Breathtaking Views from Backseat of a Thunderbird 4
This fun clip barely scratches the surface of the F-16’s unprecedented acrobatic capabilities. Which is a bit ironic, considering that the “Fighting Falcon” was the first combat aircraft intentionally designed to be aerodynamically unstable. Most planes are carefully engineered to provide “positive stability,” meaning if the pilot let go of the controls the aircraft would return to straight and level flight without guidance.
The F-16’s unstable lines, or “negative stability,” actually helps it dive, climb and bank far tighter than any traditional jet fighter/bomber could. As America’s first fly-by-wire fighter, the Falcon’s computer handles all the flight control details and frees the pilot to focus on what’s happening outside the plane. Or in the words of several veteran pilots, “You don’t fly an F-16; it flies you.”
All of which ensures these light and fast warbirds are not just the perfect platform for Thunderbird stunts, but one of the best weapons available for dominating the skies. Despite entering service way back during the Cold War in 1978, this rugged and ultra-maneuverable jet is the most popular fighter in the 21st Century, by a wide margin. Thanks to an elaborate series of hi-tech upgrades, more than 2,600 F-16’s are still flying with 28 different nations. Of course, the Fighting Falcon’s cheap price tag — just 1/10th the cost of a new F-35 — sure doesn’t hurt its popularity. (more…)
The Falconâs extensive combat history has cemented its reputation as one of the most lethal aircraft in modern service. Besides dropping uncountable tons of ordinance in thou
The F-16 – Essential to the USAF
The Falcon’s extensive combat history has cemented its reputation as one of the most lethal aircraft in modern service. Besides dropping uncountable tons of ordinance in thousands of ground attack missions, these birds have consistently held their own in air combat. And then some. In total, F-16’s (mostly with the Israeli Defense Forces) have racked up 76 air-to-air kills while losing only one to enemy fighters. Pretty impressive for a multi-role aircraft that’s designed to be a “jack of all trades” and not specifically optimized for air-to-air combat.
Still, it’s in the unforgiving world of high-speed, low-altitude strikes against hard targets that F-16’s have truly shined. The most famous example can be found in one of the Falcon’s first combat missions, Operation Babylon, in 1981. Under the assumption that Iraq was advancing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, Israel decided to attack an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction just outside of Baghdad. Of course, there were a few issues.
The target was 1,000 miles away, which was farther than the F-16A’s standard combat radius. Even worse, most of that distance would require overflying airspace where the IDF wouldn’t have permission to operate and would be undoubtably be attacked if discovered. Plus the inconvenient fact that this raid was planned during the middle of the Iraq/Iran war and the reactor site was one of the most heavily defended sites in the entire country.
Faced with such a daunting task, the Israeli’s deployed a squadron of their brand-new American F-16’s. Unsurprisingly, the Falcons and their well-trained crews pulled off the risky and high-stakes strike without any losses.
Twenty years later, F-16’s put on perhaps their most impressive show yet during post 9-11 combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. In each case, the Air Force assigned specially outfitted F-16C’s the most dangerous missions of all: Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) strikes. These “Wild Weasel” fighters hunted down and destroyed scores of surface-to-air missile sites in the opening hours of conflict, all without losing a single plane.
The F-16 Is Here To Stay
While these nimble old workhorses lack the stealth features and advanced sensors of fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 and F-35, US Falcons aren’t slated for retirement until the 2040’s. The simple reality is that there’s no cost-effective replacement available to fill all the vital roles that F-16’s have been servicing for decades. Especially with the major upgrades Lockheed Martin has been tacking onto Falcons over the last few years.
The latest and most advanced version, the F-16E/F Block 60, is practically a whole new aircraft despite employing the same fuselage. With a much more powerful engine, larger fuel tanks, and custom-designed electronic warfare defenses, the E variant is the most radical upgrade yet to the rugged old F-16. This game-changing aircraft is often classed as a “4.5 gen” fighter, since it employs most of the next-generation avionics and sensors of fifth-generation aircraft. Most notably, an advanced AESA radar, which gives the ability to identify, track and engage ground and air threats simultaneously.
Oddly enough, the UAE is the only country to purchase this version so far, which marks the first time the US has sold a more advanced combat plane overseas than our own forces are equipped with.