Lockheed Martin F-16

10th February 2022

Lockheed Martin F-16 user+1@localho Thu, 02/10/2022 - 21:17

The F-16 "Fighting Falcon" (known as "Viper" to its operators) is a single-engine multirole fighter. It was initially designed and produced by General Dynamics up until 1993 when the company sold the Fort Worth production line to Lockheed Martin. More than 4,500 F-16s have been produced and more than 2,800 aircraft remain in operation with 25 nations, making the type among the most prolific fighter families in the post-World War II period. Starting with the F-16 Block 30 and 32 in 1987, operators have had a choice of two powerplant options: the Pratt & Whitney (P&W) F100 and the General Electric (GE) F110 turbofan families. Lockheed Martin continues to offer new enhancements and upgrades for the type which is expected to remain in service past 2040.

Features (F-16 Block 70/72)

Airframe

In order to achieve the Air Force s ambitious maneuverability requirements, General Dynamics Harry Hillaker sought to design lightest possible airframe around the most powerful engine available. 78.4% of the F-16 s airframe consists of lightweight aluminum alloys. Other major airframe materials include titanium for the engine housing and composite materials on the horizontal and vertical tail. The radome and base of the vertical tail are comprised of fiberglass. The Block 70/72 has an empty weight of 20,300 lbs. or approximately two thirds that of an F-15C. For the Block 70/72, Lockheed increased the airframe service life from 8,000 hrs. to 12,000 hrs. while retaining the 9G/-3G load factor performance.

The F-16 design introduced several novel technologies to heighten agility and maneuverability. The use of forebody strakes, or leading-edge root extensions (LEX), both increased lift at high angles of attack (AoA) by 25% and resulted in a statically unstable aerodynamic configuration, improving pitch performance. Pitch rate is a highly desirable trait in maneuvering engagements as the more quickly the AoA is increased, the faster the aircraft can begin to turn. Furthermore, the ability to point the nose in any direction is vital for both target acquisition and engagement. The F-16 was the first fighter to introduce computer input driven fly-by-wire flight controls, an innovation which was necessary to control a relaxed stability aircraft. Hillaker originally envisioned using twin, canted vertical tails but the vortices generated by the LEXs at moderate angles of attack resulted in a substantial loss of directional stability. A large single tail suffered from less buffeting at high AoA while providing sufficient control authority.

The F-16 airframe utilizes full-length leading-edge slats and trailing edge flaperons to adjust the wing s camber the curve of the wing to modulate lift and drag during maneuvering. The wing itself is blended into the fuselage so they operate as a single lifting body. The sum of these features resulted in an aircraft which was more maneuverable than the higher-end F-15 it was meant to complement in many flight regimes. The F-16 is controllable to 26.5 degrees AoA. At its corner plateau (optimal turning environment) the F-16 can sustain a 20 per second turn rate relative to the F-15C s 15 per second. According to a Slovak government report, the Block 70 takes 25.3 seconds to accelerate from Mach 0.8 to 1.2. Compared to twin engine air superiority fighters like the F-15, F-22 and Eurofighter, the F-16 lacks high-altitude, high-speed performance. For example, the F-16 has a service ceiling of 50,000 ft. and top speed of Mach 2.0 versus the F-15 s 60,000 ft.and Mach 2.5. Such capabilities are useful to impart additional range to AAMs for BVR engagements.

More than 1,700 U.S. and international F-16s have received HAVE GLASS survivability treatments (see U.S. upgrades for additional details).

Avionics

The core of the Block 70/72 s avionics suite is the Northrop Grumman APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). The 10-kW class active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar consists of approximately 1,000 TRMs. Northrop Grumman maintains that 95% of SABR s modes and software are derived from the APG-81 AESA used aboard the F-35. Because SABR was developed as a drop-in replacement for the legacy APG-68(V)9 mechanically scanned array, SABR utilizes the existing power weight and cooling capacity of the baseline F-16, limiting its sustained power output. The APG-83 has a maximum detection range of 160 nautical miles (nm) or 296 km against aerial targets. Against a 1m^2 radar cross section (RCS) target, the APG-83 has a range of approximately 72 nm (134.5 km) relative to the 38 nm (70 km) for the preceding APG-68(V)9. SABR can maintain more than 20 simultaneous aerial target tracks across a 120 azimuth arc in front of the aircraft. Alternatively, power can be concentrated on six high-priority tracks. In an air to surface mode, SABR can map ground targets at ranges between 10-160 nm and is capable of ground moving target indication (GMTI).

Northrop Grumman markets the APG-83 as having robust electronic protection for operations in dense RF environments. The APG-83 can focus its radar energy to concentrate on specific parts of an adversary aircraft, a capability relevant to defeating deceptive electronic countermeasure techniques using the whole aircraft as the basis for the jammer s skin return. SABR is also fully integrated with L3Harris ALQ-254(V)1 Viper Shield electronic countermeasure suite. Viper Shield is a digital radio-frequency memory (DRFM) based jamming system which is also expected to provide enhanced situational awareness through passive detection.

Lockheed Martin s miniaturized Legion-Embedded System (ES) infrared search and track (IRST) pod builds upon this capability. Legion ES repackages the longwave sensor developed for the Legion pod and IRST21. Lockheed miniaturized and consolidated electronics in the F-16 s forward equipment bay which created additional room to house the processor for Legion-ES. As a result, the 300 lb., 77-inch-long Legion-ES pod on the left underside of the forward fuselage is significantly lighter and smaller than Lockheed s other podded IRST systems. In August 2021, an F-15C successfully cued an AIM-120 onto a target with the IRST2,1 demonstrating the added operational flexibility enabled by the pod in contested RF environments.

The Block 70/72 features a new Center Pedestal Display (CPD) measuring 6 x 8 in., new Raytheon supplied Modular Mission Computer (MMC) modules and an improved programable display generator. The MMC 7000 boasts twice the processing power and 40 times the memory of the legacy processor (484 times the processing power and 58 times the memory of the original F-16 processor). As with previous F-16 variants, the Block 70/72 s principal datalink is the Link 16 Multi-Function Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System Terminal (MIDS-JTRS).

The Block 70/72 does not feature an IR or UV missile approach warning system (MAWS) embedded within the airframe. However, operators can select from a variety of aftermarket systems such as Elbit s Passive Airborne Warning System (PAWS).

Powerplant

The Block 70 is powered by the GE F110-129 which produces 29,900 lbf. of thrust at full afterburner and 17,084 lbf. at military power. The Block 72 is powered by the P&W F100-229 which produces a maximum of 29,160 lbf. of thrust in afterburner or 16,699 lbf. at full military power. The engines are not interchangeable between types as the Block 70 has a larger big mouth inlet due to its higher airflow requirements required for the F110-229. The GE engine has a slightly lower rotor inlet temperature of 2,484 F (1,362 C) and thrust to weight ratio of 7.41 relative to the P&W engine s 2,730 F (1,499 C) and T/W ratio of 8.53.

Payload

The Block 70/72 can accommodate 15,000 lbs. of external stores on 11 stations (3 fuselage 2 sensors only, 6 wing, 2 wingtip). Because of the aircraft s long service life and widespread customer base, the Viper has been certified with more than 100 store types. For air-to-air missions, the F-16 is typically fitted with six AMMs (such as two AIM-9X and four AIM-120C-7/C-8), external fuel tanks.

F-16 weapons

Credit: Lockheed Martin

Variants

The F-16 family comprises over 140 distinct configurations and variants owing to its long production run and versatile airframe. Most configurations can be classified within a three-tiered system. The first tier is the standard tri-service designation series progression of models A, B, C, etc. The second tier is Block series which further denotes changes in production configurations over time within a tri-service variant such as F-16C Block 30 vs. F-16C Block 50. At more granular level exists Operational Flight Program (OFP) M-series mission tape standards which can involve both hardware and software modifications: M1, M2, M3, M4, M4.1, M4.2, M4.3, M5, M5.1, M5.2, M6, M6.1, M6.2, M6.5, M7, M7.1, M7.2, M8.03, M8.1 and M8.2 (see U.S. F-16 upgrades for additional details). For example, an F-16CM Block 50 M7.2+ designated aircraft denotes an airframe built as a F-16C Block 50 which underwent the CCIP upgrade and has now been further updated to the OFP M7.2+ configuration. The major variants are described below, for minor country specific configurations refer to the production & delivery history section of the profile.

F-16A/B Block 1

The original F-16A/B Block 1 variant which reached initial operational capability (IOC) in 1979 was developed as a low-cost, lightweight day fighter to complement the F-15. The aircraft was manufactured by the U.S. and a consortium of NATO partners - Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway - who became known as the European Participating Air Forces (EPAF). The design made the F-16 one of the most capable dogfighters of its generation, boasting a high thrust-to-weight ratio, low wing loading, rapid acceleration, small size, a tight turn radius and a seat tilted back 30 deg. for better g-tolerance. The design included minimal electronics. Its APG-66 radar had a limited beyond visual range (BVR) combat capability and it could carry only infrared (IR) guided AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles (AAMs).

F-16A/B Block 5, 10, 15

The main alteration incorporated in the F-16A/B Block 5 was the change of the aircraft's radome color from black to grey to reduce visual signature. It also incorporated minor improvements in reliability and mission readiness which continued with Block 10. A Multinational Staged Improvement Program (MSIP) I began with Block 15, which reached IOC in November 1981 and introduced some enhancements (already present in the C/D variant) to improve BVR and air-to-ground combat capabilities. The APG-66 received an early track-while-scan mode. Internal provision was made for AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles. Have Quick I secure UHF radios were installed. Two hardpoints were also added on the chin of the engine inlet. To offset the change in center of gravity caused by the new hardpoints and stores, tail area was increased by 30%, which also increased stability. The airframe was also strengthened to increase max external stores by 1,000 lb.

F-16A/B Block 15 OCU and ADF

Block 15 OCU (for Operational Capability Upgrade) aircraft entered service in late 1987. The engine was replaced with a F100-PW-220 turbofan with better reliability. The block also included the wide-angle head-up display (HUD) and strengthened airframe already in use on C/D variants. Additional weapons were integrated, including the AGM-65 Maverick anti-tank missile, Penguin Mk. 3 anti-ship missile as well as provision for the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). In addition, these aircraft received ALE-40 chaff dispensers, an APX-101 identification friend or foe (IFF) transponder, an improved computer and provision for the ALQ-131 electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod.

The F-16 Block 15 Air Defense Fighter (ADF) is a conversion that was applied to U.S. Air National Guard (ANG) aircraft which enhanced air combat abilities so they could better intercept Russian bombers flying over the Artic Circle towards North America. The version's externally distinguishable features include four blade antennas in front of the canopy, a 150,000-candlepower searchlight below and front of the nose on the port side and, in A-models, long and thin horizontal bulges at the base of the tail. Internal modifications included ARC-200HF/SSB radios with the Have Quick II Secure Speech Module; APX-109 advanced IFF (AIFF) system; APG-66A radar with look down/shoot down capability, better detection of small targets and continuous wave illumination for guiding AIM-7s; compatibility with AIM-120; and capacity for 6 beyond visual range AAMs (BVRAAMs).

F-16AM/BM Mid-life Update (MLU)

The Mid-Life Update (MLU) program is an extensive modernization effort which was conceived to bring early European F-16s to a standard comparable with the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Block 50 aircraft. The extensive upgrade was deemed necessary once it became clear the F-16 would not be replaced by a follow-on aircraft at the end of the 20th century as originally planned.

The MLU package begins with a complete structural assessment of the fighter and repair of any deficiencies in the airframe. Reassembled aircraft then receive a vastly improved modular mission computer to manage stores, fire control and HUD graphics. MLU kits have since evolved but initially began with the APG-66(V)2 radar with 25% better range, a track-while-scan mode that can handle up to ten targets and six AIM-120 engagements, an improved Doppler beam sharpening mode, better ground mapping, a medium-resolution Doppler navigation system and better electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM). Also added is an APX-111 AIFF system, wide-angle HUD, two 4x4-in. color multifunction displays (MFDs), improved display generators, a new data recorder, better controls, an improved data modem with provision for Link 16, an electronic warfare (EW) management system, a GPS receiver, a digital terrain system and provision for reconnaissance pods. Under the tri-service designation system, MLU aircraft receive an additional M suffix. For example, a modified F-16A becomes F-16AM. Sub configurations exist within the MLU series as documented by the M-series of mission tapes.

F-16A/B Block 20

The Block 20 is specific to Taiwan. The George H.W. Bush Administration agreed to supply Taiwan with F-16s and hoped selling A/B models would provoke less concern in Beijing than selling F-16C/D Block 50/52s. However, the F-16A/B Block 20s are in most respects built to the same standard as the Block 50/52 and F-16AM/BM (MLU) configuration. Structurally, the Block 20 features an amalgamation of components including the tail of a Block 50, wings of a Block 40 and landing gear of the A/B, limiting its maximum take-off weight to 37,500 lbs. The Block 20 is powered by the P&W F100-220E and features an APG-66(V)3 radar. Deliveries for this version began in 1997.

F-16C/D Block 25

In November of 1984, the F-16C/D Block 25 variant entered service with an APG-68 radar, compatibility with the Maverick missile and improvements to the controls, HUD and cockpit screens. These enhancements expanded the aircraft's mission profile to include precision strike, night attack and BVR interception.

F-16C/D Block 30/32

With deliveries beginning in 1987, Block 30/32 aircraft were the first to offer a choice of engine ("0" indicating GE, "2" Pratt and Whitney). They also included compatibility with the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and doubled the capacity of chaff/flare dispensers.

F-16C/D Block 40/42

The USAF originally procured the Block 40/42 expressly for air-to-surface strike operations. Block 40/42 deliveries began in December 1988 and introduced an APG-68(V)5 radar and compatibility with Paveway II/III laser-guided bombs (LGBs). Most importantly, these variants also introduced provision for the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system, which comprises two pods: an AAQ-13 navigation pod with a terrain-following radar and a fixed IR sensor; and an AAQ-14 targeting pod with a forward looking infrared system (FLIR), laser designator/rangefinder and missile boresight correlator. Both pods are integrated with a wide-angle HUD. These changes permitted the aircraft to conduct precision attack at night and in all weather conditions and also increased ordinance capacity. Prior to CCIP, USAF Block 40/42s were sometimes referred to as F-16CG/DG.

F-16C/D Block 50/52

The F-16C/D Block 50/52 entered service in 1992 with 29,000 lbf. class engine offerings (the F110-GE-129 orF100-PW-229), APG-68(V)5 radar with longer range and better reliability, an ALR-56M RWR, ALE-47 countermeasure dispenser system, Honeywell H-423 ring laser gyro inertial navigation system, GPS receiver, MD-1295A improved data modem, APX-101 IFF system and color cockpit displays. Owing to its long production run (over 800 aircraft from 1991-2017), the Block 50/52 features significant changes in its installed mission equipment between production batches. For example, aircraft produced after July 2000 feature an onboard oxygen generating system and more advanced versions of the APG-68 were incrementally introduced. The Block 50/52+ is a subtype introduced in 2002 and is detailed below.

F16ES (Enhanced Strategic)

The F-16ES was a development of the Block 50/52 proposed to compete against Boeing s F-15E for an Israeli strike fighter requirement in 1994. Lockheed modified a Block 30 test aircraft to demonstrate the concept with conformal fuel tanks and two separate internal FLIR mounts on the top and bottom of the nose. Lockheed claimed the aircraft had a combat radius of 1,025 miles when carrying two 2,000 lbs. bombs, four AAMs, one 320-gallon centerline tank, two 600-gallon underwing tanks and the CFTs. While Israel selected the F-15I, the technologies developed for the ES would be instrumental in the subsequent F-16C/D Advanced Block 50/52+, F-16I and F-16E/F Block 60.

Advanced Block 50/52+

Later Block 50/52 aircraft are sometimes referred to as Advanced Block 50/52 or 50+/52+ and feature a host of country specific modifications. The Block 50/52+ can often be distinguished visually from preceding variants by its Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) mounted on top of the wings along the upper fuselage. The CFTs cumulatively hold more than 3,000 lbs. of JP-8 fuel internally, freeing up additional stores stations for munitions and significantly reducing drag. The CFTs are 24 ft. long and weigh 900 lbs. when empty and cannot be used by earlier Viper models as they require a new internal fuel feed system.

D model Advanced Block 50/52+s incorporates a dorsal spine connecting the rear canopy to the base of the vertical tail. The fairing adds 30 cubic ft. of additional space for avionics and electronic warfare equipment which is understood to be country specific. The dorsal spine for Israeli and Singaporean aircraft is believed to house the Elisra Self Protection System-3000 (SPS-3000) as well as Wild Weasel equipment to employ the AGM-88 anti-radiation missile without the external ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System pod.

Additional improvements to the Advanced Block 50/52 include the APG-68(V)9 radar, which can detect a 0 dBsm target (1.0 m^2) at 38 nm or 70.4 km a 30% increase in detection range over the (V)8. The radar s signal processor boasts a tenfold improvement in memory capacity and fivefold improvement in processing power. The APG-68(V)9 is capable of 2 ft. (0.6 m) resolution imagery in its synthetic aperture radar mode.

Production of the Block 52+ began in 2003 and ended in 2017 with orders from Greece, Israel, Singapore, Poland, Morocco and Iraq. Oman, Chile and Turkey ordered the Block 50+.

F-16E/F Block 60 Desert Falcon

F-16 Block 60 features

The core features of the thoroughly modernized Desert Falcon. The dorsal spine on the F variant houses a secondary environmental control system, chaff and flares dispensers, Thales data link, and IEWS components.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

The F-16E/F Block 60 is a unique variant of the Viper that is in service only with the UAE, whose government funded its $3 billion development. The Desert Falcon features a thoroughly modernized avionics suite with 5th generation features, including:

  • The Northrop Grumman APG-80 AESA radar, a 10-kW class array featuring 1,020 Transmit Receiver Modules (TRMs)
  • The Northrop Grumman Falcon Edge Integrated Electronic Warfare Suite (IEWS), an electronic support measures (ESM) system developed by the company s Rolling Meadows division. IEWS is arguably the most advanced system on the Block 60 and comprises both the LR-105 passive receiver and an active jammer. The LR-105 radar warning receiver (RWR) features short and long baseline interferometer antennas to provide passive geolocation capability against both airborne and ground emitters. The IDEW s active jammer features an adaptive cross polarization capability enabling IDEWs to gauge the polarization of a threat signal and retransmit it with an orthogonal/cross polarization to defeat coherent monopulse Doppler radars. IEWS is capable of automatically jamming and releasing expendables from its eight countermeasures dispensers. The Block 60 can also be fitted with the Raytheon ALE-50 towed fiber-optic decoy.
  • The AAQ-32 Internal FLIR Targeting System (IFTS), a mid-wave IR Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) targeting system based upon the AAQ-28 Litening pod. The system provides laser ranging and target designation, AGM-65 Maverick guidance compatibility, long-range target detection, identification and track capability and can act as a pilotage sight in degraded environmental conditions or at night.
  • An advanced cockpit with three 5 x 7 color displays and a wide-angle HUD,

The Block 60 features an entirely new liquid cooling system which was required to operate the type s considerably more powerful avionics. Supplemental air cooling is provided by an improved environmental control system which was developed for the F-16I. The Block 60 features a new mission computer which boasts a 40 X improvement in processing speed (12.5 million operations per second) and memory as well as a new fiber-optic architecture which provides a thousand times the bandwidth of a MIL-1553B databus.

The addition of so many internal systems as well as the CFTs raise the Block 60s empty weight by 21% from 18,917 lbs. on the F-16C Block 50 to 22,900 lbs. In a fully loaded configuration, the Block 60 has an MTOW of 50,000 lbs. GE developed the most powerful variant of its F110 family to maintain the Block 60 s maneuvering and handling qualities. The GE F110-132 features a three-stage long chord blisk fan (combines compressor blades and disks), radial augmentor and improved power management capabilities. GE states the engine s static thrust is in the 32,500 lbs.-class in afterburner and 19,000 lbs. at military power.

In January 2014, the U.S. government announced the potential sale of equipment to support a deal between Abu Dhabi and Lockheed for another 30 F-16s of a Block 61 standard. Lockheed confirmed the new version would incorporate unspecified stand-off weapons. Analysts believe those weapons to be the AGM-84E Stand-off Land-attack Missile - Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) and AGM-154 Joint Stand-off Weapon (JSOW). However, the UAE ultimately opted not to expand its Desert Falcon fleet.

F-16I Sufa

The F-16I Sufa, meaning Storm in Hebrew, is a further development of the F-16D Block 52+ with Israeli specific mission systems. The variant was conceived to provide the IAF with long-range air to surface strike capability at an affordable cost relative to the heavier F-15I. The Sufa s landing gear have been significantly strengthened, granting it the highest MTOW of any F-16 at 52,000 lbs. The incorporation of additional Israeli avionics correspondingly raises its empty weight to approximately 21,000 lbs. (without CFTs). Israeli specific equipment has been provided by the following firms:

  • Elbit stores management system, IGAC mission computer, head up display, Dash IV Helmet Mounted Display (HMD), Israel Color Display Processor
  • Rafael ARC-210 UHF/VHF radio, ARC-164 UHF radio
  • Elta SATCOM
  • Elistra SPS-3000 EW suite
  • Israel Military Industries pylons and external tanks
  • Astronautics Multi-Function Display (two 4 x 4 displays), air data computer
  • IAI CFTs and OBOGS

Major on-Israeli equipment includes the Northrop Grumman APG-68(V)9 radar, Terma EW displays, BAE AIFF and Rokar countermeasure dispenser system. The Sufa also features an improved ECS to provide supplemental cooling air for its mission systems.

F-16CJ Wild Weasel

USAF Block 50/52s were primarily tasked with the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) mission to enable the aircraft to take over the role of the F-4G Wild Weasel. The first F-16CJ/DJ was delivered on May 7, 1993. The aircraft integrates the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) and carries the Raytheon (formerly Texas Instruments) ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System (HTS) on the starboard intake hardpoint, permitting fully autonomous employment of the weapon. Wild Weasels often carry either the Northrop Grumman ALQ-131 or Raytheon ALQ-184 self-protection jammer pods.

In 2007, USAF fielded an upgrade to the ASQ-213 pods called HTS Revision 7 (HTS R7), which added a precision geo-location capability that allows the F-16 to target PGMs against air defense elements based on radar emissions detected by the HTS. The data derived from HTS R7 can also be transmitted to other aircraft via Link-16.

F-16CM/DM Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP)

Prior to this point, the USAF Block 40/42 fleet specialized in employing precision guided munitions while the Block 50/52 fleet executed SEAD missions. Furthermore, maintenance technicians had to be recertified to maintain each separate fleet of airframes. The Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP), initiated in 1997, sought to bring all USAF Block 40/42 and 50/52 aircraft to a common standard that included Link 16 Low Volume Terminal (LVT) datalink, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JMHCS), modular mission computer and color MFDs. Lockheed delivered the first CCIP upgraded F-16 (a Block 52 #92880) in 2002. The upgrade covered 651 airframes (254 F-16C/D Block 50/52s and 397 Block 40/42) from 2002-2010 at a cost of more than $2 billion. USAF aircraft undergoing the CCIP simultaneously received the FALCON STAR upgrade to ensure a service life of 8,000 hrs.

F-16C/D Block 40, 42, 50 and 52 aircraft that underwent the CCIP modification received an additional suffix letter (M) on technical orders. For example, F-16CJ/CGs became F-16CMs and F-16DJ/DGs became F-16DMs. However, this nomenclature is typically only found in select USAF technical documents. While CCIP in theory brought common capabilities to the Block 40/42/50/52 fleet, USAF pilot training for the nine squadrons of Block 50/52 emphasizes SEAD more than training for the Block 40/42 aircrews. Some of these Block 50/52 aircraft have been upgraded with the latest HAVE GLASS V RAM coatings.

F-16C+/D+ Combat Upgrade Plan Integration (CUPID)

The ANG launched the Combat Upgrade Plan Integration (CUPID) in 1998 to bring its Block 25/30/32s F-16s to a similar modernized and standardized configuration as the active component CCIP upgrade. Modified aircraft are occasionally referred to as F-16C+ /F-16D+. Enhancements included the Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL), night vision capability, JDAM integration, the AX-113 AIFF antennas and sniper targeting pod. Pre-block ANG F-16s utilize the Thales Scorpion HMD instead of JHMCS. The ANG also added ALQ-213 compatibility to its Block 30/32s.

F-16V

Lockheed s F-16V program offers existing F-16 operators a variety of avionics enhancements to take legacy F-16s up to 4.5 generation standards. The F-16V upgrade is modular in nature but is comprised four main elements: the Northrop Grumman APG-83 SABR, the new Modular Mission Computer, Center Pedestal Display and Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). Unlike the Block 70/72 upgrade, the V upgrade does not automatically include an improved internal ECM system such as the L3Harris ALQ-254 Viper Shield.

F-21 (Proposed Indian Configuration)

The F-21 is Lockheed s F-16 derivative offering to India. Lockheed made the designation change in February 2019 at Aero India. The F-21 configuration features a CFT mounted drogue aerial refueling receptacle developed by ADP (Skunk Works), new pylon capable of carrying three air-to-air missiles, 12,000 hrs. airframe life and dorsal spine (for both single-seat and twin-seat aircraft) for avionics growth. The F-21 includes all the enhancements developed for the F-16V including APG-83 SABR, modernized cockpit and auto-GCAS. The designation change is a marketing strategy on behalf of Lockheed to differentiate its India offering from that of the country s principal rival, Pakistan s F-16. For additional details regarding Lockheed s bid, refer to the end of the profile s production and delivery history section.

Analysis: F-16 Block 70/72 Market Prospects

The F-16 Block 70 occupies a robust yet ultimately confined niche in the global fighter market as its greatest virtues both promote and undercut its appeal depending upon the operator. The F-16 is a known quantity with a mature, global system of training and support infrastructure that is immediately accessible to new operators. Thus, the Block 70/72 is marketed as a low risk, affordable fighter which can be easily inducted into air forces that are either standing up a fighter capability for the first time or are transitioning from Eastern fighter types to Western ones. The F-16 Block 70/72 is especially attractive to operators whose force structure can only support one fighter type given its multirole capabilities and diverse payload/armament options. Legacy Viper operators seeking to expand their fighter fleets without incurring new infrastructure and support costs such as Morocco and Taiwan have shown demand for the Block 70/72. Despite its old airframe, the Block 70/72 s mission systems have been thoroughly modernized to the point at which it is competitive with newer 4.5 generation fighter designs. The U.S. Air Force is expected to operate its F-16 fleet until at least 2040 ensuring the family will continue to receive lifecycle support.

While the F-16s versatility and mature user base are its greatest selling points, the aircraft is outclassed by its peers in high-end mission sets such as air dominance and destruction of enemy air defenses (DEAD). Lockheed Martin is keenly aware that the Block 70/72 and F-35 represent opposite ends of the fighter market and thus do not compete with one another directly. However, the F-35 is only an option for well financed, NATO and major non-NATO ally air arms with clear paths through U.S. technology export controls. The F-35 s market for the time being is largely relegated to Western Europe, Northern Europe and the Asia-Pacific. Demand within Eastern European and Gulf demand for the type is expected to grow later in the decade. In contrast, demand for the Block 70/72 is most pronounced in Latin America, North Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. It is within these markets that the F-16 Block 70 regularly competes against its more modern 4.5 generation peers. The Boeing F-15EX, F/A-18E/F + EA-18G and Eurofighter Typhoon occasionally compete with the Block 70 but largely represent separate market niche for heavier, more expensive twin-engine fighters. The Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale most frequently complete against the Block 70/72 on the basis of cost, performance and other customer requirements.

Production & Delivery History

The F-16 is currently the most widely used fighter in the world. At the time of this writing, 4,598 F-16s have been produced in more than 140 versions. A total of 29 countries have operated or have placed orders for the type. Five nations - the U.S., Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey and South Korea - have manufactured the fighter:

  • From 1973 to September 2017, 3,640 F-16s were produced at the main USAF Plant 4 facility in Fort Worth. Lockheed acquired General Dynamics aircraft division in 1993 and subsequently became the prime contractor for the program. Peak production reached 286 airframes in 1987 at 30 airframes per month.
  • Belgium s SABCA produced 222 F-16s for both Belgium and Denmark.
  • Fokker in the Netherlands produced 300 F-16s covering orders from the Netherlands and Norway.
  • Starting in 1988, Turkish Aircraft Industries produced 277 F-16s for both Turkey and Egypt.
  • South Korea produced 128 F-16s from 1995 to 2004.

Lockheed Martin is in the process of transitioning the F-16 production line to Greenville, South Carolina. On Jan. 31, 2022, the Greenville plant completed the first depot sustainment for a USAF F-16. The first Block 70 is expected to roll off the assembly line and take flight by the end of 2022, followed by flight testing in 2023 and a transfer to Bahrain by 2024. The company currently has a backlog of 128 Block 70/72 aircraft worth $14 billion, ensuring production will continue until at least 2028. As of early 2022, the global order book and requirement outlook for the Block 70/72 is as follows:

Greg Ulmer, Executive Vice President of Lockheed s Aeronautics division, told Aviation Week in November 2021 that the Block 70/72 line is several months behind schedule due to COVID-19 and issues related to a subassembly supplier.

United States

USAF F-16 distribution as of early 2022. Of the 931 aircraft in service, GE engines power 68% of the fleet at 635 aircraft relative to P&W s share of 296.

Credit: Aviation Week Intelligence Network

In total, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) has ordered 2,230 F-16s, 1,900 single-seaters and 330 two-seaters, representing nearly 50% of all new build deliveries. From 1978 to 1985, USAF received 785 F-16A/Bs, ranging from Block 1 to Block 15. From July 1984 to 2004, USAF received 1,444 F-16C/Ds of Blocks 25, 30, 32, 40, 42, 50 and 52. The last F-16A/B was withdrawn from the USAF inventory in 2008. As of early 2022, 931 F-16s remain in the Air Force inventory including 322 pre-block Block 25/30/32 airframes and 609 post-block Block 40/42/50/52. The distinction stems from the Common Configuration Improvement Program (CCIP) which brought all 40/42/50/52 aircraft to an identical configuration. The Air National Guard (ANG) component includes some 332 F-16C/D Block 25/30/32/40/42/50 airframes of which approximately 56% are pre-Block models. The USAF s pre-Block examples will be progressively retired throughout the 2020s while the post-Block aircraft will receive upgrades to remain operational into the 2030s. 64% of this fleet is powered by GE F110-family engines.

In December 2021, the Fiscal 2022 NDAA authorized the retirement of 47 F-16C/Ds.

USAF Upgrades

the USAF is undertaking four main enhancements to its post-block fleet: (1) the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), (2) integration of the APG-83 AESA, (3) incorporation of the Digital RWR and (4) the Operational Flight Program series of upgrades. The combination of these efforts will preserve the remaining CCIP modified airframes until 2040 and effectively bring them to 4.5 generation standards similar to the F-16V and Block 70/72.

F-16 SLEP

Image Credit: USAF

The USAF s F-16 SLEP program seeks to extend the service life of the post-block fleet from 8,000 to 12,000 hrs. of service life (approximately 15 years). Though funding for only 300 conversions have been budgeted as of the Fiscal 2021 request (Fiscal 2022 did not include a Future Years Defense Program or FYDP projection). The nine-month process costs $2.4 million per airframe and involves holistic strengthening or replacement of all major airframe components covering the wings, bulkheads, longerons, canopy, etc. The work is undertaken by the 573rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron based at Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB, Utah. The first four modified airframes were delivered in 2018 and the last airframe will be delivered in Fiscal 2026.

In March 2015, a Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) was issued for improved air to air detection and tracking capabilities for the homeland defense mission. An initial acquisition of 72 APG-83 s for Air National Guard (ANG) F-16s was funded in Fiscal 2017 and Fiscal 2018. To field the capability more rapidly, the service initially sought to minimize the upgrade of all non-AESA related components and software. Thus, Phase I of the AESA refit process had minimal changes to the OFP software but did include the purchase new hardware for later integration during Phase III This includes new center display units, high-speed data network components and remote interface panels. Aircraft at Andrews AFB were the first aircraft to receive the upgrade in January 2020. The subsequent Phase III effort will equip 505 active component and ANG aircraft with SABR beginning in Q1 of Fiscal 2022. In 2021, the ANG stated that 230 of its 332 aircraft still require funding for the APG-83. The previous FYDP associated with Fiscal 2021 projected a total program cost of $1.6 billion for 330 radars (increased to 505 as of Fiscal 2022). The AESA and associated hardware costs were approximately $2.4 million per airframe but the total conversion cost (including labor and spares) was $4.15 million.

The second major avionics improvement program will replace legacy analog ALR-69 and ALR-56M with the Next Generation Electronic Warfare (NGEW) Digital Radar Warning Receiver (DRWR). In January 2021, the Air Force announced it had awarded Northrop Grumman (NG) $250 million to develop the system after a competitive evaluation against L3Harris. NG expects the program could result in the acquisition of 450 NGEWs worth $2.5 billion. As of the time of this writing, the system has yet to receive a tri-service designation and is referred to as the DRWR in budget justification documents. The NGEW is understood to build upon NG s latest APR-39 installed on the MC-130J and may feature more advanced electronic support measures (ESM) functions. Northrop says the NGEW will be fully integrated with SABR and leverages an open-systems, ultra-wideband architecture, providing the instantaneous bandwidth to defeat modern threats . The company s test aircraft fitted with both SABR and NGEW took part in the 2021 Northern Lightning exercise at Volk Field, WI, in September. The first F-16 fitted with NGEW is expected to fly over the summer of 2022. Separately, the U.S. ANG and reserve aircraft will be fitted with the Elbit PAWS.

In April 2020, the Air Force released its F-16 Operational Flight Program (OFP) M7.2+ configuration to its more than 600 block 40/42/50/52 aircraft. The $455 million enhancement adds AIM-120D and AGM-158B JASSM-ER compatibility, facilitates integration of the APG-83 AESA, adds an Integrated Communication Suite as well as 42 other enhancements. The Air Force aims to release new OFP updates into two-year cycles. OFP M8.0.3 rectifies Modular Mission Computer shortfalls in memory and throughput. OFP M8.1 includes a programable display generator and M8.2 adds an ethernet high speed data network to facilitate future upgrades such as a digital targeting video pod. M8.1 installs will conclude in 2024 and M8.2 in 2026.

The USAF s Fiscal 2022budget requests $613 million in procurement for F-16 modifications as well as $224 million in research development test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds.

HAVE GLASS Survivability Treatments

One of the less-discussed aspects of the F-16's evolution is its incorporation of some radar cross section (RCS) reduction techniques under the HAVE GLASS program. In the late 1980s, U.S. and Soviet designers explored the application of RAM to fourth generation fighters such as MiG-29M (izdeliye 9.15) in 1986 and F/A-18A/B/C/D in 1989. The aim of these modifications is not to achieve full stealth capability but to modestly delay detection and potentiate self-protection jamming. This is due to the nature of the radar range equation. To achieve a 90% reduction in detection range from a threat radar, one must reduce the RCS of the target by a factor of 10,000. Conventional wisdom holds that tactically significant RCS reductions require careful shape management from inception and cannot be retrofitted LO is 90% a function of shaping and 10% of materials.

HAVE GLASS I included a canopy coated with indium-tin-oxide (ITO) and a specially treated radar bulkhead. Canopies and radar bulkheads can be significant contributor of RCS as oncoming radar waves can penetrate and bounce around within the enclosed space, accumulating energy (freak waves). Modified aircraft can be visually identified by the gold coloration of their canopies. Dutch aircraft began receiving the modification under the Pacer Bond program in 1986. HAVE GLASS effectiveness was noted by the French during the 1987 Paris Air Show and contributed toward a desire to strengthen the Rafale s signature reduction measures.

HAVE GLASS II started in the late 1990s and consisted of the Pacer Mud (FMS-3049 RAM) and Pacer Gem I/II (FMS-2026 IR topcoat) programs. FMS-3049 was comprised of ferromagnetic particles within a high dielectric constant polymer base. The combination both slows down and absorbs radar energy. RAM was applied to approximately 60% of the aircraft s surface in 10-12 mm thick layer, adding some 100 kg to the aircraft. The 10-12 mm thickness likely indicates FMS-3049 was optimized against the X-band frequency frequently which is typically used for engagement radars. Lockheed used its Computer Aided Spray Paint Expelling Robot (CASPER) system developed for the F-22 to apply RAM in the F-16 s inlet duct and other difficult to access