The F-16 fighter planes are officially called the Fighting Falcons. The original developer of the jets is General Dynamics, but, now, they are manufactured by another American company Lockheed Martin. It is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft. Production first started in 1976 and as of today, more than 4600 aircrafts have been manufactured. It is used by the air forces of 25 countries, apart from being the USA’s frontline fighter plane since 1979.
The F-16 was in the news recently when Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet before being captured by people on the other side of the border. Although the Ministry of External Affairs of India claimed that he had indeed shot down an F-16, Pakistani authorities continue to deny it. India had even presented the evidence of an AAMRAAM air-to-air missile which is a device that can only be fired by an F-16.
Since this was in the news recently, it is important that you know about the F-16 along with its capability details for the UPSC IAS exam.
- The F-16 is a light-weight, simple and relatively cheap aircraft making it immensely popular.
- It has a fly-by-wire control system, which is its most innovative feature. That means, unlike in a normal aircraft where the pilot moves a control stick or wheel connected to the aircraft’s elevator, rudder, etc., in an F-16, the pilot gives electronic inputs through the control stick, which is read by a computer that moves the control surfaces.
- This feature makes it more maneuverable and stable.
- It has an ejection seat that is reclined at 30 degrees from the vertical. This reduces the effect of g-forces on the pilot.
- Each jet can carry up to six air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM and other AAMs.
- It can carry one crew (pilot).
- Its general characteristics are:
- Length – 15.06 m
- Wingspan – 9.96 m
- Height – 4.88 m
- Empty weight – 8570 kg
- Maximum speed – Mach 1.2 (at sea level); Mach 2 (at altitude)
The countries which use F-16s include the USA, Pakistan, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Norway, Taiwan, and others.