Translated by BabelFish
Integrated well today in several of the great commands
of the US Air Force and in the air forces various other countries,
General Dynamics F-16 are without question one of the most powerful
hunters with to have entered in service during recent years.
At the beginning of the decade 1970-1980, the persons in charge for American defense were to face an important inflation and with budget cuts which obliged them as well as possible to use the appropriations which were affected for them. The costs of the armaments not ceasing increasing, they accomodated with eagerness a project of light hunter at the relatively low cost price. On its side, the US Air Force, whose capacities were seriously compromised by impossibility in which it was to acquire a sufficient number of McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle, awaited impatiently the authorizations necessary to the realization of another apparatus.
F-16 result indeed from a program of hunter light (Leight Weight Fighter, or LWF), whose origin goes up at 1972 and whose realization seems a consequence of the war in Vietnam. The US Air Force had undergone very heavy losses above Vietnam North, mainly because owing to the fact that none the apparatuses which it aligned had been conceived to face far from its base of the handy hunters of small size like the Mig ones. Republic F-105 Thunderchief and General Dynamics F-111 were apparatuses more especially reserved for nuclear attacks, while McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II was presented at the origin like a hunter of cover of the fleet equipped with missiles with average carried. To avoid urgently, the Americans equipped this machine with tilting nozzles and a gun, but the percentage of success of F-4 against the Mig ones remained disappointing. The United States took consequently measures to avoid, in the future, such a situation.
Studies showed however that in spite of the advance of which it laid out on the technological level the F-15 would not know alone to compensate for its numerical inferiority vis-a-vis with Mig Soviet. Moreover, the United States had slowed down the rate/rhythm of research relating to the air-to-air guns and missiles, and the machines with long range lost much of their effectiveness in engagements where the visual identification of an objective in flight remained obligatory. This is why the US Air Force decided to launch a research program aiming at exploring technologies necessary to the development of a light hunter.
The apparatus which resulted from this work was General Dynamics YF-16, which accomplished its initial flight on January 20, 1974. This one was however not intentional, the pilot who carried out the rolling tests at high speed which have had to leave the emergency ground following a problem. This exit, which lasted six minutes, was completed without another difficulty. The first official flight, as for him, proceeded on February 2 of the same year, Oestricher holding the air of time during nearly 90 minutes. The second YF-16 stole on 9 May following both while its competitor from Northrop, the YF-17, took the air later only one month approximately.
By producing their respective apparatuses, the two airframe manufacturers had attempted to produce an economic light hunter, offering brilliant performances in turn, acceleration and of climbing speed. They had also endeavoured to lead to planes not presenting a any vice behavior in tight turn nor in very pulled up flight.
F-16 was going to be the first plane in the world equipped with a negative longitudinal stability, which made it possible to limit the efforts on the elevator and both consequently, to reduce the trail in evolutions as well as the response time to the orders. The manufacturer indicated this concept by initials RSS (Relaxed Static Stability), which wants to say that the centre of gravity of the apparatus is beach of normal centering behind. In fact, F-16 is unstable in subsonic and less stable flight into supersonic than a conventional plane. This stability is acceptable only because the aircraft is equipped with an electronic system of automatic stabilization.
The comparative evaluations having revealed that the YF-16 was higher than the YF-17, the hunter of General Dynamics is declared victorious official competition in the middle of January 1975. At this same time, Department of Defense had announced that the US Air Force would receive 650 specimens of an improved version of the plane, known by the name of Air Fights Fighter.
Several planes of development were ordered by the US Air Force at the beginning of the year 1975 in order to prepare the operational service entrance of F-16, among which 11 single-seaters F-16A and two two-seat trainers F-16B. Thereafter this market was going to be tiny room with six F-16A, the number of F-16B remaining unchanged. The flight tests took place with Edwards AFB, the end of 1976.
The F-16A entered first of all in service Tactical Air Command, the first specimen of this apparatus making its appearance on the basis of Hill AFB, in Utah, January 6, 1979. Taken into account by the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, the plane completed its operational tests in October 1980 and was delivered in great quantities to other formations of TAC like to units of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) and US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). F-16 is not used that by will squadrons of first line; it also operates within the National Air Guard and of the Air Force Reserve since, in spring of 1983, the 157th Tactical Fighter Squadron, based in McEntire ANGB, in South Carolina, to exchange its Vought A-7D Corsair II against planes of this type.
Conceived at the beginning like a light hunter of air superiority, Fighting Falcon knew since an important evolution. The F-16A brought into service into 1979 were mainly intended for air-to-ground missions, like the brought closer support and the tactical support. Although it still constitutes a very good air fighter, the F-16A is handicapped by the impossibility in which it is to use missiles with guidance radar like the AIM-7 F Sparrow. Nevertheless, the AIM-9 Sidewinder with infra-red homing head of which it lays out provide him good capacities of self-defence. Moreover, this version is equipped with a gun M61 Vulcan of 20 mm intended for the brought closer aerial combat.
The alternatives currently produced in large quantities on behalf of the US Air Force are the single-seater F-16C and the two-seater F-16D, which fall under a program of modernization, baptized Multi-Training course Improvment Program, which made it possible to increase the capacities of the plane in notable proportions. The system main part of weapon of Fighting Falcon is its radar APG-68, which has a higher range and a cartographic mode with very high resolution. The instrumentation of the cockpit itself was improved, the pilot profiting now from two screens with cathode ray, a collimator high head to widened visual field and from an arrangement HOTAS (Hands one Throttle and Stick, or hands on lever and handle). While making it possible to the pilot to outside concentrate his glance, these technologies make it possible to him to be devoted more exclusively to its tactical work and increase its chances of survival.
The operational service entrance of the F-16C and the F-16D began during the summer 1984, the first planes being taken into account by units belonging to Tactical Air Command and Pacific Air Forces. These machines must also be delivered to the US Air Forces in Europe, the first unit concerned being 86th TFW, based with Ramstein, in Federal German Republic.
Among the principal modifications made to the F-16C and the F-16D within the framework of program MSIP appears the adoption of a nacelle of navigation and attack LANTIRN and missiles AIM-120 in average carried. These two pieces of equipment must be put in service soon but in small series only, nacelle LANTIRN compatible with the version with infra-red homing head of air-to-ground missile AGM-65D being gone up only on some aircraft. The deployment of the AIM-120 will be on the other hand more important, and this missile with guidance active radar will increase in a consequent way the capacities of Fighting Falcon, in particular in the ground attack missions.
Although the production reserved for the US Air Force was directed towards the F-16C and the F-16D, versions F-16A and F-16B are still available to export. The disappointing experiment of F-16/79, a less sophisticated alternative of the plane, propelled by a turbojet General Electric J79 and optimized for air defense, hardly makes it possible to consider an unspecified success of this apparatus on the external market. The majority of the prospective customers did not fail to stress that their preferences went to the most recent models.
On mission air-to-ground, Fighting Falcon is able to carry an offensive load of 6895 kg, distributed on nine external points of fastener. This configuration limits the capacity however by carburizing intern, who, when it reaches his maximum, brings back the mass of the armament to 4625 kg. F-16 two used traditional bombs with free fall like Mk 83 of 454 kg, just like it is able to use weapons with optical guidance (Maverick) or laser guidance. For the case where the means of electronic war of the adversary constitute an important threat, the apparatus is able to receive several types of nacelle of electronic countermeasures to great capacity of jamming. The recourse to auxiliary fuel tanks makes it possible to increase the operating range of the plane in notable proportions, while air-to-air missiles AIM-9L Sidewinder with infra-red homing head make it possible to him to be defended against the enemy interceptors.
Today, F-16 became the backbone of the US Air Force, which plans to carry the figure of its orders to 2795 specimens. After having developed single-seater F-16C and its two-seater equivalent, the F-16D, the company General Dynamics launched out in the realization of new models, of which the F-16XL with wings in double Delta. It is not impossible that this machine takes share with the competition organized by the US Air Force in order to obtain a plane of brought closer support.
In spite of the importance of the markets whose it was the object, Fighting Falcon was only successes. Thus, the US Air Force preferred the McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Strike Eagle with the F-16XL when it decided to be equipped with 392 planes of attack and prohibition. Built on the private funds of the firm, the F-16XL (that the US Air Force baptized F-16E) has an aerofoil in double delta which allows an important increase in its performances. Thus, the operating range of combat of the apparatus could be increased by 45 % compared to the F-16A with an offensive load twice higher than that of this last. Thanks to this wing, the F-16XL is able to take off and land at distances much shorter (of approximately two thirds) that its predecessor. Lastly, the capacities of the apparatus as regards maneuverability were multiplied by two compared to the F-16A, the speed of penetration at low altitude knowing it also a light improvement.
Having accomplished its initial flight during July 1982, in the shape of a single-seater, the F-16XL gave rise to a second prototype, two-seater that one, whose first flight proceeded in October of the same year. This apparatus is equipped with the engine General Electric F110, which must equip the majority of the F-16C and D acquired within the framework with the fiscal year 1985. Evaluated in an intensive way at the time of the competition which opposed to the F-15 Strike Eagle, in March 1984, the F-16XL was the subject still of a very great attention on behalf of official circles.
Interest of US Navy for Fighting Falcon
Another important customer of Fighting Falcon is US Navy, which made share of its intention to acquire a certain number of specimens of a version known under the denomination of F-16N, in order to use it in his units of attackers at ends of drive. Although it does not have aucunes naval capacities and that it is not envisaged to employ it in first line, this model will have a all the more large importance as it will allow to the pilots American Naval Aviation to increase their address within the framework of very realistic exercises.
From its qualities and its capacities, Fighting Falcon is in any event promised with brilliant future. It will remain in production during still of many years, and the 4000 specimens acquired until now by various air forces show the interest well that this apparatus causes, that in spite owing to the fact that F-16 is not completely any more the hunter of inexpensive air superiority and rather little sophisticated only it was at the beginning.