F-16 Fighting Falcon
Sleek, futuristic and deadly – the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon was born from the crucible of the air war over Vietnam and the need for cheaper, simpler and more maneuverable fighter aircraft with which to combat the many thousands of Soviet-bloc supplied aircraft sold around the world. Back in the early 1970s the F-16 was the pinnacle of modern design, integrating a powerful turbofan engine and offering unrivaled maneuverability – thanks to its relaxed static stability and fly-by-wire system with computer control. Today’s F-16 Viper is light years away from the simple, lightweight point defense fighter first envisaged, but it has evolved and matured into the finest and most exported fourth-generation combat aircraft around the world. This is its story.
The book's cover has a stunning, head-on, in-flight photo of an F-16.
Chapter 1 - The Crucible (pages 7-25)
This chapter was most interesting to me. The various personalities that advocated for a smaller, light weight, high-performance combat fighter are featured. Several aircraft are also discussed such at the F-4 Phantom, the A-7 Corsair II, the F-111 series, the F-8 Crusader, the A-10 Warthog, the F-15 eagle and the F-35. Some of the history for the use of missiles in lieu of an integral cannon are addressed. Lessons learned during World War II and Korea were put aside when the threat of Soviet long-range bombers was seen and air-to-air missiles became the weapon of choice..
Air combat over Viet Nam pitted heavy, sophisticated American aircraft against smaller and less sophisticated Soviet designs. A hard lesson was learned, This chapter alone makes this book worth having for the military history buff. Many color pictures of the various aircraft types are included.
But wait, it only gets better!
Chapter 2 - Genesis of a Dogfighter (pages 26-41)
The YF-16 rolled out at Fort Worth on 12/13/1973, and first flew on 2/2/1974. The first supersonic flight occurred on 2/5/1974. This was a culmination of design and engineering efforts that addressed the many innovative components that made up the aircraft design. This chapter offer much information on how the various design features came about. Worth reading.
The single engine YF-16 prototype was pitted against the twin engine YF-17 prototype at this time. The YF-17 went on to become the equally successful F-18 Hornet family.
Chapter 3 - Into Service and Sale of the Century (pages 42-59)
From the prototype to the in-service model the features and capabilities of the F-16 grew. Several Western European nations began to look for updated aircraft designs to replace their current aircraft. The F-16 fit the bill. This chapter offers detailed background on these two subjects. Several in-air and on-the-ground images are included.
Chapter 4 - The F-16 and the Cold War (pages 60-76)
The F-16 entered operational service is early 1980 while the cold war was still simmering. This chapter covers the F-16's transfer to overseas bases as well as the bombing, air-to-ground gunnery and simulated air-to-air combat exercises where the aircraft excelled. The aircraft was proving its design coming first in many of the competitions. The development of the Aggressors squadrons is also addressed.
Once again the chapter is filled with outstanding color images of F-16's, F-4 Phantoms,and other USAF aircraft..
Chapter 5 - Israel and Early Combat (pages 77-106)
This chapter was a worthy read for sure. The Israeli Air Force put the F-16 to use almost as soon as they were acquired. The mission to destroy Iraq's Osirak nuclear power station is described in detail. This mission remains controversial even today.
Pakistan also purchased the F-16 and the missions against air incursions by Afgan/Soviet aircraft during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan is covered.
Again several very nice color images of Israeli F-16's showing camouflage schemes in detail. Page 100 has an image of a Pakistani F-16 in a bank revealing its unique, two-tone grey camouflage scheme. These later aircraft sported very minimal markings. A list of Pakistan F-16 kills is provided on page 106.
Chapter 5-Building Blocks Part 1 (pages 107-122). Note: The contents page notes this chapter title as shown above. However, the chapter title on page 107 is "Viper Variants Part 1.
The F-16 variants are noted as "blocks", which represents changes and upgrades to the basic airframe. This chapter offers detailed information on the various blocks. Almost mind-boggling at times, but interesting and informative.
Chapter 6 - Display Diva (pages 123-138)
This chapter is chock full of color images of F-16's in colorful paint schemes, foreign and USAF. The Thunderbirds paint scheme is especially striking.The history of the Thunderbirds is featured, with the original team members names and the various aircraft flown by the team.
The movies "Iron Eagle", "Iron Eagle II", and "Iron Eagle III" are critiqued at the end of this chapter.
Chapter 7 - Building Blocks Part 2 (pages 139-151)
Note: The contents page notes this chapter title as shown above. However, the chapter title on page 139is "Viper Variants Part 2.
Here the author goes into great detail on the various power plant, electronic and weaponry upgrades for the F-16. Also, mission changes are discussed. Increased thrust meant higher speeds, resulted in higher G-loads on the aircrews, resulting in possible loss of consciousness in the pilot..
Chapter 8 - Later Combat and the Gulf War (pages 152-167)
The F-16's role in the Gluf War is presented here. Also noted is a kill of a MiG-25 by an F-16 after the Desert Storm actions. This was the first air-to-air kill by a USAF F-16, and was made by an AIM-120A AMRAAM. Actions in the Balkans, and back to Iraq are covered here.
Chapter 10 - Close Cousins (pages 168-180)
Several countries moved to design and build their own light weight fighter aircraft, or up-graded existing design. This chapter provides information on the Israel Defense Force/Air Force from its early years when it imported several Czech Avia S199 to its development of the Lavi. Japan also developed its own version of the F-16 in its home-grown Mitsubishi F-2. South korea developed the AIDC-F-CK-1. All eventually turned to the F-16.
Chapter 11 - The Viper Today (pages 181-194)
Although the F-16 is no longer being made for the USAF it is still being built for several countries. Countries that have expressed interest in the F-16 include Taiwan, Bulgaria, Bahrain, the Philippines, Slovakia, Turkey, Romania,and Iraq just to name a few.
F-16's with high hours are being considered for use as drones. High hour Viper pilots are also featured here with 6000 plus hours being the top number. Upgraded versions are expected to be flying well into the 21st Century.
The author knocked it out of the ballpark with this one. The color photos, while lacking in close up details, are really worth the price of admission. The inflight images, plus the various camouflage schemes are inspirational for any modeler and fan of the F-16. The text offers a great deal of information that will be of interest to any aircraft scale modeler and aircraft buff. I really enjoyed this book. Very highly recommended.
Although there are some editing and proofing issues between the contents page and the actual chapter titles, this does not distract from the value of this publication in any way. It did create some momentary confusion with this reviewer, which is often not unusual or unexpected.
My thanks to Casemate Publications and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this material.