United States-General Dynamics-Lockheed Martin

F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force (USAF). In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation.

F-16 Fighting Falcon
F-16 Fighting Falcon

Originally conceived as a lightweight air-combat fighter, the Lockheed Martin (originally General Dynamics) F-16 Fighting Falcon has evolved into a versatile and effective multi-role workhorse. It was intended to supplement contemporary F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter. The F-16 Fighting Falcon was a lighter and less capable warplane than the F-15 Eagle, however it was also less expensive to produce and to maintain.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon made its maiden flight in 1974. Over 4 400 of these aircraft were built. The type is currently operated by 25 air forces. The US Air Force (USAF) will operate its F-16 fleet until 2025. It will be gradually replaced with the new F-35. The F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter has one engine. Such layout allowed to reduce production and servicing costs.

The first production variants were the F-16A (single seat) and F-16B (two seat) aircraft. These were built in production blocks numbered 1, 5, 10, and 15. The USAF retired its 296 Block 5/10 F-16s in the early 1990s.

Block 15 F-16A/Bs introduced an extended horizontal stabilator and a track-while-scan mode for the radar. Most surviving Block 15 F-16s equip Air National Guard and test units. Of 467 Block 15 F-16As and F-16Bs, 272 were converted to F-16A/B ADF (Air Defense Fighter) standard with upgraded APG-66 radar compatible with AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile, advanced friend-or-foe identification system, and improved electronic counter countermeasures and radios. Although most ADFs are in storage three Air National Guard units remain equipped with the type.

From 1988 214 new-build F-16As for export were manufactured to Block 15 OCU standard with wide-angle head-up display, ring laser inertial navigation system, increased maximum take off weights, more reliable Dash 220 engine, compatibility with AIM-9P-4 Sidewinder missiles and provision for ALQ-131 jamming pods. Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands bought 521 F-16A/Bs of various Blocks (including operational conversion units) from 1979 to 1992 and are currently are equipped with indigenous tactical reconnaissance pods.

Taiwan was receiving 120 F-16As and 30 F-16Bs to Block 20 standard (new-build) with an avionics configuration similar to that of the mid-life update. Other F-16A/B operators are Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Singapore, Thailand and Venezuela. In 1998 Jordan received 16 surplus ex-USAF F-16A/B ADFs, while Italy was leasing 30 Block 15 F-16ADFs as interim F-104 replacements. Production of F-16A/Bs totals 1 736 aircraft, comprising 1 425 F-16As and 311 F-16Bs.

The F-16C (single seat) and F-16D (two seat) are one of the most important operational F-16 variants with over 1 750 examples in service with nine operators. Compared to the preceding F-16A/B series, the F-16C/D introduced improved ground and all-weather attack capabilities, plus provision for beyond visual range missiles. Major features include a wide-angle head-up display, Hughes APG-68 multi-mode radar and a weapons interface for AGM-65D Maverick and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles.

The first Block 25 F-16C flew on 19 June 1984. Subsequent models feature a reconfigured engine bay with options for higher-thrust GE F110 (Block 30/40) or P&W F100 (Block 32/42) engines. F-16s with the latter powerplant have enlarged air intakes. Block 30/32 aircraft can carry AGM-88A HARM and AIM-120 missiles.

From 1988, Block 40/42 Night Falcons introduced Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) navigation and targeting pods (carried on the sides of the air intake), APG-68V radar, provision for AGM-88B HARM II missiles, digital flight controls, automatic terrain following and strengthened undercarriage. Block 30-42 F-16C/Ds are used by Bahrain, Egypt, Greece, Israel, South Korea and Turkey. License manufacture was undertaken in Korea and in Turkey.

Many F-16Ds delivered to Israel have been subsequently fitted with a bulged spine, housing unidentified indigenous avionics that are probably associated with a defense suppression role. The USAF received a total of 1 155 F-16C/Ds. These remain the service’s primary tactical combat aircraft, the Block 40/42 Night Falcons making up over half on the night/precision strike/attack force.

In late 1991 General Dynamics began delivering improved Block 50/52 F-16C/D aircraft. These feature APG-68(V)5 radar with improved memory and more modes, a new night vision google-compatible wide-angle head-up display, improved avionics computer, ALE-47 chaff/flare dispenser, ALR-56M radar warning receiver, Have Quick IIA radio, Have Sync anti-jam VHF and full HARM integration.

These aircraft are powered by the Improved Performance Engine versions of two standard General Electric and Pratt & Whitney engines. About 100 of the USAF’s 289+ Block 50/52 F-16C/Ds had been improved to Block 50/52 standard with provision for the ASQ-213 HARM targeting system pod carried under the starboard side of the intake to provide a limited Wild Weasel defense-suppression capability.

Smart weapons capability was applied to this model as well as previous versions. Export operators were Greece, South Korea, Singapore and Turkey. Local production was undertaken in both South Korea (KF-16) and Turkey. Singapore operates two-seat F-16Ds fitted with enlarged dorsal spines similar to those of Israeli aircraft. Greece was buying up to 58 F-16s to improved Block 50+ configuration with upgraded radar, a helmet-mounted cueing system, conformal fuel tanks and stealthy nozzles.

There is also a Block 60/62 standard (or F-16E/F). It was developed in response to a requirement from the United Arab Emirates. Changes include agile beam radar, internal Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) targeting system, an advanced internal electronic counter measures system, an advanced cockpit, conformal fuel tanks and an uprated engine. These Desert Falcons were delivered between 2004-2007.

In 2015 a new F-16V made its first flight. It is unofficially known as the Viper due to the “V” letter in the designation. Existing Block 60/62 aircraft can be upgraded to the “Viper” standard. Also newly-built F-16V aircraft are proposed. So production of the F-16 Fighting Falcon remains assured for the years to come.

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