General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon

The General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force (USAF). Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,500 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Although no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, improved versions are still being built for export customers. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.

The Fighting Falcon has key features including a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while maneuvering, a seat reclined 30 degrees to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot, and the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire flight control system which helps to make it a nimble aircraft. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and 11 locations for mounting weapons and other mission equipment. The F-16's official name is "Fighting Falcon", but "Viper" is commonly used by its pilots, due to a perceived resemblance to a viper snake as well as the Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper starfighter.

In addition to active duty U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, and Air National Guard units, the aircraft is also used by the USAF aerial demonstration team, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and as an adversary/aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy. The F-16 has also been procured to serve in the air forces of 25 other nations. As of 2015, it is the second most common currently operational military aircraft in the world.

General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer General Dynamics
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1974
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
General Dynamics 4400 View

Experiences in the Vietnam War revealed the need for air superiority fighters and better air-to-air training for fighter pilots. Based on his experiences in the Korean War and as a fighter tactics instructor in the early 1960s Colonel John Boyd with mathematician Thomas Christie developed the Energy–maneuverability theory to model a fighter aircraft's performance in combat. Boyd's work called for a small, lightweight aircraft that could maneuver with the minimum possible energy loss, and which also incorporated an increased thrust-to-weight ratio. In the late 1960s, Boyd gathered a group of like-minded innovators that became known as the Fighter Mafia and in 1969 they secured Department of Defense funding for General Dynamics and Northrop to study design concepts based on the theory.

Air Force F-X proponents remained hostile to the concept because they perceived it as a threat to the F-15 program. However, the Air Force's leadership understood that its budget would not allow it to purchase enough F-15 aircraft to satisfy all of its missions. The Advanced Day Fighter concept, renamed F-XX, gained civilian political support under the reform-minded Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard, who favored the idea of competitive prototyping. As a result, in May 1971, the Air Force Prototype Study Group was established, with Boyd a key member, and two of its six proposals would be funded, one being the Lightweight Fighter (LWF). The Request for Proposals issued on 6 January 1972 called for a 20,000-pound (9,100 kg) class air-to-air day fighter with a good turn rate, acceleration and range, and optimized for combat at speeds of Mach 0.6–1.6 and altitudes of 30,000–40,000 feet (9,100–12,000 m). This was the region where USAF studies predicted most future air combat would occur. The anticipated average flyaway cost of a production version was $3 million. This production plan, though, was only notional as the USAF had no firm plans to procure the winner.

United States

Wisconsin ANG F-16s over Madison, Wisconsin. The tail of the formation's lead ship features a special 60th Anniversary scheme for the 115th Fighter Wing.

The F-16 is being used by the active duty USAF, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard units, the USAF aerial demonstration team, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and as an adversary-aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center.

The U.S. Air Force, including the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard, flew the F-16 in combat during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and in the Balkans later in the 1990s. F-16s also patrolled the no-fly zones in Iraq during Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch and served during the wars in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) from 2001 and 2003 respectively. In 2011, Air Force F-16s took part in the intervention in Libya.

The F-16 was scheduled to remain in service with the U.S. Air Force until 2025. The planned replacement was to be the F-35A version of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, which would gradually begin replacing a number of multi-role aircraft among the program's member nations. However, due to delays in the JSF program, all USAF F-16s will get service life extension upgrades.


The F-16's first air-to-air combat success was achieved by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) over the Bekaa Valley on 28 April 1981, against a Syrian Mi-8 helicopter, which was downed with cannon fire. On 7 June 1981, eight Israeli F-16s, escorted by F-15s, executed Operation Opera, their first employment in a significant air-to-ground operation. This raid severely damaged Osirak, an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction near Baghdad, to prevent the regime of Saddam Hussein from using the reactor for the creation of nuclear weapons.

The following year, during the 1982 Lebanon War Israeli F-16s engaged Syrian aircraft in one of the largest air battles involving jet aircraft, which began on 9 June and continued for two more days. Israeli Air Force F-16s were credited with 44 air-to-air kills during the conflict.

In January 2000, Israel completed a purchase of 102 new "F-16I" planes in a deal totaling $4.5 billion. F-16s were also used in their ground-attack role for strikes against targets in Lebanon. IAF F-16s participated in the 2006 Lebanon War and during the attacks in the Gaza strip in December 2008. During and after 2006 Lebanon war, IAF F-16s shot down Iranian-made UAV drones launched by Hezbollah, using Rafael Python 5 air-to-air missile.


During the Soviet-Afghan war, between May 1986 and January 1989, PAF F-16s shot down at least eight intruders from Afghanistan. The first three of these (one Su-22, one probable Su-22, and one An-26) were shot down by two pilots from No. 9 Squadron. Pilots of No. 14 Squadron destroyed the remaining five intruders (two Su-22s, two MiG-23s, and one Su-25). Most of these kills were by the AIM-9 Sidewinder, but at least one (a Su-22) was destroyed by cannon fire. Flight Lieutenant Khalid Mahmoud is credited with three of these kills. One F-16 was lost in these battles during an encounter between two F-16s and four Soviet Air Force MiG-23s on 29 April 1987. The pilot ejected safely.

The Pakistan Air Force has used its F-16s in various foreign and internal military exercises, such as the "Indus Vipers" exercise in 2008 conducted jointly with Turkey. Since May 2009, the PAF has also been using their F-16 fleet to attack militant positions and support the Pakistan Army's operations in North-West Pakistan against the Taliban insurgency. As of November 2011, PAF F-16 have launched 5,500 sorties in operations. More than 80% of the dropped munitions were laser-guided bombs.

PAF F-16s patrolled the Indian border during the Kargil Conflict and during the 2008 tension with India.


The Turkish Air Force acquired its first F-16s in 1987. Turkish F-16s participated in the Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo since 1993 in support of United Nations resolutions.

On 18 June 1992, a Greek Mirage F-1 crashed during dogfight with a Turkish F-16. On 8 February 1995, a Turkish F-16 crashed into the Aegean after being intercepted by Greek Mirage F1 fighters.

On 8 October 1996, 7 months after the escalation over Imia a Greek Mirage 2000 reportedly fired an R.550 Magic II missile and shot down a Turkish F-16D over the Aegean Sea. The Turkish pilot died, while the co-pilot ejected and was rescued by Greek forces. In August 2012, after the downing of a RF-4E on the Syrian Coast, Turkish Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz confirmed that the Turkish F-16D was shot down by a Greek Mirage 2000 with an R.550 Magic II in 1996 after violating Greek airspace near Chios island.

On 23 May 2006, two Greek F-16s intercepted a Turkish RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft and two F-16 escorts off the coast of the Greek island of Karpathos, within the Athens FIR. A mock dogfight ensued between the two sides, resulting in a midair collision between a Turkish F-16 and a Greek F-16. The Turkish pilot ejected safely, but the Greek pilot died due to damage caused by the collision.

Turkey used its F-16s extensively in its conflict with separatist Kurds in Kurdish parts of Turkey and Iraq. Turkey launched its first cross-border raid on 16 December 2007, a prelude to the 2008 Turkish incursion into northern Iraq, involving 50 fighters before Operation Sun. This was the first time Turkey had mounted a night-bombing operation on a massive scale, and also the largest operation conducted by Turkish Air Force.

During the Syrian Civil War, Turkish F-16s were tasked with airspace protection on the Syrian border. After the RF-4 downing in June 2012 Turkey changed its rules of engagements against Syrian aircraft, resulting in scrambles and downings of Syrian combat aircraft.


On 16 February 2015, Egyptian F-16s performed air strikes on jihadi weapons caches and training camps in Libya in revenge of the murder of 21 workers by masked militants affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS). The air strikes killed 64 ISIS fighters, including three leaders in Derna and Sirte on the coast.


The Royal Netherlands Air Force, Belgian Air Force, Royal Danish Air Force, Royal Norwegian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, and Venezuela have flown the F-16 on combat missions. A Serbian MiG-29 was shot down by a Dutch F-16AM during the Kosovo War in 1999. Belgian and Danish F-16s also participated in joint operations over Kosovo during the war. Dutch, Belgian, Danish, and Norwegian F-16s were deployed during the 2011 intervention in Libya and in Afghanistan. In Libya, Norwegian F-16s dropped almost 550 bombs and flew 596 missions, some 17% of the total strike missions including the bombing of Muammar Gaddafi's headquarters.

Role Multirole fighter, Air superiority fighter
National origin United States
Manufacturer General Dynamics
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
First flight 20 January 1974
Introduction 17 August 1978
Status In service
Primary users United States Air Force
25 other users (see operators page)
Produced 1973–present
Number built 4,540+
Unit cost F-16A/B: US$14.6 million (1998 dollars)
F-16C/D: US$18.8 million (1998 dollars)
Variants General Dynamics F-16 VISTA
Developed into Vought Model 1600
General Dynamics F-16XL
Mitsubishi F-2

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 49 ft 5 in (14.8 m)
  • Wingspan: 32 ft 8 in (9.8 m)
  • Height: 16 ft (4.8 m)
  • Wing area: 300 ft (27.87 m)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A204 root and tip
  • Empty weight: 18,200 lb (8,270 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 26,500 lb (12,000 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 42,300 lb (19,200 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 x Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 afterburning turbofan
    • Dry thrust: 14,590 lbf (64.9 kN)
    • Thrust with afterburner: 23,770 lbf (105.7 kN)
  • Alternate powerplant: 1 x General Electric F110-GE-100 afterburning turbofan
    • Dry thrust: 17,155 lbf (76.3 kN)
    • Thrust with afterburner: 28,600 lbf (128.9 kN)


  • Maximum speed:
    • At sea level: Mach 1.2 (915 mph, 1,460 km/h)
    • At altitude: Mach 2+ (1,500 mph, 2,414 km/h)
  • Combat radius: 340 NM (295 mi, 550 km) on a hi-lo-hi mission with six 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs
  • Ferry range: >2,100 NM (2,420 NM, 3,900 km)
  • Service ceiling >50,000 ft (15,239 m)
  • Rate of climb: 50,000 ft/min (254 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 88.2 lb/ft (431 kg/m)
  • Thrust/weight: For F100 engine: 0.898, For F110: 1.095


  • Guns: 1 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan gatling gun, 511 rounds
  • Rockets: 2.75 in (70 mm) CRV7
  • Missiles: Air to Air Missiles (AIM-7 Sparrow, AIM-9 Sidewinder, IRIS-T, AIM-120 AMRAAM, Python-4); Air to Ground Missiles (AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-88 HARM); Anti-Ship Missiles (AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-119 Penguin)
  • Bombs: CBU-87, CBU-89, CBU-97, GBU-10 Paveway II, GBU-12 Paveway II, JDAM, Mark 84/83/82 general-purpose bombs, B61 nuclear bomb

End notes