We have already looked at two fighters for the MMRCA 2.0, the Russian MiG-25 and the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen-E. We now look at one of the best selling fighter ever in history, America’s most successful fighter and the staple of many air forces across the globe. The Lockheed Martin F-16 “Fighting Falcon”.
Contender 3 – General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16
Even though the name is F-16, the one which is offered to India for the MMRCA 2.0 is a whole lot different from the older generation ones. Over the years, F-16 was a platform which has gained a lot of upgrades. The latest upgrade has propelled the F-16 from a light attack fighter to a fully fledged Medium role fighter in capabilities.
Lockheed Martin is offering India the best upgrade possible with India specific ‘F-16 Block 70 Viper’.
- Power-Plant: The power-plant will remain same as that of the Block 60, the General Electric F110-GE-132. The engine is capable of creating a thrust of 32,500 lbf (144.6 kN), the highest thrust engine developed for the F-16. The GE-132 is the most advanced of the F110 family and incorporates technology to reduce ownership cost and increase performance characteristics. However, the fighter will lack the ability to supercruise which could come to bite it later on.
The aircraft will have ~1650 km combat range in CAP (Combat Air Patrol) configuration with CFTs (Conformal Fuel Tanks) and a center-line drop tank, 1,370 km in air-to-ground configuration (2x 2,000-lb bombs and two AIM-9, with 3x external tanks) and 4100 km ferry range with three external tanks.
Maximum Speed: Mach 1.4-1.5
Combat Radius: 1650 km in CAP (Combat Air Patrol) with CFT (Conformal Fuel Tanks) and 1x drop tank.
1370km in Air-Ground attack config (2x 2000lb bombs, 2x AIM-9, 3x External Fuel tanks)
Ferry Range: 4100km with 3x external fuel tanks
Service Ceiling: >16,000m
Max g-load: +9g
- Radar: This is where the F-16 is a step ahead of its competitors. The F-16 is fitted with a AN/APG-83 SABR AESA which is essentially a derivative of the radars used in 5th generation fighters F-22 (APG-77) and F-35 (APG-81). The radar requires no structural changes or cooling system, enabling easy maintenance.
Max Detection Range: 120 kilometre
Max Engagement Range: 20 targets at 84 kilometre
The radar will be able to track targets in air and land at the same time. The radar has the option to generate SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) maps which will enable effective land recon and targetting even under bad weather. Advanced Modular Mission Computers (MMCs) guarantees a hassle free user experience.
As for EW, AN/ALQ-211 AIDEWS advanced radar warning, laser warning, chemical warning, situational awareness, jamming, electronic warfare management, targeting system, ELINT, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and electronic countermeasures capabilities.
- Other key modifications:
Central Pedestal Display: A new 6″ x 8″ display has been integrated to the space between the pilot’s legs which allows for high resolution video display assisted by the Improved Programmable Display Generator (IPDG). This allows real time display of night-vision, SAR imagery etc.
Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System – II : The JHMCS-II is a helmet mounted system which displays aircraft performance and weapons employment data on the pilot’s visor. JHMCS-II enables the pilot to aim weapons and sensors simply by turning his/her head towards the target.
Independent Use of Fire Control Radar: The Block 70 allows both the pilot and weapon officer can independently operate the fire control radar. This will enable a better survivability of the aircraft in modern combat situations.
The aircraft also comes with HOTAS (Hands On Throttle ans Stick) which gives the pilot better control over the aircraft.
HAVE GLASS 5: The most important modification of all. The Block 70 will get a uniform Have Glass 5 paint job which is similar to the paint job of F-35s which will reduce the Radar Cross Section of the aircraft. This allows the aircraft to penetrate deep into enemy air space and could lead an attack on enemy air defense which will soften following attacks. The Block 70 will also get a structural modification which will expand it’s life to 12,000hrs.
- WEAPONS: The F-16 is compatible with almost all NATO ammunition. However, with India heavily reliant on Russian weapons and their integration with American systems would surely draw flak from the Americans.
CONCLUSION: The F-16 Block 70 is unlike any F-16s produced yet. It packs a huge punch for a small aircraft. With capabilities stretching to near 5th generation fighters, it is a great option for India. With Lockheed offering complete movement of their production line to India, the deal holds much more than a defense deal. However, with US skeptical over Russian systems integration, we have to wait and see how it turns out.