The F-16 Fighting Falcon is an attack fighter jet designed and manufactured by General Dynamics, which is now Lockheed Martin. It has one engine and is able to achieve supersonic speed during flight. It is intended as a multirole aircraft and originally designed to achieve air superiority during the day. Now, however, its roles and capabilities have evolved to include all-weather. This aircraft was designed for the United States Air force and has over 4,500 units built since its approval. It was approved in 1976. This particular aircraft is no longer being purchased by the USAF, nevertheless it is still being manufactured and upgraded for other countries that use it as part of their country’s air force.
Key features that made the F-16 an advanced aircraft during its inception include:
A frameless bubble canopy. This gives the pilot improved visibility.
- A side-mounted control stick. This gives the pilot improved control and increased ease of maneuvering.
- A 30 degrees reclined seat. This mitigates the effect of g-forces on the pilot.
- A fly-by-wire control system. The F-16 was actually the first aircraft to utilize this type of control system and it has the effect of making the aircraft more agile.
The F-16 comes equipped with several locations for attaching bombs, missiles and all sorts of mission appropriate accessories. It also comes embedded with an internal cannon. Though its official name is the Fighting Falcon, it is popularly dubbed “Viper” among pilots. The F-16s are not only used by the USAF active duty unit. They are also used by the:
Air Force Reserve Command
- Air National Guard units
- USAF aerial demonstration team
- United States Navy
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is the second most widely used fighter jet in the world as it is in use by the armed forces of 26 countries, including the United States. The air force flew the Fighting Falcon during Operation Desert Storm as well as in the Balkans in the 1990s. This fighter jet was also used in Operation Northern watch and Southern watch in Iraq. Its major mission during these military campaigns was to patrol the no-fly zone. The F-16 was also operated during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003). More recently, it took part in the United States intervention in Libya.
It was planned that the F-16s will remain an active part of the United States Air Force until they are replaced in 2025 by the F-35A. However, the manufacturer of the F-35A, Lockheed Martin, has experienced delays. As such, it is expected that the F-16s will remain in active duty far longer than 2025.
Some of the countries currently operating the F-16 Fighting Falcon are: Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Israel, Iraq, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Taiwan, Singapore, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. Italy operated the F-16 under lease from the US for about 12 years. They are presently not an operator of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.