As one of the most versatile aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the mainstay of the United States Air Force aerial combat fleet with more than 1,000 F-16s in service. The aircraft has been adapted to complete a number of missions, including air-to-air fighting, ground attack and electronic warfare.
In air combat, the F-16’s maneuverability and combat radius exceed that of all potential threat fighter aircraft. It can locate targets in all conditions and detect low flying aircraft in radar ground clutter. In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 fighting falcon can fly more than 500 miles (860 kilometers), deliver its weapons with accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft and return to its starting point. An all-weather capability allows it to accurately deliver ordinance during non-visual bombing conditions.
In designing the F-16, advanced aerospace science and proven reliable systems from other aircraft such as the F-15 and F-111 were selected. These were combined to simplify the airplane and reduce its size, purchase price, maintenance costs and weight. With a full load of internal fuel, the F-16 can withstand up to nine G’s (nine times the force of gravity) exceeding the capability of other current fighter aircraft.
The cockpit and its bubble canopy give the pilot unobstructed forward and upward vision, and greatly improved vision over the side and to the rear. The pilot has excellent flight control of the F-16 through its “fly-by-wire” system. Electrical wires relay commands, replacing the usual cables and linkage controls. For easy and accurate control of the aircraft during high G-force combat maneuvers, a side stick controller is used instead of the conventional center-mounted stick.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the F-16 fighting falcon has been a major component of the combat forces committed to the Global War on Terrorism flying thousands of sorties in support of operations Noble Eagle (Homeland Defense), Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom.