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
The 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.
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 systems.
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 and the 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
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 of
sorties in support of operations Noble Eagle (Homeland Defense),
Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom