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F-16 Fighting Falcon

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 aerodynamic configuration of the F-16 is a highly integrated synthesis of such components as wing, fuselage, and inlet, with the aim of achieving maximum favorable flow interaction with subsequent optimization of overall performance. Configuration features include a cropped delta wing mounted near the top of the fuselage with large strakes extending forward from the leading edge to the sides of the fuselage. A single vertical tail is utilized together with a small fixed ventral fin located on the bottom of the fuselage. The all-moving horizontal tail is mounted in the low position and incorporates a small amount of negative dihedral.

A fixed-geometry, chin-mounted inlet supplies air to the single Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan engine, which is a variant of the same power plant utilized in the F-15. Since the forward portion of the fuselage provides some external flow compression, reasonable inlet efficiency is obtained even at a Mach number of 2.0. Good inlet efficiency through a wide range of angle of attack is ensured by the location of the inlet on the bottom side of the fuselage at a fore-and-aft location behind the forward intersection of the wing strakes with the side of the fuselage.

The cropped delta wing blends into the fuselage sides with large strakes that extend forward from the wing leading edges. Vortexes generated by these strakes help prevent wing stall at high angles of attack and thus increase the lifting capability of the wing. Leading-edge sweepback angle is 45 and the airfoil-section thickness ratio is 4 percent. Trailing-edge flaparons serve the double purpose of high-lift flaps and ailerons for lateral control. Leading-edge maneuvering flaps are deployed automatically as a function of Mach number and angle of attack.

In some respects, the control system of the F-16 represents a complete departure from previous fighter design practice. Although conventional-type aerodynamic control surfaces are employed, the control system utilizes a novel method of transmitting pilot commands to these surfaces. In previous fighter designs, some form of mechanical device linked the control stick and the rudder pedals to the hydraulic actuating system that moved the control surfaces. In contrast, the F-16 utilizes a fly-by-wire system in which movement of the pilot's controls initiates electrical signals that activate the hydraulic systems and cause the control surfaces to be moved in a prescribed manner. The fly-by-wire system is lighter, simpler, and more precise than the older mechanical systems, but it does raise questions relating to electrical system reliability. In the F-16, redundancy is provided in the electrical generating and distribution equipment, and four dedicated sealed-cell batteries give transient electrical power protection for the fly-by-wire system. Two completely separate and independent hydraulic systems supply power for actuation of the aerodynamic control surfaces and other utility functions.

Another novel feature in the control system of the F-16 is the incorporation of "relaxed static stability." This means that the inherent longitudinal stability is reduced, to a level traditionally thought to be unacceptable, by moving the aircraft center of gravity to a point very near the aerodynamic center of the aircraft. Tall load and associated trim drag are reduced by this process. Compensation for the loss in inherent aerodynamic stability is provided by a combination electronic-hydraulic stability augmentation system that senses uncalled-for departures from the intended flight condition and injects corrective signals into the flight control system.

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. The arrangement of the pilot's control stick is a radical departure from standards that trace their origin to the early days of World War I. Traditionally, the fighter pilot's control stick used for actuation of the ailerons and elevators has consisted of a lever mounted on the floor of the cockpit between the pilot's legs. (There have, of course been many variations in the detail design of the control stick.) On the F-16, the traditional control stick has been replaced by a short "side-arm controller" mounted on the right-hand console of the cockpit. The side-arm controller is a small-displacement pressure-sensitive handle that, together with the fly-by-wire system, gives the pilot the ability to exercise very precise control of the aircraft. To help prevent unwanted commands to the control handle the pilot rests his right arm in a carefully designed support.

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 Fiber Optic Towed Decoy (FOTD) provides aircraft protection against modern radar-guided missiles to supplement traditional radar jamming equipment. The device is towed at varying distances behind the aircraft while transmitting a signal like that of a threat radar. The missile will detect and lock onto the decoy rather than on the aircraft. This is achieved by making the decoy's radiated signal stronger than that of the aircraft.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:30:31 ZULU