Warplanes: December 28, 2003


With over 4,000 F-16 fighters built, a new version is about to be introduced. The F-16E made its first flight this month. The F-16A entered service in 1978 and had a max takeoff weight of 17 tons. The F-16 was designed as a "light weight fighter." But the aircraft has put on weight as more equipment, and capabilities, were added. The F-16E has a max takeoff weight of 21 tons, but is more robust and maneuverable than the F-16A. The biggest improvements are in the electronics. The F-16E is the first F-16 to have an all digital cockpit, including three 5x7 inch color displays that are used to show dozens of combinations of data depending on what the aircraft is doing. Unlike the F-16A, the F-16E has a substantial suite of built-in electronic warfare equipment. Also carried is a FLIR (night vision system for finding and hitting ground targets), with a much improved targeting system to go with it and a much improved radar. The first 80 F-16Es are going to the United Arab Emirates next year and will cost $80 million each. The last major version introduction, the F-16D, entered service in 1984. There have been improvements since, but these were still called either F-16C or D. 


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