The defence arm of the Tata Group has signed an agreement with American firm Lockheed Martin to produce and export new generation F-16 fighter aircraft, potentially kick-starting a mega ‘Make in India’ project days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first meeting with US President Donald Trump.
The deal, signed at the Paris Air Show, is subject to the condition that the F-16 Block 70 fighter jet emerges as the winner of an Indian Air Force competition to procure more than 100 single-engine fighters.
Tata Group and American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin today signed an “unprecedented” deal to jointly produce the combat-proven F-16 fighter jets in India, boosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ plan ahead of his first summit with US President Donald Trump. Under the deal, Lockheed will shift its Fort Worth, Texas plant to India without directly affecting American jobs, a campaign pledge of Trump who has vowed to put “America First”. The deal announced during the Paris Airshow between Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) and Lockheed Martin is ideally suited to meet Indian Air Force’s single-engine fighter
Tata to offer service support
Industry executives said the agreement will give the Tata Group firm the ability to integrate Indian sensors and systems into the high-technology Block 70 version of the US fighter jet.
Besides providing full service support for the F-16, the agreement will enable the Indian company to offer all future upgrades for the aircraft on its own, they said. The timing of the announcement assumes significance, coming as it does ahead of Modi’s visit to the US, where he is also scheduled to meet Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, according to people familiar with the matter. Lockheed Martin has said the partnership will support thousands of jobs in the US, besides creating new manufacturing jobs in India.
All about F-16 Fighting Falcon
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) for the United States Air Force (USAF). Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,500 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Although no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, improved versions are still being built for export customers. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.
The Fighting Falcon’s key features include a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while maneuvering, a seat reclined 30 degrees to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot, and the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire flight control system which helps to make it a nimble aircraft. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and 11 locations for mounting weapons and other mission equipment. The F-16’s official name is “Fighting Falcon”, but “Viper” is commonly used by its pilots and crews, due to a perceived resemblance to a viper snake as well as the Colonial Viper starfighter on Battlestar Galactica.
The F-16 is a single-engine, highly maneuverable, supersonic, multi-role tactical fighter aircraft; it was designed to be a cost-effective combat “workhorse” that can perform various missions and maintain around-the-clock readiness. It is much smaller and lighter than predecessors, but uses advanced aerodynamics and avionics, including the first use of a relaxed static stability/fly-by-wire (RSS/FBW) flight control system, to achieve enhanced maneuver performance. Highly nimble, the F-16 was the first fighter aircraft purpose-built to pull 9-g maneuvers and can reach a maximum speed of over Mach 2. Innovations include a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick, and reclined seat to reduce g-force effects on the pilot. It is armed with an internal M61 Vulcan cannon in the left wing root and has multiple locations for mounting various missiles, bombs and pods. It has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one, providing power to climb and accelerate vertically.
The F-16 was designed to be relatively inexpensive to build and simpler to maintain than earlier-generation fighters. The airframe is built with about 80% aviation-grade aluminum alloys, 8% steel, 3% composites, and 1.5% titanium. The leading-edge flaps, stabilators, and ventral fins make use of bonded aluminum honeycomb structures and graphite epoxy lamination coatings. The number of lubrication points, fuel line connections, and replaceable modules is significantly lower than predecessors; 80% of access panels can be accessed without stands. The air intake was placed so it was rearward of the nose but forward enough to minimize air flow losses and reduce aerodynamic drag.
Although the LWF program called for a structural life of 4,000 flight hours, capable of achieving 7.33 g with 80% internal fuel; GD’s engineers decided to design the F-16’s airframe life for 8,000 hours and for 9-g maneuvers on full internal fuel. This proved advantageous when the aircraft’s mission changed from solely air-to-air combat to multi-role operations. Changes in operational use and additional systems have increased weight, necessitating multiple structural strengthening programs.
The F-16 has a cropped-delta wing incorporating wing-fuselage blending and forebody vortex-control strakes; a fixed-geometry, underslung air intake (with splitter plate) to the single turbofan jet engine; a conventional tri-plane empennage arrangement with all-moving horizontal “stabilator” tailplanes; a pair of ventral fins beneath the fuselage aft of the wing’s trailing edge; and a tricycle landing gear configuration with the aft-retracting, steerable nose gear deploying a short distance behind the inlet lip. There is a boom-style aerial refueling receptacle located behind the single-piece “bubble” canopy of the cockpit. Split-flap speedbrakes are located at the aft end of the wing-body fairing, and a tailhook is mounted underneath the fuselage. A fairing beneath the rudder often houses ECM equipment or a drag chute. Later F-16 models feature a long dorsal fairing along the fuselage’s “spine”, housing additional equipment or fuel.
Aerodynamic studies in the 1960s demonstrated that the “vortex lift” phenomenon could be harnessed by highly swept wing configurations to reach higher angles of attack, using leading edge vortex flow off a slender lifting surface. As the F-16 was being optimized for high combat agility, GD’s designers chose a slender cropped-delta wing with a leading edge sweep of 40° and a straight trailing edge. To improve maneuverability, a variable-camber wing with a NACA 64A-204 airfoil was selected; the camber is adjusted by leading-edge and trailing edge flaperons linked to a digital flight control system (FCS) regulating the flight envelope. The F-16 has a moderate wing loading, reduced by fuselage lift. The vortex lift effect is increased by leading edge extensions, known as strakes. Strakes act as additional short-span, triangular wings running from the wing root (the juncture with the fuselage) to a point further forward on the fuselage. Blended into the fuselage and along the wing root, the strake generates a high-speed vortex that remains attached to the top of the wing as the angle of attack increases, generating additional lift and allowing greater angles of attack without stalling. Strakes allow a smaller, lower-aspect-ratio wing, which increases roll rates and directional stability while decreasing weight. Deeper wingroots also increase structural strength and internal fuel volume.
Early F-16s could be armed with up to six AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking short-range air-to-air missiles (AAM) by employing rail launchers on each wingtip, as well as radar guided AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range AAMs in a weapons mix. More recent versions support the AIM-120 AMRAAM. The aircraft can carry various other AAMs, a wide variety of air-to-ground missiles, rockets or bombs; electronic countermeasures (ECM), navigation, targeting or weapons pods; and fuel tanks on 9 hardpoints – six under the wings, two on wingtips, and one under the fuselage. Two other locations under the fuselage are available for sensor or radar pods. The F-16 carries a 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A1 Vulcan cannon for close range aerial combat and strafing. The 20mm cannon is mounted inside the fuselage to the left of the cockpit.
Cockpit and Ergonomics
A key feature of the F-16’s cockpit is the exceptional field of view. The single-piece, bird-proof polycarbonate bubble canopy provides 360° all-round visibility, with a 40° look-down angle over the side of the aircraft, and 15° down over the nose (compared to the common 12–13° of preceding aircraft); the pilot’s seat is elevated for this purpose. Furthermore, the F-16’s canopy lacks the forward bow frame found on many fighters, which is an obstruction to a pilot’s forward vision. The F-16’s ACES II zero/zero ejection seat is reclined at an unusual tilt-back angle of 30°; most fighters have a tilted seat at 13–15°. The tilted seat can accommodate taller pilots and increases G-force tolerance; however it has been associated with reports of neck ache, possibly caused by incorrect head-rest usage. Subsequent U.S. fighters have adopted more modest tilt-back angles of 20°. Due to the seat angle and the canopy’s thickness, the ejection seat lacks canopy-breakers for emergency egress; instead the entire canopy is jettisoned prior to the seat’s rocket firing.
The pilot flies primarily by means of an armrest-mounted side-stick controller (instead of a traditional center-mounted stick) and an engine throttle; conventional rudder pedals are also employed. To enhance the pilot’s degree of control of the aircraft during high-g combat maneuvers, various switches and function controls were moved to centralised “hands on throttle-and-stick (HOTAS)” controls upon both the controllers and the throttle. Hand pressure on the side-stick controller is transmitted by electrical signals via the FBW system to adjust various flight control surfaces to maneuver the F-16. Originally the side-stick controller was non-moving, but this proved uncomfortable and difficult for pilots to adjust to, sometimes resulting in a tendency to “over-rotate” during takeoffs, so the control stick was given a small amount of “play”. Since introduction on the F-16, HOTAS controls have become a standard feature on modern fighters.
The F-16 has a head-up display (HUD), which projects visual flight and combat information in front of the pilot without obstructing the view; being able to keep his head “out of the cockpit” improves a pilot’s situation awareness. Further flight and systems information are displayed on multi-function displays (MFD). The left-hand MFD is the primary flight display (PFD), typically showing radar and moving-maps; the right-hand MFD is the system display (SD), presenting information about the engine, landing gear, slat and flap settings, and fuel and weapons status. Initially, the F-16A/B had monochrome cathode ray tube (CRT) displays; replaced by color liquid-crystal displays on the Block 50/52. The MLU introduced compatibility with night-vision goggles (NVG). The Boeing Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) is available from Block 40 onwards, for targeting based on where the pilot’s head faces, unrestricted by the HUD, using high-off-boresight missiles like the AIM-9X.
Fire control radar
The F-16A/B was originally equipped with the Westinghouse AN/APG-66 fire-control radar. Its slotted planar array antenna was designed to be compact to fit into the F-16’s relatively small nose. In uplook mode, the APG-66 uses a low pulse-repetition frequency (PRF) for medium- and high-altitude target detection in a low-clutter environment, and in look-down/shoot-down employs a medium PRF for heavy clutter environments. It has four operating frequencies within the X band, and provides four air-to-air and seven air-to-ground operating modes for combat, even at night or in bad weather. The Block 15’s APG-66(V)2 model added a more powerful signal processing, higher output power, improved reliability and increased range in cluttered or jamming environments. The Mid-Life Update (MLU) program introduced a new model, APG-66(V)2A, which features higher speed and more memory.
The AN/APG-68, an evolution of the APG-66, was introduced with the F-16C/D Block 25. The APG-68 has greater range and resolution, as well as 25 operating modes, including ground-mapping, Doppler beam-sharpening, ground moving target indication, sea target, and track while scan (TWS) for up to 10 targets. The Block 40/42’s APG-68(V)1 model added full compatibility with Lockheed Martin Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red for Night (LANTIRN) pods, and a high-PRF pulse-Doppler track mode to provide continuous-wave radar (CW) target illumination for semi-active radar-homing (SARH) missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow. Block 50/52 F-16s initially used the more reliable APG-68(V)5 which has a programmable signal processor employing Very-High-Speed Integrated Circuit (VHSIC) technology. The Advanced Block 50/52 (or 50+/52+) are equipped with the APG-68(V)9 radar, with a 30% greater air-to-air detection range and a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mode for high-resolution mapping and target detection-recognition. In August 2004, Northrop Grumman were contracted to upgrade the APG-68 radars of Block 40/42/50/52 aircraft to the (V)10 standard, providing all-weather autonomous detection and targeting for Global Positioning System (GPS)-aided precision weapons, SAR mapping and terrain-following radar (TF) modes, as well as interleaving of all modes.
The F-16E/F is outfitted with Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-80 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Northrop Grumman developed the latest AESA radar upgrade for the F-16 (selected for USAF and Taiwan Air Force F-16 upgrades), named the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). In July 2007, Raytheon announced that it was developing a Next Generation Radar (RANGR) based on its earlier AN/APG-79 AESA radar as a competitor to Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-68 and AN/APG-80 for the F-16.
A large number of variants of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon have been produced by General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and various licensed manufacturers.
F-16A/B Block 1/5/10
F-16A/B Block 15
F-16A/B Block 20
F-16C/D Block 25
F-16C/D Block 30/32
F-16C/D Block 40/42
F-16C/D Block 50/52
F-16C/D Block 50/52 Plus
F-16E/F Block 60
F-16IN Block 70/72
Lockheed Martin has proposed an advanced variant, the F-16IN, as its candidate for India’s 126-aircraft Indian Air Force Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition. According to Chuck Artymovich, the company’s business development director for the program, “The F-16IN is the most advanced F-16 ever.” Notable F-16IN features include an AN/APG-80 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, advanced electronic warfare suites, and an infrared search and track (IRST) system. If selected as the winner of the competition, Lockheed Martin will supply the first 18 aircraft, and will set up an assembly line in India in collaboration with Indian partners for production of the remainder. The program is reportedly worth up to Rs. 550 billion (US$14 billion). The F-16IN Super Viper was showcased in the Aero India, 2009.
India initially sent the RFI for a F-16C/D Block 52+ configuration aircraft for the ongoing Indian MRCA competition to supply the Indian Air Force with 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, to replace the Indian air force’s fleet of MiG-21s. On 17 January 2008, Lockheed Martin offered a customized version of the F-16, the F-16IN Super Viper for the Indian MMRCA contract. The F-16IN, which is similar to the F-16 Block 60, will be a 4.5 generation aircraft.
Lockheed Martin has described the F-16IN as “the most advanced and capable F-16 ever.” Based closely on the F-16E/F Block 60 as supplied to the UAE, the features on the F-16IN include Conformal fuel tanks (CFTs); AN/APG-80 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, GE F110-132A engine with 32,000 pounds (143 kN) of thrust with FADEC controls; electronic warfare suite and infra-red searching (IRST); advanced all-color glass cockpit with three large displays; and a helmet-mounted cueing system. Lockheed Martin’s vice-president-Business Development (India) Orville Prins has said that “I can assure you, the Super Viper is much more advanced in all aspects than the [Block 50/52+] F-16s being given to Pakistan”.
In September 2009, F-16IN Super Viper completed a part of the field trials. Lockheed Martin officials stated that phase I of field trials was over and the week-long training phase was in preparation for Phase II of field trials, which began 7 September and lasted two weeks.
Eventually the F-16IN Super Viper lost out to the French Dassault Rafale fighter. It was reported 21 September 2012 that the Indian air force would finalize a contract to purchase 126 French Rafale jet fighters that year, in one of 2012’s largest armament purchases. The contract for the 126 Rafale twin-engine, canard delta-wing, multirole combat aircraft is worth $20 billion, Indo-Asian News Service reported.
In 2015 after the Rafale order was cut back to just 36 aircraft Lockheed was offering India the exclusive opportunity to produce, operate and export F-16 Block 70 aircraft.
In 2017 F-16IN lost in the competition with JAS-39 Gripen E, when Lockheed retired from production in India, and decided to move production line from Fort Worth (Texas) to Greenville (South Carolina).
*Map with F-16 operators in blue and former operators in red.
Length: 49 ft 5 in (15.06 m)
Wingspan: 32 ft 8 in (9.96 m)
Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
Wing area: 300 ft² (27.87 m²)
Airfoil: NACA 64A204 root and tip
Empty weight: 18,900 lb (8,570 kg)
Loaded weight: 26,500 lb (12,000 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 42,300 lb (19,200 kg)
Internal fuel: 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × General Electric F110-GE-129 (for F-16C/D Block 30-40-50) or Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220/220E afterburning turbofan
Dry thrust: 17,155 lbf (76.3 kN)
Thrust with afterburner: 28,600 lbf (127 kN)
At sea level: Mach 1.2 (915 mph, 1,470 km/h)
At altitude: Mach 2 (1,320 mph; 2,120 km/h) clean configuration
Combat radius: 340 mi (295 nmi; 550 km) on a hi-lo-hi mission with four 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs
Ferry range: 2,280 nmi (2,620 mi; 4,220 km) with drop tanks
Service ceiling: 50,000+ ft (15,240+ m)
Rate of climb: 50,000 ft/min (254 m/s)
Wing loading: 88.3 lb/ft² (431 kg/m²)
Thrust/weight: 1.095 (1.24 with loaded weight & 50% internal fuel)
Maximum g-load: +9.0 g
Guns: 1 × 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A1 Vulcan 6-barrel rotary cannon, 511 rounds
Hardpoints: 2 × wing-tip air-to-air missile launch rails, 6 × under-wing, and 3 × under-fuselage pylon (2 of 3 for sensors) stations with a capacity of up to 17,000 lb (7,700 kg) of stores
4 × LAU-61/LAU-68 rocket pods (each with 19/7 × Hydra 70 mm/APKWS rockets, respectively)
4 × LAU-5003 rocket pods (each with 19 × CRV7 70 mm rockets)
4 × LAU-10 rocket pods (each with 4 × Zuni 127 mm rockets)
2 × AIM-7 Sparrow
6 × AIM-9 Sidewinder
6 × AIM-120 AMRAAM
6 × IRIS-T
6 × Python-4
6 × AGM-65 Maverick
4 × AGM-88 HARM
AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM)
2 × AGM-84 Harpoon
4 × AGM-119 Penguin
8 × CBU-87 Combined Effects Munition
8 × CBU-89 Gator mine
8 × CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon
4 × Mark 84 general-purpose bombs
8 × Mark 83 GP bombs
12 × Mark 82 GP bombs
8 × GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB)
4 × GBU-10 Paveway II
6 × GBU-12 Paveway II
4 × GBU-24 Paveway III
4 × GBU-27 Paveway III
4 × Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) series
4 × AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW)
Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD)
B61 nuclear bomb
B83 nuclear bomb
SUU-42A/A Flares/Infrared decoys dispenser pod and chaff pod or
AN/ALQ-131 & AN/ALQ-184 ECM pods or
LANTIRN, Lockheed Martin Sniper XR & LITENING targeting pods or
Up to 3 × 300/330/370/600 US gallon Sargent Fletcher drop tanks for ferry flight/extended range/loitering time or
UTC Aerospace DB-110 long range EO/IR sensor pod on centerline