The F-16 Fighting Falcon in action
Small, sleek and universally revered, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has enabled the United States Air Force to implement US foreign policy the world over, and this new manual is published 40 years on from her maiden flight in February 1974.
The ‘Viper’ – its unofficial moniker among the F-16 community, due to its similarity to the ‘70s sci-fi series Battlestar Gallactica Colonial Viper starfighter – also forms a key component in 26 air forces across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with more than 4,500 examples produced since 1976.
The F-16 was born from the visions of a small group of fighter pilots at the Pentagon. Known colloquially as the ‘Fighter Mafia’, this group of hardened combat veterans had returned from the air war over Vietnam having learned the lessons of air combat the hard way. Determined to develop a new lightweight fighter that would better the simple but hugely successful adversaries of the then-USSR – the MiG-17 and MiG-21 – these men were uncompromising in ensuring that the design delivered a fighter that was small, highly manoeuvrable and unbeatable in close-range combat.
Thanks to these pioneers, the F-16 Fighting Falcon incorporates a range of innovations that had never before been seen on a fighter jet, including a frameless bubble canopy, which offers 360° vision from the cockpit, and a seat reclined at 30° which reduces the impact of G-force on the pilot. The F-16 can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2, and was also the first production fighter aircraft intentionally designed to be slightly aerodynamically unstable, also known as "relaxed static stability" (RSS), which improves manoeuvrability, allowing the F-16 to pull 9G manoeuvres.
Since it first achieved initial operational capability in November 1980, that design has evolved into a multi-role fighter that, despite weight gains, can hold its own in the precision strike role, is a dreaded opponent in air-to-air combat, and has even been developed into a Wild Weasel variant for use against threat radar and missile systems. In short, there are few other western fighters that can match the F-16’s versatility and prowess.
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon Manual provides a unique insight into the design, evolution, operation and maintenance of the USAF’s most numerous fighter jet. With the aid of information from official technical publications in the public domain, along with narratives from pilots and maintainers, the fascinating text, supported by numerous technical illustrations and photographs, describes in detail how the F-16 is built, employed as a weapons system, and maintained.
About the author
Steve Davies is a freelance military aviation photojournalist and author. This is his third Haynes Owners’ Workshop Manual. He is the author of more than a dozen other critically acclaimed books, and he has worked as an adviser for a range of military aviation documentaries in the UK and US. His photography has been used by the aviation press and leading defence contractors and aviation corporations.
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