The F-16 Fighting Falcon 'Viper' is one of the iconic fourth-generation fighter jets which is in service not only with the United State of America Air Force but is also flying in 28 other countries. The first single-engine supersonic multirole F-16 flew on January 20, 1974, and since then has seen combat in several parts of the world. The F-16 is also one of the most versatile fighters and has undergone several changes over the last four decades to remain one of the workhorses of many air forces even now. Over 4,500 F-16 have been produced till date.
Lockheed Martin, the American aerospace major, which designed and builds the F-16 has renewed its offer for setting up a plant in India to build the fighter for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and also make the country an export hub. "Lockheed Martin is committed to strengthening and expanding our relationship with India. We have partnered with India for more than 25 years and remain committed to fostering technology development, manufacturing and strategic collaboration. Today’s global security environment requires proven success to protect what matters most," the company says on its website.
The company is offering the newest, most advanced and powerful version of the fighter - the F-16V Block 70 - to India. The F-16V Block 70 has several structural and capability upgrades and is fitted with the APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar with a new avionics architecture. The Block 70 software further enhances capabilities through an advanced datalink, precision GPS navigation, SNIPER Targeting Pod, Advanced Weapons and Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System.
The aircraft is 15.027 metres long, 5.09 m high and has a wingspan of 9.449 m. Its top speed is 2,414 kilometres per hour (over Mach 2). Capable of handling a gravitational force of 9 G, the F-16's empty weight is 9,207 kilogrammes while its engine thrust class is 13,000 kg. Its maximum takeoff weight is 21,772 kg.
The F-16V Block 70 has Center Pedestal Display (CPD) to provide tactical imagery to pilots on a high-resolution 6”x 8” screen which ensures full advantage of AESA and targeting pod data. The CPD is also compatible with the Night Vision Imaging System. Its Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) can prevent crashes and save the lives of pilots.
With a combat range of 4,220 km, the F-16 has nine hardpoints for carrying weapons. There is one at each wingtip, three under each wing while one is under the fuselage. The F-16 also has a 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon for close range combat.