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General Dynamics AER 0 F-16A/B/C/D Fighting Falcon AEROGUIDE 18. GENERAL DYNAMICS F-16A/B/C/D FIGHTING FALCON Published in Great Britain by Linewrights Li 118 High Street, Chipping Ongar, Essex CMS EB, England ISBN 0 946950238 (© 1987 Linewrights Lic ‘The contents ofthis book are stitly copyright and may not be reproduced or transmitted in ‘any form without the prior written consent of Linewights Ltd \Wetten, designed and produced by Roger Chesneau Colour profile and line drawings by Mike Keep Cover photograph by Joananne Chesneau Photo processing by Frank Collins. ‘Typesotting by Typesettors (Birmingham) Lt, ‘Smethwick, West Midlands Printing and binding by the Black Bear Press Lid, Cambridge ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: ‘The publishers would ike to record their thanks fr the help given in the preparation of this vlume by the United States Ar Force Win particular by Major Wiliam H Austin of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs and by the Pubic Alfa O'fice at Luke Air Force Basel, by 2 Joe Thornton of General Dynamics, by Richard L Ward, by Lindsay Peacock and by David Whitman. Uncredited photos are the copyright af the publishers. Cover photo: An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 312th Tactical Fighter Trang Squadron (3th Tactical Training Wing) at Luke Ar Force Baso in 1985, Back cover plate: An F-16A of the Thunderbirds the US Ai Force's Air Demonstration Team, 1984 Lnewrights;. Price £3.50 net (UK only) S| a : é General Dynamics IDE — .16a/B/C/D Fighting Falcon INTRODUCTION service equipment, especially if the enemy shows that he not answer all the questions posed by the enemy's fighter study only, but it was eventually resurrected by a group of, researchers headed by fighter pilot instructor Major John Boyd and weapons systems analyst Pierre Sprey. In 1968 F-XX was put forward as a serious compatitor for the F-15; with its single engine, limited electronics and 25,000Ib weight - later reduced by 30 per cent —it could form the basis for a low-cost, highly agile fighter which could be afforded in very significant numbers. ‘There have been several deliberate attempts to call a halt to the ever-spiralling costs of military aviation technology during the postwar years. The best known are probably the A-4 Skyhawk and the Folland Gnat, but proponents of such ‘austere’ aircraft have, historically, received pretty short shrift from within the US services — with, it must be said, the best of motives. For the F-XX, however, the climate was more favourable than had previously been the case. A combination of three principal factors had come into play: an inflation rate unheard of in, postwar years; the availability of brilliant but astronomically costly new technology that was without doubt desirable but drove up aircraft cost to unimaginable levels; and the realisation that numerical equality with Soviet Bioc forces was seriously threatened because fewer individual aircraft could be afforded at such high prices. It was thus virtually guaranteed that the F-XX backers would ‘get a sympathetic hearing, ‘The trigger proved to be a return to the practice of getting real aircraft to compete for contracts. Tho recent policy of ‘total package procurement’, whereby one company only was selected to develop and manufacture a ‘new military aircraft on the basis that its particular ton of paperwork looked more impressive than anybody else's, had not been a rousing success ~ problems with the TFX (F-111) programme were still fresh in the memory ~and, ‘championed by Deputy Secretary of Defense David A, Packard, the old idea of building prototypes and flying them against one another began to gain favour once again. In January 1972 Requests for Proposels (RFP) for LWF were fed out by the US Air Force to nine indigenous ‘manufacturers; two competing designs would be selected for funding, and one of these was the General Dynamics Model 401. This machine would in turn be developed into the F-16 Fighting Falcon —and a world-beater. Pege2 Below left: The simplicity of the LF project as originally conceived is evident in this photograph of the first two- ‘seater F-168, serial number 75.0751, up ona test flight: ‘two wing tip missiles and an internal cannon in the port ‘wing root signalled the desire toproduce a fighter that would be interested oniy in close-range combat, for Which small size and super agility would be of paramount importance. General Dynamics Right: Stressed to +99 and = 3g, the F-16 airframe was designed to be thrown around inthe air to the limits of the pilot's physical endurance, and its ability to perform tight turns has. gained ita formidable reputation. This production single-seater is showing its mettle —note the drooped leading-edge flaps and traling-edge flaperons and the deflected horizontal stabilisers. General Dynamics Below right: Company test pilots Kevin Dwyer (left) and Dave Palmer pose in front of anF-16C ina General Dynamies publicity photo. One of the basic necessities for close-ange air fighting is ‘good field of view for the pilot, and the F-16, thanks to its high-set, one-piece canopy, cortainly has that. General Dynamics: Page 3 DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT issued the first YF-16 took to the air, and a year after that, in January 1975, the type was declared the winning prototype in the Lightweight Fighter competition over its rival the Northrop YF-17. By that time it had become clear that the F-XX proponents had successfully argued their case, since it had been accepted that the new aircraft would indeed be bought by the Air Force, not as replacement for the F-15 but as a machine that would ‘complement the larger aircraft. The new fighter inventory, instead of comprising a limited (by US standards) number of extremely potent and valuable aircraft, would henceforth list two different machines for the role, giving rise to the somewhat misleading term ‘high-low mix’. This Policy did not imply any lack of faith in the F-16, merely that there was merit in quantity as well as in quolity, that, numbers counted; moreover, ifthe Vietnam experience was anything to go by, there was undeniable virtue in trying to match agile, medium-altitude, low-supersonic enemy aircraft with some of your own. The initial requirements for the LWF gave the competing manufacturers a great deal of freedom. Specific design parameters were consciously avoided wherever possible, {and objectives were expressed in general terms. The main conditions were agility in the air and low ($3 milion As ‘exactly two years after the RFP had been Right: The second YF-16, Painted up in a high-visibility scheme of red, white and blue. The slim nose of the prototypes is evident from this photo. General Dynamics Below: The first definitive F 16A for the US Air Force, sefial number 78-0001, takes to the air for its delivery fight, August 1978. General Dynamics Far right: The F-16 production line in the famous, ‘mile long assembly hall at Fort Worth, To date, almost 1600 Falcons have rolled from here, and very many ‘more will follow. The two- eaters can be picked out by their longer canopies General Dynamics Page 4 copy! flyaway cost, the latter dictating simple avionics, ‘small airframe dimensions and the incorporation of as, much ready-made technology ~ and as many ready-made and duplicated components ~ as possible (thus reducing the chances of anything going wrong as well as bringing down the price of the aircraft. Unfettered by masses of obligatory statistical targets, General Dynamics got down to the task of building their entry with remarkable alacrity. Of the engines available, the Pratt & Whitney F100 and the General Electric YJ101 offered the necessary thrust-to-weight ratio. The GE powerplant, which would require a twin installation, provided traditional twin-engine safety, but the two units weighed more, drank more and furnished rather less, thrust at the medium altitudes at which the aircraft would bbe expected to do most of its work; further, it cost more, and demanded more maintenance time, per aircraft, Finally, its P&W rival had already been chosen for the F-15, and were the LWF to enter service alongside the big MeDonnell Douglas fighter the choice of a common, powerplant had definite advantages. Trade-offs in the layout of the airframe had to be very rigorously evaluated, owing to the cost limits placed upon the designers. Compiex features such as variable- ‘geometry main intakes, twin vertical tails and veriable- sweep wings were seriously considered, but rejected in terms of the cost or weight penalty imposed. As regards structural materials, the extensive use of lightweight composites was also turned down: although the Model 401 did incorporate some graphite/epoxy components, for example for the tailplane skinning, four-fifths of the airframe structure was built of tried and tested aluminium. However, the requirements of the new aircraft demanded some degree of innovation in its layout: it did, after all, have to represent a significant improvement on ‘what went before — indeed, in some respects it would fulfil an entirely new role —and a powerful engine could not possibly solve everything. Enhanced agility in flightis @ function of several factors, but chief amongst these are the ability of an aircraft to accelerate rapidly and to change direction quickly and dramatically, denying to an enemy an accurate estimate ofits flight path; the former ‘capability is measurable in one dimension ~ the direction, ofthrust— and the latter takes place in the other two. The trouble is that these qualities tend to work against each other, since, ideally, fast turns and sharp acceleration need a set of wings rather different in appearance from that tailored to tight, subsonic turns, where drag-inducing characteristics and maximum lift are needed. The wing design of the Model 401 settled somewhere in the centre of the conflicting ideals: it was neither straight nor highly swept, neither delta-shaped nor conventional, neither of, high aspect ratio nor ultra-low. However, although essentially middle-of-the-road, it did feature some ‘advanced concepts. One was the blending of the wing/ fuselage junction, giving a thickened root section which assured a good volume for fuel and so allowed span to be minimised whilst itself contributing to lift. Added lift was also guaranteed by the inclusion of leading-edge root extensions (LERX), or ‘forebody strakes’, both directly and also by encouraging the creation of vortices similar to those caused by canard foreplanes, disturbing the air flowing back across the wings themselves and so invigorating it; the port strake also provided a handy location for the fixed M61 cannon. Finally, a fully variable Wing profile was adopted, with full-span leading-edge flaps and two-thirds span trailing-edge ‘flaperons’ (combining the functions of flaps and ailerons) that would ‘automatically deploy during flight, giving optimum wing camber for the required manoeuvres. Perhaps the most radical (and risky) feature of General Dynamics’ new fighter was the decision to incorporate CCV (control configured vehicle) technology, deliberately building instability into the aircraft and containing it by means of computerised fly-by-wire (FBW) control Page 5 FIGHTING FALCON systems, CCV technology, in which all the effortis directed towards modifying unruly flight characteristics to make an aircraft flyable instead of pursuing the traditional objective of getting it to deviate safely from the straight and level, is today high fashion amongst aircraft designers, but when the Model 401 was being planned out fifteen years ago it represented a largely untried philosophy, and in this respect the F-16 must be considered as something of a pace-setter. Computer miniaturisation helped turn the dream into a reality, and the guidelines for the LWF project provided the incentive to make the translation worth a go. ‘The movable fiying surfaces are all commanded via electrical impulses instead of the time-honoured system of cables and cranks with the pilot hauling away at his control column, giving instantaneous, finger tip response. The ‘novelties’ extended to the cockpit itself, where the pilot, lying back on his reclined ejection seat, was provided with 2 ‘sidestick’ control mounted on the right-hand, console. This innovative feature was introduced following studies showing that such an arrangement, in conjunction with an arm rest, reduced the pilot's physical work load in violent, high-g manoeuvres. The sidestick principle has not thus far been wholeheartedly endorsed by other manufacturers: it has not been incorporated into the BAe EAP, for example, since in combat any injury to the pilot's ight arm would, it was felt, impose insuperable problems for him flying the aircraft. The 30-degree tilt-back of the seat—_more than twice the angle of a conventional installation - was another product of the high g forces the F-16 pilot could expect to experience, increasing his comfort and therefore his capabilities during combat, ‘The contract awarded to the two rival LWF devalopment companies, worth about $38 million to General Dynamics anda little more than that to Northrop, required the building of two prototypes of each aircraft. The first YF-16, serial number 72-1567, was officially displayed for the first time on 13 December 1973 at General Dynamics’ Fort Worth facility. The aircraft was then dismantled, and taken by C-5 to Edwards Air Force Base in California, where, under the authority of the US Air Force Flight Test Center |AFFTC), the two contending designs would be examined in detail. The YF-16's first flight was one of those accidental affairs, when a high-speed taxi run on 20 January 1974 was converted into a take-off. The FBW system proved to be over-sensitive, and because the Pages aircratt had started to roll as the nose lifted, the test pilot, took the decision to get airborne rather than risk putting the nose back down and careering off the runway. Following the first properly scheduled test flight, on 2 Februaty, rials proceeded smoothly and efficiently, the only real problems being concerned with the fuel feed. By May the second YF-16, 72-1568, was up and going; unlike the first prototype, it was configured for the carriage of ‘armament, including the gun. As the YF-16 versus YF-17 fly-off progressed it became more and more apparent that the winning design might very well scoop a lucrative contract. Hints about the doubtful affordability of masses of F-15 squadrons got heavier, both contenders began to draw praise from the large number of US Air Force pilots who had the ‘opportunity to fly them, and the manufacturers’ claims were proving realistic and even understated, especially in the case of the YF-16. By the time the test programme tendied in December 1974 some 600 flights had been made, rather more by the pair of YF-16s than by the two YF-17s, mainly because the latter had unfortunately joined the fiying rather later than scheduled. There was general agreement as the trials proceeded that General Dynamics’ entry had the edge over the Northrop aircraff, although the final decision, formally announced in January 1975, was rather closer than was reported in some circles at the time. The next stage was the award to General Dynamics of a contract for the building of fifteen (soon cut to eight) full- scale development (FSD) aircraft. Still officially designated LW, the programme was now increasingly being talked ‘about in terms of ACF (Air Combat Fighter), which would, ineffect, be a replacement aircraft for the F-4 Phantom; further, this would have to be capable of ground-attack sorties as well as air-to-air fighting. A firm production ‘commitment was still some time away, however, and in the meantime work proceeded with the pre-series batch of aircraft. Six would be single-seaters, two dual-seaters, ‘and, as is general practice with pre-production machines, ‘each would be assigned a specific set of tasks for the forthcoming trials and evaluation programme. ‘Trials continued through to 1978, the two YF-16s joining inthe work, and General Dynamics’ Fort Worth plant ‘geared itself up for full-scale production in anticipation of an official contract. The company's sales team had not been idle either. The LWF programme came along just at DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT Above left: A pair of production F-16As destined for the US Air Force show off . the graceful ines of the aircraft. The sharp-lipped forebody strakes extending forwards from the wing roots ‘area vital ingredientin the - = performance of the F-16, 2s