The light, maneuverable, and resolutely high-tech General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon combines excellent capabilities with a reasonable per-unit cost. See more military jets pictures.

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General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon

 

Flown by more than 15 countries, the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon continues to be one of the hottest sellers in the export market, still winning competitions against the latest planes from the factories of Europe.

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One of the products of the competition that led to the McDonnell Douglas F-15 was a heated debate within the United States Air Force on the need to have a "lightweight" fighter. Led by the so-called "fighter mafia," the program set a goal to have a less expensive, almost equally capable fighter built in greater numbers than would be possible with the pricey F-15.

Electric controls and easy conversion to a variety of combat roles prompted several countries to purchase the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon.

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The Air Force resisted at first, then capitu­lated, agreeing to have a fighter competition that resulted in a fly-off between the Northrop YF-17 and the General Dynamics YF-16 in 1974. The YF-16 won the competition, but the YF-17 became the basis for the Navy's McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. Four NATO countries (Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway) announced that the F-16 would also be their fighter of choice, leading to joint production efforts and a worldwide market.

The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon had many advanced features, including a blended wing and fuselage design, fly-by-wire (electronic) controls, absolutely splendid visibility, and superb maneuverability. First flown on January 20, 1974, by Phil Oestricher, the F-16 soon demonstrated amazing performance and began to receive additional orders from a previously reluctant USAF.

The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon has experienced some problems with its engine, not yet entirely solved, and there have been a number of losses of Falcons over the years. Despite this, the performance of the F-16 has gained it a reputation as the most important current fighter in the West.

The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon -- more often called the "Electric Jet" than the "Fighting Falcon" -- was designed to take advantage of improvements in equipment as they became available. The result is that many of the F-16s in service are fully modernized with the latest radars, night-vision equipment, and missiles.

General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon Specifications
  • Wingspan: 31 ft. 
  • Length: 49 ft. 4 in.
  • Height: 16 ft. 8-1/2 in. 
  • Empty Weight: 18,280 lbs
  • Gross Weight: 42,300 lbs  
  • Top Speed: 1,333 mph
  • Service Ceiling: 50,000 ft.-plus
  • Range: 1,050 miles
  • Engine/Thrust: One Pratt & Whitney F100 turbofan; or one General Electric F110 turbofan/29,000 lbs
  • Crew: 1
  • Armament: One MA61A1 20-mm six-barreled cannon; two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles or two AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles
  • Ordnance: Up to 12,000 lbs of external load
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