General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon: “A pure fighter and the king of exporation
The F-16, a highly agile light fighter chosen by the US Air Force in January 1975 (over the YF-17), has been the subject of intensive production and several licensing agreements. The USAF alone has ordered 1985 examples, and many countries have acquired them, including Belgium (160), Denmark (68), Egypt (80), Israel (150), South Korea (36), the Netherlands (213), Norway (72), Pakistan (40) and Venezuela (24).
Among the systems carried by the F-16 are inertial navigation platforms, a Doppler pulse radar, an air data system and a fire control computer. In addition, the aircraft is equipped with a flight computer, fly-by-wire controls, and automatic slats and flaps for the leading and trailing edges.
A ground attack version has been developed, but the USAF’s F-16s are used for fighter and attack missions both in the U.S. and by units stationed in Europe and the Far East.
The F-16 was developed as part of the USAF’s Lightweight Fighter (LWF) program, which aimed to prove the concept of a smaller, less expensive fighter aircraft than the F-15. Originally a General Dynamics project, the company flew a first YF-16 demonstrator in February 1974. After a test flight against the competing Northrop YF-17, the General Dynamics product underwent further development and became the larger, more capable F-16A Fighting Falcon. It was ordered by the USAF, which initially requested 650, then 1,388, soon followed by NATO air forces in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. Thus began an export odyssey that continues today and has seen more than 4,500 of the F-16 built for 28 nations.
Although successive variants have progressively increased in weight, avionics, and capability, all Fighting Falcons retain the key features of the original production model, including Command Configuration Vehicle (CCV) technology and fly-by-wire controls, as well as a generous thrust-to-weight ratio thanks to a single engine powered by a fixed ventral intake. The result combines good overall performance with exceptional agility, roll rate, climb and acceleration. The non-flared wing has a self-varying camber, and the pilot benefits from a frameless canopy for better vision, a reclining seat and a side-mounted joystick instead of the conventional joystick. The throttle lever carries controls for the weapons, head-up display (HUD) and radar.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon originally used the AN/ APG-66 pulse and doppler radar with aiming and shooting capability, but it has been replaced by increasingly sophisticated models, including the latest active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology in the most advanced versions of the jet. According to the manufacturer, the F-16 has been produced in 138 different configurations, from the prototype to the latest production model, the F-16V (V for “Viper”, the name by which the aircraft is commonly known). As such, successive modifications have taken into account improvements in cockpit, avionics, sensor and weapons technology, while striving to make the fighter more reliable and easier to maintain and support. Major changes to the aircraft include increased range and payload, infrared sensors and laser targeting devices, as well as improvements in survivability through more advanced electronic warfare sensors and sophisticated decoys. To accommodate the increased weight of these additions, the F-16 received new powerplants to increase engine thrust, while range extension was provided by the addition of compliant fuel tanks. The cockpit of the latest versions retains the original manual throttle and side switch controls, but combines them with large color displays, night vision goggle (NVG)-compatible lighting, a full-color moving map and an extended area HUD. Other avionics improvements include advanced data links, satellite communications and helmet-mounted tracking systems.
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