The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine fourth-generation multi-role fighter developed by General Dynamics for the U.S. Air Force. Originally intended to serve as a daytime air superiority fighter, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has since proven itself to be among the most capable multi-role fighter platforms on the planet, serving as the workhorse of the U.S. Air Force since first entering service in 1978.
While less discussed than the ground fighting, the air battles over Vietnam were highly contested and dangerous, with modern American fighters like the F-4 Phantom struggling against dated Soviet airframes operated by North Vietnamese forces. The F-16 Fighting Falcon began development with the express goal of not necessarily building the most capable air superiority fighter on the planet (as the F-15 Eagle promised to be), but rather a highly effective fighter that was cost-effective enough to purchase alongside the pricier Eagle.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon has played a vital role in America’s air power in every conflict since its introduction, and continues to serve in operations supporting the Global War on Terror. While the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been seen as the next generation of the F-16’s multi-role lineage, high operational costs of the F-35 promise to keep the F-16 in service for years to come.
F-16 Fighting Falcon Specs and Characteristics
- Primary function: multirole fighter
- Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp.
- Power plant: F-16C/D: one Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or General Electric F110-GE-100/129
- Thrust: F-16C/D, 27,000 pounds
- Wingspan: 32 feet, 8 inches (9.8 meters)
- Length: 49 feet, 5 inches (14.8 meters)
- Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)
- Weight: 19,700 pounds without fuel (8,936 kilograms)
- Maximum takeoff weight: 37,500 pounds (16,875 kilograms)
- Fuel capacity: 7,000 pounds internal (3,175 kilograms); typical capacity, 12,000 pounds with two external tanks (5443 kilograms)
- Payload: two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9, two AIM-120 and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks
- Speed: 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude)
- Range: more than 2,002 miles ferry range (1,740 nautical miles)
- Ceiling: above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
- Armament: one M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon with 500 rounds; external stations can carry up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods
- Crew: F-16C, one; F-16D, one or two
- Unit cost: F-16A/B , $14.6 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars); F-16C/D,$18.8 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)
- Initial operating capability: F-16A, January 1979; F-16C/D Block 25-32, 1981; F-16C/D Block 40-42, 1989; and F-16C/D Block 50-52, 1994
- Inventory: total force, F-16C/D, 1017
Read More about the F-16 Fighting Falcon
- WHAT’S IT LIKE TO PULL 9GS IN AN F-16? A FIGHTER PILOT WEIGHS IN
- OPERATION PORCUPINE: THE AIR FORCE PLAN TO RESCUE DOWNED F-16 PILOTS
- F-16XL: THE F-16 WITH HARDPOINTS FOR 27 WEAPONS
- WATCH THIS F-16 PILOT DODGE SIX IRAQI SURFACE-TO-AIR MISSILES IN DESERT STORM
- VOUGHT 1600: THE PLAN TO PUT THE F-16 ON AMERICA’S CARRIERS
- WHAT IT’S LIKE TO HIT THE AFTERBURNER IN AN F-16 FOR THE FIRST TIME
- TAKING A STRIPPED-DOWN F-16 ON A MAX SPEED RUN: ‘AT 1.6 MACH, THE JET STARTED TO SHAKE’
- THAT TIME AN F-16 PILOT SAVED GROUND TROOPS WITH A SONIC BOOM