AFP, The multi-role jet – intended for aerial combat and ground attacks — flew more sorties than any other aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War and its success has helped Lockheed Martin sell more than 4,000 planes to about 20 countries. Each costs about US$25 million.
The United States announced a controversial sale of F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to Pakistan just as the U.S. Air Force took delivery of the last of its versions of the veteran fighter.
The air force has had 2,231 Fighting Falcons since the first delivery in 1978. It is still the workhorse of the air force with more than 1,300 in service, according to the U.S. military.
The last F-16 was delivered on March 18 at the Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.
The multi-role jet — intended for aerial combat and ground attacks — flew more sorties than any other aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War and its success has helped Lockheed Martin sell more than 4,000 planes to about 20 countries. Each costs about 25 million dollars.
The F-16 is 14.8 meters (49.4 feet) in length, with a wingspan of 9.8 meters (32.7 feet). It comes in a one- and two-seat model.
Capable of flying at twice the speed of sound at an altitude of 12,200 meters (40,000 feet), it has an action range of 925 kilometers (575 miles).
Its firepower is provided by a rapid-fire, 20 millimeter Vulcan M-61 cannon and eight attachments for AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles or for laser and satellite-guided weapons.
During the 1991 Gulf War, 250 F-16s carried out 40 percent of allied bombing raids, dropping 20,000 tons of bombs and explosive devices.
The Lockheed Martin Aero plant in Fort Worth, Texas, will continue to produce F-16s for the international market.
The latest version of the jet “is not your fathers F-16,” said Dan Mahrer, F-16 production program manager.
“Originally designed as a lightweight, daytime interceptor, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has been transformed over the last 20 years into a multi-role, all weather, air-to-air and air-to-ground attack weapon system.”
He said there was a new computer, a “friend or foe” identification system and an automatic target-cueing system. “It has been upgraded with the latest software and cutting-edge precision weapons,” Mahrer said.
The U.S. Air Force is now preparing the transition for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a multinational effort. The jet is due to make its first flight in 2006 and be delivered from 2008.