Lockheed Martin has announced a fighter jet it calls the F-21. The single-seat fighter is packed with missiles, modern sensors, and can engage in both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. It’s not exactly “new” though—the rest of the world knows this plane as the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
India is seeking a foreign fighter for its air force. There’s stiff competition between Lockheed’s F-16, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the Swedish Gripen, French Rafale, European Eurofighter Typhoon, and Russian jets. To break through the logjam, Lockheed decided it needed to upgrade its offering
The latest version of the F-16, officially dubbed the F-16 Block 70, is a thoroughly modern fighter jet. The original F-16 was introduced in the 1970s, but the new jet is a different beast thanks to advanced avionics, the APG-83 active electronically scanned array radar, above-wing fuel tanks for increased range, and an automatic ground collision avoidance system. The Block 70 also has a structural service life of 12,000 hours, compared to just 8,000 hours for earlier versions of the F-16.
The “F-21” also has some tricks the Block 70 doesn’t have. Lockheed’s promotional video shows the fighter with a remarkable ten missiles—eight medium-range, radar-guided AMRAAM missiles plus two AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles.
The F-21 can be seen carrying a Sniper electro-optical targeting pod, also produced by Lockheed Martin. In service with the U.S. Air Force, the Sniper pod provides HD forward-looking infrared (also known as thermal imaging), a dual-mode laser, video data link, and digital data recorder. The F-21 also features an aerial refueling probe for refueling using the drogue system and a huge flat panel cockpit display.
“The F-21 is different, inside and out, Vivek Lall,” vice president of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.
The Block 70 upgrades included an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, the AN/APX-126 Advanced IFF, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System II, CFT (Conformal Fuel Tanks); and a high-volume, high-speed data bus as well as other baseline features such as a Link-16 Theater Data Link, Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, advanced weapons, precision GPS navigation, and the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS).
One of the most interesting upgrades of the Block 70 to the baseline F-16s is the Northrop Grumman’s advanced APG-83 AESA radar, that enables greater detection and tracking ranges, multiple target track (20-plus target tracks), high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) maps for all-environment precision strike, interleaved air-to-air and air-to-surface mode operations for improved situational awareness, operational effectiveness and survivability; and robust electronic protection for operations in dense radio frequency (RF) environments.