F-16 Fighting Falcon: Still One Of The Top Jet Fighters In The World. Why Russia and China Still Fear the F-16 Fighting Falcon
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is one of the only top jet fighters in the world to also be cost-effective. Fast and extremely agile, the light fighter does have some shortcomings in range and payload compared to larger twin-engine fighters like the F-15 Eagle, but that was easy to forgive due to costing less than half as much.
By one count, the Falcon has shot down seventy-six enemy aircraft. F-16 currently remains the most popular aircraft in modern military service: out of 4,500 produced, nearly 2,700 currently remain in service in around twenty-six countries. Needless to say, the cutting-edge fourth-generation fighter of the 1980s will remain with us for a good while longer.
The single-engine F-16 leveraged new design technologies to maximize kinematic performance. A powerful Pratt & Whitney F100 engine with the intake slung under the fuselage could generate an excellent thrust-to-weight ratio due to the overall lightness of the Falcon, propelling the F-16 to twice the speed of sound at high altitude. Pronounced strakes bulged out like the hood of a cobra from the fuselage to support the cropped delta wings, enabling very high roll rates.
A bulging bubble canopy afforded an excellent field of view for the pilot, who was lounged in a seat angled thirty degrees back so as to mitigate the G-forces from violent maneuvers. And the F-16 could pull off very violent maneuvers indeed, becoming the first jet fighter able to pull nine Gs in a turn—tighter than any other U.S. fighter until the advent of the F-22 Raptor. This explains the type’s service in the Air Force’s Thunderbirds aerobatics team.
The most sophisticated F-16 in service today aren’t in the U.S. Air Force unit, but rather Block 62 F-16Es and Fs ordered by the United Arab Emirates. The new F-16s boast conformal fuel tanks that greatly extend the Falcon’s short range at minimal aerodynamic cost, as well as an APG-80 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar. AESA radars represent the cutting edge of fighter-borne radar technology, due to their superior resolution and lower visibility to enemy radars. Currently, an even more advanced Block 70 version is being considered for production in India. However, the costs for these newer Falcons have also skyrocketed.
- Read Full Article At nationalinterest.org