The US Air Force is studying a future fighter fleet that might include new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters or possibly a clean-sheet designed fighter like the armed variant of T-7A Redhawk.
According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the Air Force is reviewing its tactical air requirements for the 2020s and is giving real thought to purchasing more F-16V. The Air Force currently flies over 900 F-16s, including 783 single-seat F-16Cs and 151 F-16Ds. The average age of the F-16C fleet, per Air Force magazine, is 28.7 years. The acquisition cost of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters leads the Air Force to rethink its tactical requirements and fulfil fighters necessity through low-cost high-end fighters like the F-16V Block 70/72.
General Dynamics originally designed the F-16 to be an agile, lightweight, inexpensive multi-role fighter meant to balance the more capable—and more expensive—F-15 Eagle.
Early F-16s carried just two Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles and 10,200 pounds of bombs and missiles on external hardpoints. General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin eventually built more than 4,500 Fighting Falcons, and 25 countries, including Turkey, Norway, and Iraq, ultimately adopted the plane.
Over the years, the F-16 evolved to gain a more capable active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, longer-range AMRAAM radar-guided missiles, and fuselage-conforming fuel tanks. The Air Force hasn’t bought a new F-16 since the early 2000s, and most of the new upgrades have been driven by export orders to countries like Israel and South Korea.
The latest version, known as F-16 Block 70/72 or F-16V, incorporates the new APG-83 AESA radar, infrared search and track targeting capability, a new flight control computer, and the new Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS), which prevents the plane from crashing into the ground if the pilot becomes unconscious or disoriented.
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