Why the F-16 fighter jet remains a force to be reckoned with (updated 2023)
The list of countries that would like to get their hands on the jet constantly grows.
Ukraine, after lobbying hard for acquiring enhanced air power, is now in the process of training its pilots for the F-16 as the invaded country waits for the arrival of the jets from Europe.
The perennially gridlocked US-Turkish deal involving 40 F-16 Block 70/72 fighters also serves as a regular reminder about the desirability of the jet.
US President Joe Biden announced on 10 July 2023 that his administration will move ahead with the transfer of the new jets, a day after Ankara gave the green light for Sweden to join NATO.
US Senate Bob Menendez, a Democrat who has been opposing the F-16 sale, said on the same day that he was in talks with the Biden administration about the deal, and that he could make a decision 'in the next week.'
The F-16 is so popular that Lockheed Martin is currently wrestling with a backlog of 128 fighters which is set to increase to 148 soon as new deals are finalised.
In response to the increasing demand and manufacturing challenges, the company has decided to conduct subcomponent assembly of the fighter in its PLZ Mielec facility in Poland.
PLZ Mielec representatives said in June that it is only the beginning of the F-16 journey for the site, and that they 'were manufacturing jet trainers in the past, so we have the ability’ to do the same with the fighter.
Despite some Polish hopes, however, the company has no plans to start full production of the F-16 outside the US.
Greg Ulmer, executive VP of Lockheed Martin aeronautics business told Shephard during the Paris Air Show 2023, that even if the current backlog of 128 were to increase to around 150 – once Bulgarian and Jordanian deals are finalised – the intent is that all the work will be done at the company's South Carolina facility.
|Title||F-16V Block 70/72||F-16C/D Block 50/52/52+||F-16E/F Block 60|
|Categories||Fixed-wing aircraft||Fixed-wing aircraft||Fixed-wing aircraft|
|Subcategories||Fighter - multirole||Fighter - multirole||Fighter - multirole|
|Suppliers||Lockheed Martin||Lockheed Martin, Turkish Aerospace||Lockheed Martin|
|Region||NORTH AMERICA||NORTH AMERICA, MIDDLE EAST||NORTH AMERICA|
|Manufacturer Country||USA||USA, TÜRKİYE (TURKEY)||USA|
|Unit Cost (US$)||63000000.00||34000000.00||U|
|First Delivery Date||2021||1991||2004|
|Out Of Service Date||U||2031||2036|
|Status||In production||In production||In production|
|Length 1 (overall)||15.03m||15m||15m|
|Width 1 (overall)||9.45m||9.45m||31m|
|Height 1 (overall)||5.09m||5.13m||5.09m|
|Weight 1 (overall)||21.77t||17.88t||21.77t|
|Speed 1 (maximum)||1,303.46kt||1,303.46kt||1,303.46kt|
|No. of engines||1||1||1|
|Range 1 (overall travel)||U||3,222.48km||3,200km|
The different F-16 variants compared. ✅ This data has been verified by the same team that brings you Defence Insight. Want to learn more?
The F-16 Block 70/72
The F-16 Block 70/72, also referred to as the F-16V, is the latest and most sought-after version of the fighter – although Ukraine will receive older models. It is a fourth-generation multirole aircraft, targeted primarily at export customers.
The Block 70/72 features: advanced avionics; an APG-83 AESA radar; a modernised cockpit; conformal fuel tanks; an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System; a centre pedestal display providing tactical imagery to pilots on a high-resolution 6x8in screen; and an extended structural service life of 12,000h.
Lockheed Martin developed the F-16V as an advanced fighter alternative that could leverage its existing production infrastructure and global support network. According to the manufacturer, structural and capability upgrades ensure that the F-16 can fly and fight up to 2070 and beyond, which is 50% longer than the previous production of F-16 aircraft.
Although the company has experienced difficulties with the production of the aircraft in recent years, Lockheed Martin recently said the build rate will increase significantly throughout 2023.
‘We continue to take proactive measures in partnership with the US government, our suppliers, and our international partners to maximise production efficiency, including adding tooling and other resources to meet current programme needs and future opportunities for new-production F-16s,’ Lockheed Martin VP of F-16 programmes and Greenville site lead Danya Trent told Shephard in January 2023.
Customers of the fourth-generation jet include Bahrain, Bulgaria, Greece, Jordan, South Korea, Slovakia and Taiwan, with some still awaiting final approval of their F-16 deal.
Additionally, the Indonesian Air Force announced plans to procure two squadrons through its 2020-24 strategic plan in 2019. A Foreign Military Sale (FMS) case was expected to be approved in January 2020 with a contract award by the end of the year.
However, Indonesia later opted for the Dassault Rafale as replacement of its Hawk fleet in service.
The Philippines is also considering the procurement of the F-16V under its $1.1 billion multirole fighter procurement programme.
In September 2021, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced that it has resumed the production of F-16 wings for Lockheed Martin, using the assembly line established in the 1980s, following increased worldwide demand for the F-16 Block 70/72.
IAI will produce wings that will be shipped to the F-16 final assembly line in Greenville, South Carolina, USA.
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