General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon Fighter Plane
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force (USAF). Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,500 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. The Fighting Falcon is a fighter with numerous innovations including a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while maneuvering, a seat reclined 30 degrees to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot, and the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire flight control system that makes it a highly nimble aircraft. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and has 11 hardpoints for mounting weapons and other mission equipment. The F-16's official name is "Fighting Falcon", but "Viper" is commonly used by its pilots, due to a perceived resemblance to a viper snake.
The F-16 is a single-engined, very maneuverable, supersonic, multi-role tactical aircraft. The F-16 was designed to be a cost-effective combat "workhorse" that can perform various kinds of missions and maintain around-the-clock readiness. It is much smaller and lighter than its predecessors, but uses advanced aerodynamics and avionics, including the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire (RSS/FBW) flight control system, to achieve enhanced maneuver performance. Highly nimble, the F-16 can pull 9-g maneuvers and can reach a maximum speed of over Mach 2.
The Fighting Falcon includes innovations such as a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick, and reclined seat to reduce g-force effects on the pilot. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon in the left wing root and has 11 hardpoints for mounting various missiles, bombs and pods. It was also the first fighter aircraft purpose built to sustain 9-g turns. It has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one, providing power to climb and accelerate vertically.
Early models could be armed with up to six AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking short-range air-to-air missiles (AAM), including rail launchers on each wingtip. Some F-16s can employ the AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range AAM; more recent versions can equip the AIM-120 AMRAAM. It can also carry other AAM; a wide variety of air-to-ground missiles, rockets or bombs; electronic countermeasures (ECM), navigation, targeting or weapons pods; and fuel tanks on 11 hardpoints – six under the wings, two on wingtips and three under the fuselage.
The F-16 has a cropped-delta planform incorporating wing-fuselage blending and forebody vortex-control strakes; a fixed-geometry, underslung air intake to the single turbofan jet engine; a conventional tri-plane empennage arrangement with all-moving horizontal "stabilator" tailplanes; a pair of ventral fins beneath the fuselage aft of the wing's trailing edge; a single-piece, bird-proof "bubble" canopy; and a tricycle landing gear configuration with the aft-retracting, steerable nose gear deploying a short distance behind the inlet lip. There is a boom-style aerial refueling receptacle located a short distance behind the canopy. Split-flap speedbrakes are located at the aft end of the wing-body fairing, and an arrestor hook is mounted underneath the fuselage. Another fairing is situated beneath the bottom of the rudder, often used to house ECM equipment or a drag chute. Several later F-16 models, such as the F-16I, also have a long dorsal fairing "bulge" along the "spine" of the fuselage from the cockpit's rear to the tail fairing, it can be used for additional equipment or fuel.
The F-16 was the first production fighter aircraft intentionally designed to be slightly aerodynamically unstable, also known as "relaxed static stability" (RSS), to improve maneuverability. Most aircraft are designed with positive static stability, which induces aircraft to return to straight and level flight attitude if the pilot releases the controls. This reduces maneuverability as the aircraft must overcome its inherent stability in order to maneuver. Aircraft with negative stability are designed to deviate from controlled flight and thus be more maneuverable. At supersonic speeds the F-16 gains stability (eventually positive) due to changes in aerodynamic forces.
To counter the tendency to depart from controlled flight—and avoid the need for constant trim inputs by the pilot, the F-16 has a quadruplex (four-channel) fly-by-wire (FBW) flight control system (FLCS). The flight control computer (FLCC) accepts pilot input from the stick and rudder controls, and manipulates the control surfaces in such a way as to produce the desired result without inducing control loss. The FLCC conducts thousands of measurements per second on the aircraft's flight attitude to automatically counter deviations from the pilot-set flight path; leading to a common aphorism among pilots: "You don't fly an F-16; it flies you."
One feature of the F-16 for air-to-air combat performance is the cockpit's exceptional field of view. The single-piece, bird-proof polycarbonate bubble canopy provides 360° all-round visibility, with a 40° look-down angle over the side of the aircraft, and 15° down over the nose (compared to the more common 12–13° of preceding aircraft); the pilot's seat is elevated for this purpose. Furthermore, the F-16's canopy lacks the forward bow frame found on many fighters, which is an obstruction to a pilot's forward vision.
The F-16's ACES II zero/zero ejection seat is reclined at an unusual tilt-back angle of 30°; most fighters have a tilted seat at 13–15°. The seat angle was chosen to improve pilot tolerance of high g forces and reduce susceptibility to gravity-induced loss of consciousness. The seat angle has been associated with reports of neck ache, possibly caused by incorrect use of the head-rest. Subsequent U.S. fighters have adopted more modest tilt-back angles of 20°. Due to the seat angle and the canopy's thickness, the F-16's ejection seat lacks steel canopy breakers for emergency egress; instead the entire canopy is jettisoned prior to the seat's rocket firing.
The pilot flies primarily by means of an armrest-mounted side-stick controller (instead of a traditional center-mounted stick) and an engine throttle; conventional rudder pedals are also employed. To enhance the pilot's degree of control of the aircraft during high-g combat maneuvers, various switches and function controls were moved to centralised "hands on throttle-and-stick (HOTAS)" controls upon both the controllers and the throttle. Hand pressure on the side-stick controller is transmitted by electrical signals via the FBW system to adjust various flight control surfaces to maneuver the F-16. Originally the side-stick controller was non-moving, but this proved uncomfortable and difficult for pilots to adjust to, sometimes resulting in a tendency to "over-rotate" during takeoffs, so the control stick was given a small amount of "play". Since introduction on the F-16, HOTAS controls have become a standard feature on modern fighters.
The F-16 has a head-up display (HUD), which projects visual flight and combat information in front of the pilot without obstructing the view; being able to keep his head "out of the cockpit" improves a pilot's situational awareness. Further flight and systems information are displayed on multi-function displays (MFD). The left-hand MFD is the primary flight display (PFD), typically showing radar and moving-maps; the right-hand MFD is the system display (SD), presenting information about the engine, landing gear, slat and flap settings, and fuel and weapons status. Initially, the F-16A/B had monochrome cathode ray tube (CRT) displays; replaced by color liquid crystal displays on the Block 50/52. The MLU introduced compatibility with night-vision goggles (NVG). The Boeing Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) is available from Block 40 onwards, for targeting based on where the pilot's head faces, unrestricted by the HUD, using high-off-boresight missiles like the AIM-9X.