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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 14:56 GMT
Fact file: F-16

The F-16 has a fearsome reputation. It is one of the most reliable, manoeuvrable and effective military aircraft in the world.

Used mainly by the US it is a multi-role fighter with the ability to attack other planes in the air, and seek out and destroy targets on the ground.

In recorded dogfights with other aircraft it has defeated its opponents 70 times without a single loss.

"Flying wise, this is the top of the pyramid," is how one US pilot described his F-16 after it destroyed a MiG-29 during Nato's Kosovo campaign in 1999.

Its destructive ability has earned it the nickname "Viper" from its pilots.

During the 1991 Gulf War 250 F-16s made 13,500 sorties, or 40% of American bombing raids. F-16s dropped 20,000 tons of bombs during the conflict.

They helped target Scud missile launchers, amongst other things.

America has over 700 of the planes in active service. They are the backbone of its air force and are used by many other countries across the world including Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Since it first entered service at the end of the 1970s over 4,000 individual planes have been produced.

They are cheap, in military terms, and when first made they brought the innovation of fly-by-wire controls to fighter planes.

Using this system a pilot's choice of direction is relayed to the plane by electrical wires, not cables, as had been the case up until then.

Another key advantage of the F-16 is that its combat radius - range without refuelling - is higher than almost all other similar planes.

This means it can stay in a combat zone longer than its enemies, and can carry out longer range sorties.

It is able to fly missions in all weather conditions and at night.

F-16 Fighting Falcon
Crew One or two
Main weapons 1x M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon; up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods
Max speed Mach 2
Length 49 ft, 5in (14.8m)
Wingspan 32 ft, 8 in (9.8m)
Height 16 ft (4.8 m)
Range 2,000 miles (3,219 km)
Source: USAF







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