Defense Media Network

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons: Early Birds | Photos

Prototypes, F-16A, and F-16B

It is hard to believe that the F-16, officially named the Fighting Falcon, more popularly known as the Viper, turned 40 this year. When the F-16 was first introduced, it was a revelation, with many new features combined into a single aircraft, like a sidestick controller, seat inclined to 30 degrees to offset g forces, negative stability, and fly-by-wire controls running through a quadruplex flight computer. Originally the F-16 was meant solely as a day fighter for air to air combat, its originators, sometimes known as the “Fighter Mafia,” determined to keep weight down and numbers up, and performance high by dispensing with everything they thought unnecessary, which they called “gold-plating.” Gold-plating included things like a fire control radar, ground-attack capability, electronic countermeasures, or radar-guided missiles. When the production aircraft emerged, however, cooler heads had prevailed, and it had the AN/APG-66 radar and ground-attack capability, although it could only initially fire Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles. The F-16 has gone on to four decades of success (and counting) as a multirole fighter that has been the backbone of the U.S. Air Force. It has been procured in several different variants by more than 25 air arms. Updated and upgraded, it remains in production today.


Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...