All about the F-16 Fighting Falcon
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) for the United States Air Force (USAF). Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,500 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976.
The YF-16 was first flown on January 2, 1974, and its maiden flight was considered successful. The test pilot who flew the aircraft, Phil Oestricher, commented that it was “one of the smoothest and best flying airplanes I’ve ever been in.” The aircraft entered service with the U.S. Air Force in January 1979 as the F-16A.
The initial production model, designated F-16A Block 1, was equipped with the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 radar and had a maximum takeoff weight of 38,500 pounds (17,500 kg). It was powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan engine with a thrust rating of 26,000 pounds force (120 kN). The Block 1 had a combat radius of approximately 390 miles (630 km) on internal fuel and 760 miles (1,220 km) with two external fuel tanks.
The F-16A was followed by the improved F-16B Block 10 and the even more advanced Block 15. The Block 10 introduced the larger and more powerful Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 engine with a thrust rating of 29,000 pounds force (130 kN), as well as an upgraded avionics suite that included the Northrop Grumman APG-68 radar. The Block 15 also featured enlarged wingtip missile rails, an upgraded canopy, and increased fuel capacity.
There are several different variants of the F-16 Fighting Falcon:
- F-16A: The initial production model. It was powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan engine with a thrust rating of 26,000 pounds force (120 kN).
- F-16B: An improved version of the F-16A with a higher thrust engine and upgraded avionics. It was powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 turbofan engine with a thrust rating of 29,000 pounds force (130 kN).
- F-16C: An updated version of the F-16B with improved avionics and weapons capabilities. It was powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 turbofan engine with a thrust rating of 29,000 pounds force (130 kN).
- F-16D: A two-seat version of the F-16C. It was powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 turbofan engine with a thrust rating of 29,000 pounds force (130 kN).
- F-16E: An upgraded version of the F-16C with an improved avionics suite and increased fuel capacity. It was powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan engine with a thrust rating of 32,500 pounds force (145 kN).
- F-16F: A two-seat version of the F-16E. It was powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan engine with a thrust rating of 32,500 pounds force (145 kN).
The F-16 is used by the air forces of 26 countries. The largest operators are the United States Air Force (USAF) with 1,228 aircraft, and Turkey with 243 aircraft.
Specifications (F-16C Block 50)
- Length: 49 ft 4 in (15.04 m)
- Wingspan: 32 ft 8 in (9.96 m)
- Height: 16 ft 5 in (5.00 m)
- Wing area: 300 ft² (27.87 m²)
- Empty weight: 23,530 lb (10,683 kg)
- Loaded weight: 41,000 lb (18,598 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 58,500 lb (26,550 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × General Electric F110-GE-129 turbofan engine, 29,000 lbf (130 kN) thrust each
- Maximum speed: Mach 2.0+ (1,520 mph, 2,445 km/h)
- Combat radius: 500 mi (800 km)
- Ferry range: 2,420 mi (3,900 km)
- Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (19,800 m)
- Rate of climb: >50,000 ft/min (254 m/s)
- Wing loading: 136 lb/ft² (665 kg/m²)
- Thrust/weight: >1.15
The F-16C can be armed with a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, as well as a 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon. It can carry a maximum of six AIM-9 Sidewinder or four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles on its wingtips, as well as two AIM-7 Sparrow missiles on its fuselage stations. For air-to-ground missions, it can carry a mix of laser-guided bombs, GPS-guided bombs, cluster bombs, and unguided bombs.
The F-16 has seen combat in a variety of conflicts, most notably the Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. It has also been used by a number of air forces in conflicts such as the Bosnian War, the War in Somalia, and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
Disavantages of the F-16
The F-16 has several disadvantages:
- The aircraft is not stealthy and can be easily detected by radar.
- It is not designed for long-range missions and has a limited combat radius.
- It is not capable of carrying a large payload, which limits its effectiveness in air-to-ground missions.
Number of Aircraft the F-16 has shot down
In air-to-air combat, the F-16 has a kill ratio of about 10:1. This means that for every F-16 that has been shot down, 10 enemy aircraft have been destroyed.
Israeli Iraq Combat Raid
In 1981, an Israeli F-16A shot down two Syrian MiG-21s during a raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor. The F-16 was piloted by Ilan Ramon, who became the first Israeli astronaut when he flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.
Iraq Nuclear Reactor Bombing
On June 7, 1981, Israeli F-16s destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor that was close to completion. The raid was code-named Operation Opera and was carried out by eight F-16s armed with bombs and missiles. The raid was successful in destroying the reactor and delaying the Iraqi nuclear program by several years.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a versatile and effective jet fighter aircraft. It has seen combat in a variety of conflicts and has a proven track record of success. However, it does have some disadvantages, such as its lack of stealthiness and limited range.
- “F-16 Fighting Falcon.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-16_Fighting_Falcon.