About This File
'What if' F/A-16C Blk 30/32 CAS Vipers
In the 1980's, the USAF started setting aside F-16s for the planned A-16 modification, a dedicated CAS version. In 1989, the designation block 60 was reserved for the A-16. The A-16 Block 60 was to be equipped with a 30 mm cannon. This project failed because the 30 mm gun would heat up and singe the inner components of the left fuselage.
The Block 60 did not go into production and the A-16 became wrapped up in the debate about close CAS. The supporters of the A-16 project wanted the USAF to replace its A-10A Thunderbolt with A-16's, arguing that the A-10 was too slow to survive above a high-tech battlefield. Detractors argued that the A-16 had insufficient range and load-carrying capability to make an effective attack aircraft, and, in addition, it would be too vulnerable to enemy anti-aircraft fire.
However the USAF was ordered to retain two wings of A-10 aircraft for the CAS mission. No order for the A-16 was ever placed.
When the USAF was forced to opt for the A-10 instead of the A-16, the decision was made to retrofit up to 400 existing Block30/32 F-16C/D's with new equipment to perform the CAS and BAI (Battlefield Air Interdiction) missions, effectively killing the A-16 program. Modifications would include a GPS, Digital Terrain System, system hardening, modular mission computer, and an Automatic Target Handoff System.
A prototype Block 30 was based at Shaw AFB and went through numerous physical adjustments. Official designation, was to be F/A-16. In January 1992, this plan too was abandoned in favor of using LANTIRN Block40/42 F-16C/D's.
The USAF was reluctant to let the idea of a dedicated CAS F-16 go, and planned to replace its A-10's with F-16s fitted with a version of the Warthog's Avenger cannon. In November 1988, the 174th TFW New York ANG transited from the A-10A to the F-16A/B block 10, becoming the first unit to operate the F-16 in a CAS support role.
During Desert Storm, their F-16A/B aircraft were equipped with the GPU-5/A Pave Claw pod on the centerline station.
If the tests were successful, there were plans for a fleet of F/A-16C's with the same armament. To demonstrate the concept, the AF installed Pave Penny avionics, 30mm gun pods and European One paint jobs on 7 F-16C's. A single F-16D was given similar treatment with a Falcon Eye system as well. These aircraft flew from Nellis with the 'WA' tailcode.
The F-16s from the 174th were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm, but the project proved to be a miserable failure. Precision aiming was impossible for several reasons:
• The pylon mount isn't as steady as the A-10's rigid mounting;
• The F-16 flies much faster than an A-10, giving the pilots too little time approaching the target;
• Firing the gun shook the aircraft harshly and made it impossible to control;
• Essential CCIP (continuously computed impact point) software was unavailable.
Pilots ended up using the gun as an area effect weapon, spraying multiple targets with ammunition, producing an effect rather like a cluster bomb. It took only a couple of days of this before they gave up, unbolted the gun pods, and went back to dropping cluster bombs.
And so the F/A-16C plan was quietly forgotten....
BUT...... What if the project was a success?
And so I give you the F/A-16C Blk 30/32 CAS Viper:
3 separate aircraft:
- F/A-16C Block 30 1986- 1993 (1986 Service date makes it NATO Fighters 5 compatible, 1991 would be more realistic.)
- F/A-16C Block 32 1993- 2003
- F/A-16CM Block 30 2003+
Unique CAS loadouts including the Pave Claw 30mm gun pods. There are heaps of extra loadouts if you have a look with the mission editor.
All F/A-16C have the Falcon Eye FLIR pod on the nose in front of the canopy. It was slaved to the pilot’s helmet which had a helmet mounted display. Basically anywhere the pilot looked at night he would see the world in infrared. It was also the West’s first HMD with targeting information, weapons cueing, navigation and terrain avoidance ques.
There are Euro-one style skins for the early F/A-16C, the latter blocks two have a mix of normal F-16 camo skins and a lighter ghost grey style like on the A-10.
Drop into your C:\Users\xxxxxx\Saved Games\ThirdWire\StrikeFighters XXXXX
Included in the folder 'NATO Fighters 5' is a modified 1986 Red Storm NATO Fighters campaign that includes the F/A-16. It will show up as an extra campaign and not affect any of the NATO Fighters 5 campaigns.
- The Viper Team for their stunning viper packs.
- Ravenclaw_007 for his new weapon packs.
- Migbuster fot the F-16C skin templates.
- Nato Fighters Team.
Combat Ace fair use agreement applies.