The F-16 Fighting Falcon - which took its first flight in 1974 - has been in production for many years now. Originally envisioned as an air superiority fighter, the F-16 eventually evolved into an all-weather multirole aircraft.
According to Lockheed Martin, 4,500 F-16's have rolled off the production line in multiple variants. Recently, the defense company unveiled the latest version of the aircraft dubbed F-16V (Viper).
The new V version of the venerable F-16 boasts several upgrades and improvements, including an active electronically scanned array radar otherwise known as AESA. The advanced radar will provide the F-16 with improved interoperability for fifth-generation fighters such as the F-35 and the F-22.Other changes include an upgraded mission computer and architecture along with cockpit improvements.
Currently, 26 different countries are flying the F-16 - making it the most successful fourth-generation fighter ever built. The F-16V configuration is now optional on all new production jets, and some of the elements are available for retrofit to existing aircraft. For example, Lockheed has developed a platform that allows the USAF and other countries with fleets of F-16s to add the AESA radar to existing jets.
"We believe this F-16V will satisfy our customers’ emerging requirements and prepare them to better interoperate with the 5th generation fighters, the F-35 and F-22," said George Standridge, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ vice president of business development.