F-16C Fighting Falcon

F-16C Fighting Falcon
Published September 2, 2015

Primary weapons system of the 20th Fighter Wing, the Lockheed-Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon Block 50 model is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. It is highly maneuverable and has proven itself in more than 30 years of operations including air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and 25 friendly nations.

Only four USAF units operate the C model: 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. (three squadrons); 169th Fighter Wing, Joint National Guard Base McEntire, S.C. (one squadron); 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany (one squadron); and 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa AB, Japan (two squadrons).

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) until recently have exceed that of all potential adversary 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 fighter aircraft.

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 enhanced global positioning and inertial navigation systems, or EGI, in which computers provide 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 unit was delivered in January 1979 to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

The F-16B and D, two-seat versions, have tandem cockpits that are about the same size as the one in the A model. The bubble canopy is lengthened 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 D aircraft, which are the single- and two-place replacements to the F-16A/B, and have the latest cockpit control and display technology. At this writing no active, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units still operate the F-16A/B.

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 Dallas, 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, opposition aircraft and facilities.

(From Lockheed-Martin "Code 1" magazine, August 2015)
F-16 BLOCK 50/52 "WILD WEASEL Plus"
The first Block 50/52 was delivered to the US Air Force in 1991, and reached initial operational status in 1994. The Block 50/52 F-16 is recognized for its ability to carry the AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile in the suppression of enemy air defenses, or SEAD, missions. The F-16 can carry as many as four HARMs.

An avionics launcher interface computer allows the F-16 to launch the HARM missile. US Air Force F-16s have been upgraded to carry the HARM Targeting System, or HTS, pod on the left intake hard point so it can be combined with laser targeting pods designed to fit on the right intake hard point. The HTS pod contains a hypersensitive receiver that detects, classifies, and ranges threats and passes the information to the HARM and to the cockpit displays. With the targeting system, the F-16 has full autonomous HARM capability.

The Block 50/52 F-16 continued to be improved, and the current aircraft sold to the Foreign Military Sales customers is equipped with the APG-68(V9) radar, which offers longer-range detection against air targets and higher reliability. The Block 50/52 now includes embedded global positioning system/inertial navigation system, a larger capacity data transfer cartridge, a digital terrain system data transfer cartridge, a cockpit compatible with night vision systems, an improved data modem, an AL-56M advanced radar warning receiver, an ALE-47 threat-adaptive countermeasure system, satellite communication system and an advanced interrogator for identifying friendly aircraft.

ln the cockpit, an upgraded programmable display generator has four times the memory and seven times the processor speed of the system it replaces. New antennas increase reception ranges. Some Cs have satellite communication capability.

With a maximum gross takeoff weight around 39,000 pounds, the Block 50/52 is powered by increased performance engines: the General Electric F110-GE-129 and the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229, each rated to deliver over 29,000 pounds of thrust in afterburner. Block 50/52 are the first F-16 versions to fully integrate the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-shipping missile.

New-production Block 50/52 aircraft ordered after 1996 include color multi­function displays, the modular mission computer, and a multichannel video recorder. All international versions of the Block 50/52 have LANTiRN capability. More than 800 Block 50/52s have been delivered from production lines in Fort Worth, Korea, and Turkey. The Fort Worth production line is currently the only active F-16 line. The other production lines have completed their production runs and been shut down.

Cost new: Approximately $20 million ($30 million in 2014 dollars). (Source: Lockheed-Martin)

General Characteristics (F-16C)
Primary Function: Suppression and/or destruction of enemy air defenses, air and ground interdiction
Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corporation
Power Plant: One Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or General Electric F110-GE-100/129
Thrust: 29,000 pounds
Wingspan: 32 feet, 8 inches (9.8 meters)
Length: 49 feet, 5 inches (14.8 meters)
Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)
Weight: 19,700 pounds without fuel (8,936 kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 39,000 pounds (17,690 kilograms)
Payload: Two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9, two AIM-120 and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks
Speed: 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude)
Range: More than 2,002 miles ferry range (1,740 nautical miles)
Ceiling: Above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
Armament: One M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon with 500 rounds; external stations can carry up to six air-to-air missiles, targeting and visual acquisition pods, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods
Crew: F-16C, one; F-16D, one or two
Initial operating capability: F-16C/D Block 50-52, 1994
Production: F-16C, more than 800