Some call it the ‘Viper.’ Others refer to it as the ‘Fighting Falcon.’ And, although they are both a fundamental part of the F-16’s iconic history, there is really only one nickname that stuck. To dispel the rumors, the ‘Fighting Falcon’ is the official name granted by the Tactical Air Command (now the Air Combat Command).
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, multirole 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.
F-16 pilots may suffer Gravity-induced loss of consciousness (GLOC) when conducting high-speed turns. When flyers are in a high-G, combat environment, aircraft acceleration presents the biggest demand on their bodies. The F-16 is a high technology aircraft that requires pilot physical conditioning to perform up to nine G maneuvers. Sharp turns can induce loss of consciousness when gravity pulls blood toward the lower extremities, carrying oxygen away from the brain. After about 5 seconds of pressure, vision is progressively lost from peripheral vision to central vision. When blood flow is allowed to resume, vision is smoothly and rapidly recovered. Cerebral failure and recovery is much less graceful and predictable (Houghton, McBride, & Hannah, 1985). After about 5 seconds of blood flow stoppage to the brain, GLOC occurs suddenly and lasts from 10 to 30 seconds (average about 13 seconds). When consciousness is regained, it is usually accompanied by brief seizure-like activity and a period of confusion,which lasts about 12 seconds. During this 12 seconds, the aviator is unable to function effectively. An additional period of up to 2 minutes is required before cognitive and psychomotor performance ability recovers to normal. GLOC is a real threat to F-16 pilots. Over the lifetime of the F-16, by 2007 the US Air Force had lost 12 pilots and 16 aircraft to GLOC. GLOC is not a new problem, it has been around for every 70 years. Because of the emergence of high performance aircraft such as the F-16 and the fact that these aircraft can perform beyond the acceleration tolerance limits of the human, GLOC became the U.S. Tactical Air Force's second most serious human factors problem, second only to spatial disorientation.
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. The long-term benefits of this program was 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 multi-mission 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.
Originally conceived as a simple air-superiority day fighter, the aircraft was armed for that mission with a single six-barrel Vulcan 20-mm cannon and two Sidewinder missiles, one mounted at each wingtip. Over the years, however, the mission capability of the aircraft has been extended to include ground-attack and all-weather operations With full internal fuel, the aircraft can carry up to 12 000 pounds of external stores including various types of ordnance as well as fuel tanks.
The original F-16 was designed as a lightweight air-to-air day fighter. Air-to-ground responsibilities transformed the first production F-16s into multirole fighters. The empty weight of the Block 10 F-16A is 15,600 pounds. The empty weight of the Block 50 is 19,200 pounds. The A in F-16A refers to a Block 1 through 20 single-seat aircraft. The B in F-16B refers to the two-seat version. The letters C and D were substituted for A and B, respectively, beginning with Block 25. Block is an important term in tracing the F-16's evolution. Basically, a block is a numerical milestone.The block number increases whenever a new production configuration for the F-16 is established. Not all F-16s within a given block are the same. They fall into a number of block subsets called miniblocks. These sub-block sets are denoted by capital letters following the block number (Block 15S, for example). From Block 30/32 on, a major block designation ending in 0 signifies a General Electric engine; one ending in 2 signifies a Pratt & Whitney engine.
In 2004 ACC solicited Boeing and Lockheed Martin for pricing information proposals to purchase additional F-15 and F-16 aircraft. The request was for as many as two fighter wings or 140 aircraft. This request by ACC was discovered by senior program and acquisition mangers - F-16s and F-15s in service will reach the end of their service life before replacement aircraft are fielded.14 The motivation to purchase more aircraft may have been risk aversion for any additional delays in the F-22 or predicted developmental delays of the F-35.
Some argued that the Air Force could purchase the F-16C block 50 and keep the F-16 production lines open. The need to compete for dollars in a fiscally constrained environment would cease, since there would be a logical sequence of purchasing enhanced F-16s as the Navy did with the F/A-18E/F. This F-16 purchase could serve as an insurance policy with aircraft delivered from 2005 to 2010. The result, should Congress delay or cancel the F-35 (as in the case of the F-22, C-17, and others), would be a manned fighter stopgap until the F-35 [or UCAV] was in full production.
The US Air Force took delivery of its last F-16 Fighting Falcon on March 18, 2005, the last of 2,231 F-16s produced for the Air Force. The first delivery was in 1978.