F-16 Fighting Falcon

F-16 Fighting Falcon

The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force (USAF). Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,600 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Although no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, improved versions are being built for export customers. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.

The Fighting Falcon’s key features include a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while maneuvering, an ejection seat reclined 30 degrees from vertical to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot, and the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire flight control system which helps to make it an agile aircraft. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and 11 locations for mounting weapons and other mission equipment. The F-16’s official name is “Fighting Falcon”, but “Viper” is commonly used by its pilots and crews, due to a perceived resemblance to a viper snake as well as the Colonial Viper starfighter on Battlestar Galactica which aired at the time the F-16 entered service.

In addition to active duty in the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, and Air National Guard units, the aircraft is also used by the USAF aerial demonstration team, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and as an adversary/aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy. The F-16 has also been procured to serve in the air forces of 25 other nations. As of 2015, it is the world’s most numerous fixed-wing aircraft in military service.



The F-16 is a single-engine, highly maneuverable, supersonic, multi-role tactical fighter aircraft. It is much smaller and lighter than its predecessors, but uses advanced aerodynamics and avionics, including the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire (RSS/FBW) flight control system, to achieve enhanced maneuver performance. Highly agile, the F-16 was the first fighter aircraft purpose-built to pull 9-g maneuvers and can reach a maximum speed of over Mach 2. Innovations include a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, a side-mounted control stick, and a reclined seat to reduce g-force effects on the pilot. It is armed with an internal M61 Vulcan cannon in the left wing root and has multiple locations for mounting various missiles, bombs and pods. It has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one, providing power to climb and vertical acceleration.

The F-16 was designed to be relatively inexpensive to build and simpler to maintain than earlier-generation fighters. The airframe is built with about 80% aviation-grade aluminum alloys, 8% steel, 3% composites, and 1.5% titanium. The leading-edge flaps, stabilators, and ventral fins make use of bonded aluminum honeycomb structures and graphite epoxy lamination coatings. The number of lubrication points, fuel line connections, and replaceable modules is significantly lower than preceding fighters; 80% of the access panels can be accessed without stands. The air intake was placed so it was rearward of the nose but forward enough to minimize air flow losses and reduce aerodynamic drag.

Although the LWF program called for a structural life of 4,000 flight hours, capable of achieving 7.33 g with 80% internal fuel; GD’s engineers decided to design the F-16’s airframe life for 8,000 hours and for 9-g maneuvers on full internal fuel. This proved advantageous when the aircraft’s mission changed from solely air-to-air combat to multi-role operations. Changes in operational use and additional systems have increased weight, necessitating multiple structural strengthening programs.

General configuration

The F-16 has a cropped-delta wing incorporating wing-fuselage blending and forebody vortex-control strakes; a fixed-geometry, underslung air intake (with splitter plate) to the single turbofan jet engine; a conventional tri-plane empennage arrangement with all-moving horizontal “stabilator” tailplanes; a pair of ventral fins beneath the fuselage aft of the wing’s trailing edge; and a tricycle landing gear configuration with the aft-retracting, steerable nose gear deploying a short distance behind the inlet lip. There is a boom-style aerial refueling receptacle located behind the single-piece “bubble” canopy of the cockpit. Split-flap speedbrakes are located at the aft end of the wing-body fairing, and a tailhook is mounted underneath the fuselage. A fairing beneath the rudder often houses ECM equipment or a drag chute. Later F-16 models feature a long dorsal fairing along the fuselage’s “spine”, housing additional equipment or fuel.

Aerodynamic studies in the 1960s demonstrated that the “vortex lift” phenomenon could be harnessed by highly swept wing configurations to reach higher angles of attack, using leading edge vortex flow off a slender lifting surface. As the F-16 was being optimized for high combat agility, GD’s designers chose a slender cropped-delta wing with a leading edge sweep of 40° and a straight trailing edge. To improve maneuverability, a variable-camber wing with a NACA 64A-204 airfoil was selected; the camber is adjusted by leading-edge and trailing edge flaperons linked to a digital flight control system (FCS) regulating the flight envelope.[43][66] The F-16 has a moderate wing loading, reduced by fuselage lift. The vortex lift effect is increased by leading edge extensions, known as strakes. Strakes act as additional short-span, triangular wings running from the wing root (the juncture with the fuselage) to a point further forward on the fuselage. Blended into the fuselage and along the wing root, the strake generates a high-speed vortex that remains attached to the top of the wing as the angle of attack increases, generating additional lift and allowing greater angles of attack without stalling. Strakes allow a smaller, lower-aspect-ratio wing, which increases roll rates and directional stability while decreasing weight. Deeper wingroots also increase structural strength and internal fuel volume.


Early F-16s could be armed with up to six AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking short-range air-to-air missiles (AAM) by employing rail launchers on each wingtip, as well as radar guided AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range AAMs in a weapons mix. More recent versions support the AIM-120 AMRAAM. The aircraft can carry various other AAMs, a wide variety of air-to-ground missiles, rockets or bombs; electronic countermeasures (ECM), navigation, targeting or weapons pods; and fuel tanks on 9 hardpoints – six under the wings, two on wingtips, and one under the fuselage. Two other locations under the fuselage are available for sensor or radar pods.[70] The F-16 carries a 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A1 Vulcan cannon for close range aerial combat and strafing. The 20mm cannon is mounted inside the fuselage to the left of the cockpit.

Negative stability and fly-by-wire

The F-16 is the first production fighter aircraft intentionally designed to be slightly aerodynamically unstable, also known as “relaxed static stability” (RSS), to improve maneuverability. Most aircraft are designed with positive static stability, which induces aircraft to return to straight and level flight attitude if the pilot releases the controls; this reduces maneuverability as the inherent stability has to be overcome. Aircraft with negative stability are designed to deviate from controlled flight and thus be more maneuverable. At supersonic speeds the F-16 gains stability (eventually positive) due to aerodynamic changes.

To counter the tendency to depart from controlled flight—and avoid the need for constant trim inputs by the pilot, the F-16 has a quadruplex (four-channel) fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system (FLCS). The flight control computer (FLCC) accepts pilot input from the stick and rudder controls, and manipulates the control surfaces in such a way as to produce the desired result without inducing control loss. The FLCC conducts thousands of measurements per second on the aircraft’s flight attitude to automatically counter deviations from the pilot-set flight path; leading to a common aphorism among pilots: “You don’t fly an F-16; it flies you.”

The FLCC further incorporates limiters governing movement in the three main axes based on attitude, airspeed and angle of attack (AOA); these prevent control surfaces from inducing instability such as slips or skids, or a high AOA inducing a stall. The limiters also prevent maneuvers that would exert more than a 9 g load. Flight testing has revealed that “assaulting” multiple limiters at high AOA and low speed can result in an AOA far exceeding the 25° limit, colloquially referred to as “departing”; this causes a deep stall; a near-freefall at 50° to 60° AOA, either upright or inverted. While at a very high AOA, the aircraft’s attitude is stable but control surfaces are ineffective. The pitch limiter locks the stabilators at an extreme pitch-up or pitch-down attempting to recover. This can be overridden so the pilot can “rock” the nose via pitch control to recover.

Unlike the YF-17, which had hydromechanical controls serving as a backup to the FBW, General Dynamics took the innovative step of eliminating mechanical linkages from the control stick and rudder pedals to the flight control surfaces. The F-16 is entirely reliant on its electrical systems to relay flight commands, instead of traditional mechanically linked controls, leading to the early moniker of “the electric jet”. The quadruplex design permits “graceful degradation” in flight control response in that the loss of one channel renders the FLCS a “triplex” system. The FLCC began as an analog system on the A/B variants, but has been supplanted by a digital computer system beginning with the F-16C/D Block 40. The F-16’s controls suffered from a sensitivity to static electricity or electrostatic discharge (ESD). Up to 70–80% of the C/D models’ electronics were vulnerable to ESD.

Cockpit and ergonomics

A key feature of the F-16’s cockpit is the exceptional field of view. The single-piece, bird-proof polycarbonate bubble canopy provides 360° all-round visibility, with a 40° look-down angle over the side of the aircraft, and 15° down over the nose (compared to the common 12–13° of preceding aircraft); the pilot’s seat is elevated for this purpose. Furthermore, the F-16’s canopy lacks the forward bow frame found on many fighters, which is an obstruction to a pilot’s forward vision. The F-16’s ACES II zero/zero ejection seat is reclined at an unusual tilt-back angle of 30°; most fighters have a tilted seat at 13–15°. The tilted seat can accommodate taller pilots and increases G-force tolerance; however it has been associated with reports of neck ache, possibly caused by incorrect head-rest usage. Subsequent U.S. fighters have adopted more modest tilt-back angles of 20°. Due to the seat angle and the canopy’s thickness, the ejection seat lacks canopy-breakers for emergency egress; instead the entire canopy is jettisoned prior to the seat’s rocket firing.
The pilot flies primarily by means of an armrest-mounted side-stick controller (instead of a traditional center-mounted stick) and an engine throttle; conventional rudder pedals are also employed. To enhance the pilot’s degree of control of the aircraft during high-g combat maneuvers, various switches and function controls were moved to centralized “hands on throttle-and-stick (HOTAS)” controls upon both the controllers and the throttle. Hand pressure on the side-stick controller is transmitted by electrical signals via the FBW system to adjust various flight control surfaces to maneuver the F-16. Originally the side-stick controller was non-moving, but this proved uncomfortable and difficult for pilots to adjust to, sometimes resulting in a tendency to “over-rotate” during takeoffs, so the control stick was given a small amount of “play”. Since introduction on the F-16, HOTAS controls have become a standard feature on modern fighters.
The F-16 has a head-up display (HUD), which projects visual flight and combat information in front of the pilot without obstructing the view; being able to keep their head “out of the cockpit” improves a pilot’s situation awareness. Further flight and systems information are displayed on multi-function displays (MFD). The left-hand MFD is the primary flight display (PFD), typically showing radar and moving-maps; the right-hand MFD is the system display (SD), presenting information about the engine, landing gear, slat and flap settings, and fuel and weapons status. Initially, the F-16A/B had monochrome cathode ray tube (CRT) displays; replaced by color liquid-crystal displays on the Block 50/52. The MLU introduced compatibility with night-vision goggles (NVG). The Boeing Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) is available from Block 40 onwards, for targeting based on where the pilot’s head faces, unrestricted by the HUD, using high-off-boresight missiles like the AIM-9X.

Fire-control radar

The F-16A/B was originally equipped with the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 fire-control radar. Its slotted planar array antenna was designed to be compact to fit into the F-16’s relatively small nose. In uplook mode, the APG-66 uses a low pulse-repetition frequency (PRF) for medium- and high-altitude target detection in a low-clutter environment, and in look-down/shoot-down employs a medium PRF for heavy clutter environments. It has four operating frequencies within the X band, and provides four air-to-air and seven air-to-ground operating modes for combat, even at night or in bad weather. The Block 15’s APG-66(V)2 model added a more powerful signal processing, higher output power, improved reliability and increased range in cluttered or jamming environments. The Mid-Life Update (MLU) program introduced a new model, APG-66(V)2A, which features higher speed and more memory.

The AN/APG-68, an evolution of the APG-66, was introduced with the F-16C/D Block 25. The APG-68 has greater range and resolution, as well as 25 operating modes, including ground-mapping, Doppler beam-sharpening, ground moving target indication, sea target, and track while scan (TWS) for up to 10 targets. The Block 40/42’s APG-68(V)1 model added full compatibility with Lockheed Martin Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red for Night (LANTIRN) pods, and a high-PRF pulse-Doppler track mode to provide Interrupted Continuous Wave guidance for semi-active radar-homing (SARH) missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow. Block 50/52 F-16s initially used the more reliable APG-68(V)5 which has a programmable signal processor employing Very-High-Speed Integrated Circuit (VHSIC) technology. The Advanced Block 50/52 (or 50+/52+) are equipped with the APG-68(V)9 radar, with a 30% greater air-to-air detection range and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mode for high-resolution mapping and target detection-recognition. In August 2004, Northrop Grumman were contracted to upgrade the APG-68 radars of Block 40/42/50/52 aircraft to the (V)10 standard, providing all-weather autonomous detection and targeting for Global Positioning System (GPS)-aided precision weapons, SAR mapping and terrain-following radar (TF) modes, as well as interleaving of all modes.

The F-16E/F is outfitted with Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-80 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Northrop Grumman developed the latest AESA radar upgrade for the F-16 (selected for USAF and Republic of China Air Force F-16 upgrades), named the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) APG-83. In July 2007, Raytheon announced that it was developing a Next Generation Radar (RANGR) based on its earlier AN/APG-79 AESA radar as a competitor to Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-68 and AN/APG-80 for the F-16. On February 28, 2020, Northrop Grumman received an order from USAF to extend the service lives of their F-16s to at least 2048 with APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) as part of the service-life extension program (SLEP).


The initial powerplant selected for the single-engined F-16 was the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 afterburning turbofan, a modified version of the F-15’s F100-PW-100, rated at 23,830 lbf (106.0 kN) thrust. During testing, the engine was found to be prone to compressor stalls and “rollbacks”, wherein the engine’s thrust would spontaneously reduce to idle. Until resolved, the Air Force ordered F-16s to be operated within “dead-stick landing” distance of its bases. It was the standard F-16 engine through the Block 25, except for the newly built Block 15s with the Operational Capability Upgrade (OCU). The OCU introduced the 23,770 lbf (105.7 kN) F100-PW-220, later installed on Block 32 and 42 aircraft: the main advance being a Digital Electronic Engine Control (DEEC) unit, which improved reliability and reduced stall occurrence. Beginning production in 1988, the “-220” also supplanted the F-15’s “-100”, for commonality. Many of the “-220” engines on Block 25 and later aircraft were upgraded from 1997 onwards to the “-220E” standard, which enhanced reliability and maintainability; unscheduled engine removals were reduced by 35%.

The F100-PW-220/220E was the result of the USAF’s Alternate Fighter Engine (AFE) program (colloquially known as “the Great Engine War”), which also saw the entry of General Electric as an F-16 engine provider. Its F110-GE-100 turbofan was limited by the original inlet to thrust of 25,735 lbf (114.5 kN), the Modular Common Inlet Duct allowed the F110 to achieve its maximum thrust of 28,984 lbf (128.9 kN). (To distinguish between aircraft equipped with these two engines and inlets, from the Block 30 series on, blocks ending in “0” (e.g., Block 30) are powered by GE, and blocks ending in “2” (e.g., Block 32) are fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines.)

The Increased Performance Engine (IPE) program led to the 29,588 lbf (131.6 kN) F110-GE-129 on the Block 50 and 29,160 lbf (129.4 kN) F100-PW-229 on the Block 52. F-16s began flying with these IPE engines in the early 1990s. Altogether, of the 1,446 F-16C/Ds ordered by the USAF, 556 were fitted with F100-series engines and 890 with F110s. The United Arab Emirates’ Block 60 is powered by the General Electric F110-GE-132 turbofan with a maximum thrust of 32,500 lbf (144.6 kN), the highest thrust engine developed for the F-16.


The model F-16 are designated by a numerical sequence of blocks. Each block represents significant changes in the capabilities of the aircraft. The goal would be to maintain standardization between aircraft of the same block and implement these changes into already delivered aircraft, upgrading them to the new standard. This is the main factor that enables the F-16 keep fighting for so long, despite the rapid technological evolution.

F-16 A/B

Initially equipped with the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 radar Pulse Doppler and Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 with 106 kN of power.

Blocks 1/5/10 – They have a few differences between them and the majority of aircraft Blocks 1 and 5 were upgraded to the standard Block 10.

Block 15 – The first major change in the F-16, Block 15 has larger horizontal stabilizers, radar AN/APG updated and enhanced ability to carry weapons. It is the most numerous variant.

Block 15 OCU – The Block 15 OCU (Operational Capability Upgrade) Has updated with inteface turbine digital control, ability to shoot missiles AGM-65, AIM-120 AMRAAM, and AGM-119 Penguin, updates on electronic countermeasures, cockpit, computers and data bus. Aircraft Blocks 10:15 have been updated for this pattern.

Block 20 – Basically, a Block 15 OCU with many capabilities of the F-16 C/D Block 50/52: Using the AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-88 HARM and LANTIRN pod. The on-board computers have been significantly upgraded.

F-16 C/D

The cell of the aircraft has changed significantly, there was an increase in empty weight of 7,390 kg to 8,272 kg.

Block 25 – The F-16 C / D Block 25 entered service in 1984. The aircraft received radar Westinghouse AN/APG-68, is capable of night attack with precision and Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220E with digital control interface.

Block 30/32 – Entered into service in 1987, was the first F-16 to allow the choice of turbine General Electric or Pratt & Whitney. The Blocks ending in 0 are driven by GE, blocks ending in ‘2 ‘are powered by Pratt & Whitney. They can use the AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-88 HARM. Was significantly upgraded by the addition of GPS / INS (GPS guidance) and the use of the cocoon Litening (laser guidance) that allow the use of guided bombs like the JDAM and Paveway. This modification is known as F-16C + +.

Block 40/42 – Entered into service in 1988, has the ability to attack at any time increased with the LANTIRN pod, so called Night Falcons.

Block 50/52 – With the first deliveries in 1991, the aircraft is equipped with GPS / INS updated. Can fire missiles and bombs advanced.

Block 50/52 Plus – This version has received upgraded avionics as the ALE-50 decoder and provision for conformal fuel tanks. This release and the Block 60 is the version currently offered by Lockheed in competitions and they were asked by Chile, Singapore, Pakistan, Poland and Greece. Also under study by Taiwan and India.

F-16I – Basically, a Block 50/52 Plus to Israel with 50% of Israeli avionics.

F-16 E/F

Block 60 – Based on the F-16C/D, has conformal fuel tanks, General Electric F110-132 with 144 kN, Northrop Grumman AN/APG-80 AESA radar, can fire all weapons of Block 50/52 and even the AIM-132 ASRAAM and the AGM-84E SLAM. The Data Bus MIL-STD-1553 was replaced by MIL-STD-1773 fiber optic capacity that offers much higher.

Midlife Update Program

With the departure of the F-16 A/B from the ranks of U.S. Air Force in 1996, most developments would not occur for thisthat cell. However, it was a strategic need to meet several NATO allies who kept the aircraft on active service, as well as providing support to other buyers. To maintain the combat capability of the F-16 A/B equivalent to the F-16 C/D, was developed Midlife Update Program (MLU), initially for Norway, Belgium, Denmark and Netherlands.

Updates occur in packages that allow the constant improvement of the capabilities of hunting in accordance withtechnological developments. Currently, there are now four different packages. The aircraft purchased by Chile of the Netherlands M2 received the package. Portugal acquired M2 packages, but only few aircraft have been updated. The other program participants are completing the upgrade M3 and M4 beginning to analyze.


Crew 1
Length 49 ft 5 in (15.06 m)
Wingspan 32 ft 8 in (9.96 m)
Height 16 ft (4.88 m)
Wing area 300 ft² (27.87 m²)
Empty weight 18,900 lb (8,570 kg)
Loaded weight
26,500 lb (12,000 kg)
Max take off weight 42,300 lb (19,200 kg)
Power plant (Dry thrust)
17,155 lbf (76.3 kN)
Power plant (Thrust with afterburner) 
28,600 lbf (127 kN)
Maximum speed (Sea level)
Mach 1.2 (915 mph, 1,470 km/h)
Maximum speed (High altitude) Mach 2+ (1,500 mph, 2,410 km/h)
Combat radius
340 mi (295 nm, 550 km)
Ferry range
2,280 NM (2,620 mi, 4,220 km)
Service ceiling
60,000+ ft (18,000+ m)
Rate of climb 50,000 ft/min (254 m/s)
Wing loading 88.3 lb/ft² (431 kg/m²)
Thrust/weight 1.095
F-16 Fighting Falcon
previous arrow
next arrow
F-16 Fighting Falcon
previous arrow
next arrow
previous arrow
next arrow

Related Posts

Related Armament

2 thoughts on “F-16 Fighting Falcon

  1. Pingback:MiG-29 Fulcrum -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *