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LMA - Home of the F-16 Fighting Falcon


Mar 13, 2009
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
Home of the F-16 Fighting Falcon

(Lockheed Martin Photo)​

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, with additional facilities in Palmdale, California, and Marietta, Georgia, is engaged in the design, research and development, systems integration, production, sustainment, support and upgrade of advanced military aircraft, including combat air vehicles and related technologies. Its customers include the military services and various government agencies of the United States and allied countries around the world.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics resides on a government-owned, contractor-operated facility designated as Air Force Plant 4 (where the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22A Raptor, and the F-35 Lightning II are built), located adjacent to the realigned Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS). The base originated in 1941 as Tarrant Field Airdrome. The airdrome became Fort Worth Army Air Field on 2 January, 1942 and was renamed Carswell Air Force Base in 1948, in honor of Major Horace S. Carswell, Jr. Carswell Air Force Base was one of the first Strategic Air Command bases established in the Cold War period hosting B-52 bombers and tankers. With the end of the Cold War, the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended that Carswell AFB be closed by 1994. This decision was later modified so that most of the installation would be converted into a Navel Joint Reserve Base.

it’s located in Tarrant County, Texas, 7 miles northwest of the City of Fort Worth, Texas. It occupies 605 acres and is bounded on the north by Lake Worth, on the east by NAS, and on the south and west by the City of White Settlement. The Plant shares access to the runways, 12000 feet long, and the support facilities with NAS AFB.

In 1942, during World War II, Air Force Plant 4 became operational when Consolidated Aircraft began manufacturing the B-24 Liberator bomber. Over 3,000 B-24s were constructed in the first 2 years of operation. Later, the plant produced 124 B-32s, the successor to the B-24.

General Dynamics
In 1953, General Dynamics took over operation of the manufacturing facility. Since then, Air Force Plant 4 has produced the B-36, B-58, F-111 and F-16 aircraft. Between 1947 and 1954, 383 B-36s were built, and afterwards the Mach-2-capable B-58. By 1966, the plant had expanded to 4.7 million square feet, and by 1968 it had expanded further to 6.5 million square feet, to accommodate production of the F-111.

Lockheed Martin
In March 1992, Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta, took over operation of the facility. The plant produces F-16, F22 and F-35 plus spares aircraft parts, radar units, and missile components.

These two old pictures show a view of the F-16 assembly line. Currently F-35’s are built here and F-16 production line has been moved to a different building. (Lockheed Martin Photo)

An aerial view of the Lockheed Martin plant showing a Polish Air Force F-16C block 52 (Mar 2006) – the plant is on the left upper side of the picture highlighted with yellow color and is approximately one mile long. (Lockheed Martin Photo)​

F-16 Fighting Falcon
In 1971, the U.S. Air Force circulated a requirement for highly-maneuverable lightweight fighter. The General Dynamics YF-16 was designed to meet this requirement and first flew in 1974.

The Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force. Designed as a lightweight, daytime fighter, it evolved into a successful multirole aircraft. The F-16's versatility is a paramount reason it has proven a success on the export market, having been selected to serve in the air forces of 25 nations. Over 4,400 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Though no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, advanced versions are still being built for export customers.

The F-16 is now known as the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon. The U.S. Air Force officially named the F-16 "Fighting Falcon" on July 21st, 1980, during a ceremony at Hill AFB in Utah (the home of the first F-16 units). At the ceremony F-16A #79-0290 sported a special logo painted by Salt Lake City artists Matt and Mark Waki.

Four years earlier, in 1976, the Department of the Air Force had organized a "Name-the-Plane Contest" for the F-16 at MacDill AFB in Florida. The winning entry was submitted by TSgt. Joseph A. Kurdell, the Photo Sensor Shop Supervisor for the 1st TFW A&E sqn.

Viper: the unofficial nickname
The F-16 is often referred to as the "Viper", a nickname especially popular with people involved with the F-16. Before "Fighting Falcon" was selected as official name, pilots at Hill AFB, the first F-16 bases, came up with a number of proposals, including "Viper". Lt. Col. Pat "Gums" McAdoo, USAF Ret., one of the first F-16 pilots at Hill AFB, recalls the origin of the name "F-16 Viper":

At end of runway, the F-16 did resemble a cobra or something as it approached you. In any case, the Generals didn't want a plane 'named after some snake'! Falcon was a good name, and it fit in with the motif that the Eagle had created.

Block 50/52 Wild Weasel Plus
The Block 50/52 F-16 is recognized for its ability to carry the AGM-88 HARM in the suppression of enemy air defenses, or SEAD, missions. The F-16 can carry as many as four HARMs.

An avionics launcher interface computer allows the F-16 to launch the HARM missile. US Air Force F-16s have been upgraded to carry the HARM Targeting System, or HTS, pod on the left intake hardpoint so it can be combined with laser targeting pods designed to fit on the right intake hardpoint. The HTS pod contains a hypersensitive receiver that detects, classifies, and ranges threats and passes the information to the HARM and to the cockpit displays. With the targeting system, the F-16 has full autonomous HARM capability.

The Block 50/52 F-16 is equipped with the APG-68(V9) radar, which offers longer range detection against air targets and higher reliability. The Block 50/52 also includes a ring laser gyro inertial navigation system, a global positioning system receiver, a larger capacity data transfer cartridge, a digital terrain system data transfer cartridge, a cockpit compatible with night vision systems, an improved data modem, an ALR-56M advanced radar warning receiver, an ALE-47 threat-adaptive countermeasure system, and an advanced interrogator for identifying friendly aircraft. An upgraded programmable display generator has four times the memory and seven times the processor speed of the system it replaces. New VHF/FM antennas increase reception ranges. The Block 50/52 is powered by increased performance engines—the General Electric F110-GE-129 and the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229—each rated to deliver over 29,000 pounds of thrust in afterburner. Block 50/52 is the first F-16 versions to fully integrate the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-shipping missile.

New production Block 50/52 aircraft ordered after 1996 include color multifunction displays, the modular mission computer, and a three-channel video tape recorder. The throughput of the new computer dramatically increases the processing power of the F-16 and allows the airplane to continue to grow indefinitely. All international versions of the Block 50/52 have LANTIRN capability.

The first Block 50/52 was delivered to the US Air Force in 1991. More than 800 have been delivered so far from production lines in Fort Worth, Korea, and Turkey. (The Fort Worth production line is currently the only active F-16 line, but the Turkey line is scheduled to start producing Block 50 aircraft beginning in 2011.)

Hellenic Air Force F-16D_Block_52 (Lockheed Martin Photo)​

The engines that power the F-16 have improved in more ways than in maximum thrust. Engines used in early F-16s required from six to eight seconds to spool up from idle to afterburner. Since then, electronic controls have replaced hydro mechanical systems. The changes allow current engines to go from idle to full afterburner in two seconds. This responsiveness has a huge payoff in performance and in aircraft handling. Engine reliability and ease of maintenance have also been improved significantly. Today’s F-16 engines can be expected to deliver eight to ten years of operational service between depot inspections.

Digital engine controls, first introduced on Pratt & Whitney-powered F-16s in 1986, have also improved performance. Older hydro mechanical controls had to be trimmed to operate at the most challenging point within the F-16’s flight envelope. Digital engine controls automatically adjust to the operating environment, so that they optimize engine performance at all points within the flight envelope. This optimization has increased thrust by more than ten percent in some areas of the F-16 flight envelope. All engines being built today for the F-16 have digital engine controls.

With all the varieties of the F-16 produced through the years, the US Air Force decided to standardize its F-16 fleet to simplify logistics, maintenance, and training. The service now flies Block 40/42 and Block 50/52 F-16s almost exclusively in its active duty units. Exceptions include Block 30/32 F-16s at the Aggressor squadrons in Nevada and Alaska and Block 25 F-16s in training squadrons at Luke AFB, Arizona. Block 25 and Block 30/32 aircraft are concentrated in Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command units. A few Reserve Component units do already fly more advanced versions of the F-16.

More recent improvements to the F-16 fleet have reduced operation and support costs, further increased combat capability, and helped standardize the Air Force fleet. The Common Configuration Implementation Program, or CCIP, added color displays, common missile warning systems, and the modular mission computer to Block 40/42 and Block 50/52 F-16s as well as an advanced data link, called Link-16, that is standard for US and NATO aircraft. The upgrade also includes a helmet-mounted cueing system. This system works with the high-off-boresight AIM-9X air-to-air missile as well as with other slewable sensors. More than 200 Block 50/52 and 450 Block 40/42 aircraft were involved in the two programs. Guard, Reserve, and active duty Air Force units are now operational with the upgrades.

Block 60 And Beyond
The F-16 Block 60, also known as the Desert Falcon, is the most advanced F-16 produced to date. An internal, forward-looking infrared navigation sensor mounted as a ball turret on the upper left nose is the main feature that distinguishes the Block 60 from previous F-16s. Both single- and two-seat aircraft carry conformal fuel tanks.

The Desert Falcon’s increased-thrust GE-132 engine helps compensate for the increase in weight and payload over the basic F-16. Internal differences, on the other hand, add up to a huge improvement in capability.

The Desert Falcon has many automated modes, including autopilot, auto-throttle, an automatic ground collision avoidance system, and a pilot-actuated recovery system. The recovery system allows pilots to recover the aircraft with the push of a button the moment they sense they have lost situational awareness. The Block 60’s electronic warfare system, produced by Northrop Grumman, is the most sophisticated subsystem on the aircraft. It provides threat warning, threat emitter locating capability, and increased situational awareness to pilots. A new data transfer cartridge holds thirty gigabytes of information. A fiber-optic data bus handles the throughput and speed needed for many of these systems. The maintenance system is laptop-based.

The APG-80 agile beam radar underpins many of the new capabilities of the Block 60. The radar, produced by Northrop Grumman, is an advanced electronically scanned array offering much greater detection ranges. The array consists of a bank of transmit/receive modules attached to a fixed array that generates the radar beam, which can be directed almost instantaneously. The electronic approach, instead of a mechanical approach, allows radar modes to be interleaved. For example, the radar can continuously search for and track multiple targets and simultaneously perform multiple functions such as air-to-air search and track, air-to-ground targeting, and terrain following. The radar vastly improves the pilot’s situational awareness.

Block 60’s General Electric F110-GE-132 turbofan engine produces approximately 32,500 pounds of thrust in maximum afterburner. The engine is a derivative of the F110-GE-129, a 29,000-pound thrust class engine that powers the majority of F-16C fighters worldwide.

The F110-GE-132 has also been selected to power the F-16IN, the Fighting Falcon proposed for India for the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft program. If selected, the F-16IN will be the most advanced F-16 design to date. This aircraft will feature a refueling boom that retracts from the right conformal fuel tank. The boom allows the F-16IN to operate with India Air Force probe-and-drogue style aerial refueling systems similar to those used by the US Navy. The refueling boom is now being flight tested in Fort Worth. Even without aerial refueling, an F-16IN with conformal tanks can fly from Bangalore in the south of India to Leh in the north.

Several other systems distinguish the F-16IN from the Block 60, including an electronic warfare system and radar modes tailored for India, dragchute, data link, satellite communication, and a helmet-mounted cueing system. The F-16IN will carry the Sniper targeting pod as well.

United Arab Emirates Air Force F-16E Block 60 taking off. (Lockheed Martin Photo)​

Still Exceptional
The YF-16 was flown for the first time in 1974 at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, California. The first production F-16 rolled out of the factory in Fort Worth in August 1978. Since then, more than 4,400 F-16s have rolled off assembly lines in five countries. Twenty-five air forces will soon be flying the Fighting Falcon. Other countries are considering buying the fighter to modernize their fleets. F-16 production is expected for another ten years, or more, and front-line service and sustainment will extend beyond 2030.

The F-16’s long production run and low cost have given the airplane latitude to expand its capabilities. The F-16 has grown extensively within the external lines of the first F-16. The limited external changes are a tribute to the optimization of the original design and to huge advancements in avionics. The airplane continues to grow in terms of new weapons and sensors.

The present state of the F-16 encompasses a broad range of configurations. Those rolling off the factory line represent the most advanced fourth-generation fighter produced today. Even though the F-16 has been flying for thirty years, its evolution continues to build on the fundamental strengths of its original design.

(Lockheed Martin Photo)​

Lockheed Martin’s Code One Magazine, editor Eric Hehs
Lockheed Martin F-16 brochure
Various internet web sites
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Jan 20, 2006
including "Viper". Lt. Col. Pat "Gums" McAdoo, USAF Ret., one of the first F-16 pilots at Hill AFB, recalls the origin of the name "F-16 Viper":
Lt Col McAdoo was a very fine officer who imparted training to the original PAF F-16 pilots back in ~1983.
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