F-16: The Shattered Dream
The F-16 was designed from the outset as a pure Air to Air fighter, but what eventually went into production wasn’t quite the envisioned dream.
The dream was partly from renowned aircraft designer Harry Hillaker at General Dynamics,who in the mid 1960s spent many of his spare hours designing the aircraft of his dreams – “a lightweight, high-performance jet that could fly circles around all other fighters”. He got to work with a group of people that got dubbed the Fighter Mafia on what was eventually to be to be a “best effort” technology demonstrator for the USAF.
The Fighter Mafia?
Hillaker stated there were three core members of the Fighter Mafia, namely John Boyd, Pierre Sprey and himself. They had ideas that went against the grain of the USAF upper echelons at the time and they wanted a lower cost, lightweight Air to Air fighter. 
There were other protagonists but regardless of who they were the Light Weight Fighter (LWF) would not have happened without their influence in the Pentagon.
Ex fighter pilot John Boyd who also now worked at the Pentagon had recently been applying his work on E-M theory to the design of the F-15. However he had in his mind a concept for a Light Weight Fighter (LWF) and he sat down with Hillaker and they started to put ideas together.
Much has been written about Boyd but what we can say is that he was very well respected by most for his achievements, however he upset a lot of the establishment at the time which may have ultimately gone against him. In 1975 the Air Force awarded Boyd the Dr Harold Brown award (the highest scientific achievement granted by the Air Force), with a citation stating how E-M was used in designing the F-15 and F-16.
On the opposite end of the achievement spectrum was this guy, yes the same one that you may have seen recently on RT (Russia Today) going under the title of “F-16 designer” or even “creator of the F-16” (taking credit for dead peoples work……classy Pierre). 
Pierre Sprey was at the time a civilian Defence Analyst (with no military background) at the Pentagon and his involvement in the F-16 seems to have been minimal. It consisted of collecting data on aircraft reliability, effectiveness and cost and analysing the data with Hillaker and Boyd. 
Corams Book, “Boyd” makes out the inlet in the F-16 was positioned where it was due to a suggestion by Sprey . Unsurprisingly this appears to be patently false.
Described by others who worked at the Pentagon at the time as a Luddite and a gadfly his name is regretfully part of this history.
Was the LWF to be a day time only Visual / WVR fighter?
yes and no!
The USAF design goals for the LWF demonstrators stated only clear Weather and, day conditions with capability to be upgraded later to all weather & all light conditions.
The Fighter Mafia didn’t want radars in the LWF did they?
Corams Boyd  makes out the addition of a large ground mapping radar was a change not wanted, whereas Michel III  makes out the USAF added a Pulse Doppler radar that the Fighter Mafia completely opposed.
Other available information suggests that Boyd did not want a Radar in the F-16 due to his experience of small radars in single man jets in the 1960s. A valid point at the time because they were very limited without a dedicated RIO/WSO as found in the F-4. He likely was surprised at how good the APG-66 was due to rapid advances in computing technology. 
According to Herb Hutchinson, Boyd eventually agreed that the added capability to the F-16 was cost effective and mission effective.
So the LWF was never going to get a radar or AIM-7 right?
Err false……at the point the LWF prototypes were being built (now designated YF-16), they had provisions for AIM-7 and a bigger avionics package than was specified for the LWF requirements , and this was long before the USAF got their paws on it. If the LWF concept went into production it almost certainly (politics permitting) would have had AIM-7 and an APG-66 type FCR regardless, even if the radar had only A-A modes.
In 1974 the USAF specified instructions to General Dynamics and Northrop near the end of the LWF project for the missionized USAF Air Combat Fighter they wanted. This included:
“Air-to-air armament includes the carriage of four AIM-9J/L missiles, an M61 A1 20 mm cannon with 500 rounds capacity, and Group A provisions for carriage of two radar-guided missiles (replacing two AIM-9J/L IR missiles).”
But the YF-16 had a tiny nose and no radar?
It is important to ignore what the YF-16 looked like because it was a quick build technology demonstrator. It must be clarified that one of the YF-16s actually did have a radar required for testing the Vulcan cannon. Some may be aware that the F-4A (F4H-1F) also received a complete nose job from block 3 to accommodate a larger radar.
Okay so why then did the production F-16A not carry the AIM-7 from the off?
This one is less of a mystery but has been intertwined and confused with Fighter Mafia ideas and the LWF concept.
Officially the USAF simply had no requirement for AIM-7s on the F-16A so they were never put on. General Dynamics did conduct proof of concept AIM-7 firing tests in November 1977, including conformal fuselage carriage, but no effort was made to develop this because it wasn’t required. 
Unofficially and sadly it was 100% politics. There were zero technical reasons why the production F-16A didn’t carry AIM-7 from IOC in 1980, however there was a big political reason likely involving the F-15 and sources outside of Coram do verify this:
Air Force four-star generals had ordered him not to put a Sparrow missile on the F-16 because they didn’t want it competing directly with the F-15..
This consensus also being backed up by one of the initial Viper cadre in the late 1970s:
“The lack of a radar missile capability for the Viper was pure politics. The radar was modified quite cheaply in late 70's to use the thing. Small CW antenna in the radome and a tuning doofer in the RIU, and presto!” 
Myth of the simple Fighter
Compared to the F-15 the F-16 was actually a far more technologically advanced design with far higher risk. This was down to several factors:
· The F-15 was the first fighter to be procured in years by the USAF and was very costly, so McDonnell Douglas favoured a lower risk approach. 
· To get the range and performance required for the size, the F-16 had to use a full on cutting edge Fly By Wire computer system and be longitudinally unstable. Such was the risk the design team had provisions for mounting the wing further back if the FBW system didn’t work with a penalty in range and performance degradation. 
YF-16 wins the fly off but then what?
After the fly off in 1974, the YF-16 was considered the better aircraft simply because it met the combat relevant tasks set by the USAF, whereas the YF-17 did not. Lower cost and the decision to use the F100-PW engine (also used in the F-15) no doubt also went in its favour.
Once accepted the F-16 design was then handed to the US Air Force Configuration Control Committee (CCC) led by ex fighter pilot Alton Slay. Here the LWF concept was killed and a slight redesign turned the F-16 into the “multirole” fighter the USAF wanted with an emphasis on the A-G role. 
What is clear is that they enlarged the fuselage to add more fuel (to retain the range) and increased the wing area from 280sqft to 300sqft (to retain some manoeuvrability), the horizontal tail and ventral stabilisers were also enlarged . What is less clear is the various amounts of weight that was added. 
Boyd it seems did not agree that 300sqft was a big enough increase to retain the original manoeuvrability and spent considerable effort to get it increased to 320sqft but alas failed to get this changed – he blamed the F-15 and politics as part of the USAF decision. 
A multirole F-16?
When the F-16A first rolled off the production line, despite being bigger it was actually lighter than the Prototype YF-16 used in the flyoff (which was just a quicky build tech demonstrator). 
It was however not the LWF the mafia had hoped for and was never designed for carrying loads of bombs and external ECM pods.
Hillaker stated that if he had designed the F-16 as a multirole jet as the USAF wanted to use it he would have designed it differently. The Harry Hillaker F-16 design with emphasis on A-G was the excellent if underpowered F-16XL. 
F-16XL - Fly super jet fly! (f-16.net)
Okay so was having no AIM-7 capability a problem?
F-16s would not see operational AIM-7 capability till around 1989 on the USAFs F-16A ADF . The AIM-7 was only certified on the F-16C post 1992 by General Dynamics who had to fund it themselves.
The AIM-7 was never part of the USAF F-16 plan at all and the F-16 ADF really was a one off. It seems the AIM-120 was hoped to be in service by 1985. The first "guided" F-16 AMRAAM launch took place in 1985 however operational service was delayed six or so years.
This sounds like criminal negligence on behalf of the USAF because with no AIM-7 but still a major A-A role for USAF flyers in the Cold War it didn’t sound like a great deal for the flyers. There was some saving grace however, being the 1980s there were a lot of ways around the relatively primitive radar and missile technology of the era  and the F-16 despite the enforced lower performance was still in some respects superior to the F-15 close in. .
In the 1994 William Tell Air Superiority competition both participating Air National Guard units flying F-16A ADFs finished top and wiped the floor with five regular USAF F-15C units. This was not a surprise to anyone in the F-16 community.
So what would a LWF F-16A look like if the USAF had accepted it in an alternate reality?
· Smaller with 280sqft wing area and less fuel (but similar range).
· Around 13000 lb empty weight. 
· Engine: Same F100-PW-200.
· Avionics: APG-66 with nose enlargement, RWR.
· AIM-9, AIM-7 and Cannon armament.
· Drop tanks.
Hillaker stated he thought if the F-16 had gone to production as intended then only about 300 would have been procured by the USAF………..just like the F-104.
Were the USAF right to do a half arsed redesign on it?
History would say they were. It was more useful because A-G is where most of the action has been and despite the lower A-A performance it turned out to be more than good enough in the A-A role. New F-16s still roll off the production line in 2016 (nearly 40 years of continuous production) and the F-16 is still seen as a benchmark design to compare others to, so can’t be too bad.
It wasn’t all roses though - with the “Multirole” F-16 the USAF had plans to add everything but the kitchen sink to it over time, to the inevitable point where they had structural failure at Block 30 when trying to wedge such things as LANTIRN onto it . That meant the structure had to be totally redesigned at Block 40/42 and accounts for much of the weight increase at those and later blocks due to the effort to turn it into a bomber (Switching to the F-16XL might have been less hassle after all!).
Later projects to improve performance on the production F-16 were also cancelled, notably Agile Falcon  in the late 1980s (to make the wing bigger - kinda similar to what Boyd suggested originally) and Multi Axis Thrust Vectoring (MATV)  in the early 1990s.
Getting old and fat
The production F-16 got fatter and fatter so here is a very simple chart that shows Wing loading increase over time.
And the F-16 today
The F-16E may have the highest Wing Loading on the chart but it is no doubt the best production F-16 for real combat today (before the F-16V upgrades take place).
AESA radar, sensor fusion, internal ECM suite, towed decoys, FLIR, and CFTs for extra range……..all the important parameters of a fighter today require space in the airframe……..so not completely suited to a LWF concept………..
But it was a nice dream while it lasted……………
 Interview: Harry Hillaker - Father Of The F-16 http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=135 (Accessed 2016)
 (Michel III, M.L, 2006) THE REVOLT OF THE MAJORS: HOW THE AIR FORCE CHANGED AFTER VIETNAM
 Retired General Mike Loh who worked on Alton Slays USAF CCC team:
In June 1972, the Air Force had sent Loh to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering and assigned him to the prototype office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to manage the budget, contracts, and overall engineering for the Lightweight Fighter. When the F-16 was selected, the Air Force formed a system program office at Wright-Patterson, where Loh signed on as director of projects, with the responsibility to integrate the avionics and weapons systems on the airplane. But he was in a quandary. Air Force four-star generals had ordered him not to put a Sparrow missile on the F-16 because they didn’t want it competing directly with the F-15. But they didn’t say anything about inventing a new missile.
“I pursued a lightweight radar missile very quietly, as an advanced development project, with no strings to the F-16 or any other fighter,” Loh says. “I worked quietly with missile contractors and the Air Force Development Test Center at Eglin to put together radar missile designs that could fit on Sidewinder stations. This initiative later turned into AMRAAM, the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile.”
(Bjorkman. E, 2014 ) The Outrageous adolescence of the F-16, Air and Space Magazine http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/The-Outrageous-Adolescence-of-the-F-16-241533731.html (Accessed 2015)
“The lack of a radar missile capability for the Viper was pure politics. The radar was modified quite cheaply in late 70's to use the thing. Small CW antenna in the radome and a tuning doofer in the RIU, and presto!”
Pat “Gums” McAdoo http://www.f-16.net/interviews_article28.html
Information provided by GD engineer **John G Williams
“ I will add that JB was totally against putting a radar in the Viper, as the radars he was familiar with (and that would have fit in the nose) were pretty useless and for the most part was weight he felt the F-16 could do without. I suspect he was surprised with how good the radar turned out to be (although still very weak compared to the Eagle)”. [Roscoe retired USAF Fighter Pilot]
Although the LWF requirement specified only minimal electronics , the design team recognized that an operational aircraft would probably require a heavier and more bulky avionics package. The decision was made to size the aircraft to carry heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles plus an M61 cannon, but to make provisions to allow Sparrow radar-homing missiles to be carried at a later date should this be required.
F-16 Design Origins, Code One Magazine http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=131 (Accessed 2015)
“ I was a structural engineer on the YF-16 and F-16 flight test teams, so was familiar with weights at the time. Forty years is too long to remember all the numbers, but when the F-16 was in early flight test, I did a weight comparison between the two and was very surprised to find the F-16 empty weight was less than the YF-16. So, the YF-16, designed for 6.5g at 14900 lb was heavier than the F-16, designed for 9g at 22,500 lb. Don't confuse the design weight as the actual weight, two totally different things.
Here's why the YF-16 was heavier. First, it had a much larger structural margin. meaning it was designed for 25% overload capability, because no 150% static test was performed. Second, it was not a refined structural design, either design loads or stress analysis. If there was any doubt about load or stress, it was made a little heavier. Third, manufacturing processes were not refined. It was built as cheaply as possible.
Remarkable, when you consider the added g and design weight, larger wing, horizontal tail, and ventral fins, and longer fuselage of the F-16, in addition to an 8,000 hour service life.” [John G Williams**]
(Coram. R, 2004 ) Boyd: the Fighter Pilot that changed the art of war
Some of these gems are captured around 36:03 on this video.
(Coram. R, 2004 ) Boyd: the Fighter Pilot that changed the art of war p246.
Source  (Michel III) claims 2 tons (4000 lbs) and source  (Coram) claims 3000 lbs.
Simply using the same wingloading value as Boyd wanted at 320sqft but for a 280sqft design gives around 13000 lbs so may as well go with that.
F-16A ADF http://www.f-16.net/f-16_versions_article14.html
Agile Falcon http://www.f-16.net/f-16_versions_article21.html
(Camm F) The F-16 Multinational Staged Improvement, RAND N3619.
F-16 MATV http://www.f-16.net/f-16_versions_article19.html (Accessed 2016)
Thrust Vectoring in the real world, Code 1 Magazine http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=163 (Accessed 2016)
Egyptian Block 32 with AIM-7 http://www.f-16.net/f-16_users_article4.html (Accessed 2016)
Note: this is not for certain because according to General Dynamics (Lockheed Martin) the AIM-7 was only certified on the F-16CD in 1989.
“ I am not sure where the false story of no radar on the YF-16 started, but I guarantee you it was there. It was not a radar like you might expect, with a scanning antenna inside the radome and a glowing, flickering screen in the cockpit, but it was a radar nonetheless. The function of the radar was to provide range-only information for the gun sight. Although I'm not certain, I seem to recall only one of the airplanes had a gun, as a cost saving measure. If so, only one airplane would have had the radar system.” [John G Williams**]
“Confirming that only the second prototype had a ranging radar installed, the Solid State Range-Only Radar (SSR-1) developed at General Electric, AESD, Utica, New York. “ [http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA041197 ]
http://www.f-16.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=28763&p=312806#p312806 (Accessed 2016)
The General Dynamics team also studied several different air intake configurations before settling on the final air intake located underneath the nose. The ventral location for the intake was chosen to minimize the sensitivity of airflow into the engine to high angles of attack. At a 20-degree AoA, the local flow direction to a ventral intake was only ten degrees below datum, as compared to 35 degrees in the case of side-mounted inlets.
The design team had actually started with a chin-mounted Crusader-type intake, but it was gradually pushed further and further back to save weight until the process finally had to be halted to keep the intake ahead of the nosewheel. There are some disadvantages to such an air intake location --- the mounting of the inlet underneath the fuselage is potentially dangerous to ground personnel and appears at first sight to invite foreign object damage (FOD) to the engine by the ingestion of stones and other runway debris into the intake. However, it avoids the gun gas ingestion problem, and since the nosewheel is further back, it avoids nosewheel-induced FOD. In order to save weight and complexity, the geometry of the intake was fixed.
F-16 LWF http://www.f-16.net/f-16_versions_article4.html (Accessed 2016)
(Anderegg C.R, ) SIERRA HOTEL FLYING AIR FORCE FIGHTERS IN THE DECADE AFTER VIETNAM, Chapter 17
“Throughout the book I have attributed credit where it is due. However, many statements in the book are my own. For example, in the last chapter I write that the F–16 is a better day, visual dogfighter than the F–15. F–15 pilots who read that statement will howl with anger. Sorry, Eagle pilots, but I flew the F–15 for over ten years, and that’s the way I see it.”
(Anderegg C.R, ) SIERRA HOTEL FLYING AIR FORCE FIGHTERS IN THE DECADE AFTER VIETNAM
“If my memory serves me right, our pair won the 2v2 training session, but in a 1 v1 scenario, the Baz was no match for the Netz. The latter jet has to be the worlds best WVR fighter platform.“
[baz [F-15] pilot Yorem Peled ] (Aloni, S, 2006) IDF/AF Israeli F-15 Eagle units in Combat, Osprey
“There was a total re-engineering of block 40 structure following a static test failure of a block 30 airframe. Test failure was at 137% of limit load, well short of the 150% requirement. Patches applied to block 30 airplanes allowed those airplanes to continue flying. Airplane weight had increased with each block from block 1 on and it finally caught up with the true capability. So Block 40 was essentially a new structure, much stronger than previous blocks. The block 40 LANTIRN installation was also a big driver in redesign because it drove the CG forward. That shift required more down tail trim load, increasing fuselage, tail, and wing loads.
So block 25 structure is not close to the block 40 or 50 structure in static or durability capability.” [John G Williams**]
http://www.f-16.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=27459&p=299748#p299748 (Accessed 2016)
F-4A http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_fighters/f4_2.html (Accessed 2016)
the Configuration Control Committee ordered it equipped with a small but highly capable pulse Doppler radar, something the Critics had adamantly opposed. (Michel III, M.L, 2006) THE REVOLT OF THE MAJORS: HOW THE AIR FORCE CHANGED AFTER VIETNAM
Retired General Mike Loh:
Loh says that each Fighter Mafia member had a different agenda. “Boyd was unquestionably the leader and dominated the crusade. His motivation was to vindicate his EM theory, and he wasn’t concerned about any mission beyond close-in air-to-air combat. He spent hours debating anyone who challenged his views.”
On the other hand, General Dynamics [Author: Pentagon not GD! ] system analyst Pierre Sprey “was a true Luddite, opposed to any advanced technology,” says Loh. “His agenda was to produce the cheapest fighter for daytime air combat in Europe against Warsaw Pact forces.”
(Bjorkman. E, 2014 ) The Outrageous adolescence of the F-16, Air and Space Magazine http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/The-Outrageous-Adolescence-of-the-F-16-241533731.html (Accessed 2015)
**John G Williams was a structural flight test engineer at General Dynamics, and worked on programs including the YF-16, F-16, F-16XL and F-2A.
The F-16XL was a design named after………..a golf ball………..that being the Top Flite XL for any who ever played Golf. Harry Hillaker was also a golfer….one with a problem in that the USAF wanted to use his A-A fighter (F-16A) in an A-G role, hanging lots of pods and bombs off it, which was just not on!
So, what did he do and why?
He and his design team at General Dynamics redesigned the F-16 to be more suitable to an A-G role using such concepts as high internal fuel loads and conformal carriage of weapons to get that nasty drag and radar cross section right down. In fact when he first started going to the Air Force with plans for the XL they were so enthusiastic about it they apparently accused him of holding the design back so that they (General Dynamics) could sell the F-16 twice.
Goals to improve operational effectiveness included:
• Improve the A-G role without degrading A-A capability.
• Increased survivability, though increased speed, manoeuvrability and low radar cross section.
The idea was to replace the F-16 and remain a lower cost fighter to the high cost F-15.
So, some concept demonstrators were knocked together for testing?
Yes, two of the Full Scale Development (Block Zero) F-16s were converted by doing such things as stretching their fuselages, removing the ventral strakes and gluing on some new cranked delta wings or double deltas. F-16XL-1 was 75-749 and had the F100-PW-200 engine, and F-16XL-2 was 75-747 which started life as single seater but was converted to the XL as a duel seater with the higher thrust F110-GE-100 engine.
Were the goals met?
Most of them, the low drag weapons carriage and lots of internal fuel meant vastly improved range over the F-16A (that already had comparative long legs), carried more A-G weapons, with ability to lug along 6 x A-A missiles on top. High AoA handling and instantaneous turn was improved. Cruise speed was also improved.
This is a part of a 1989 write up by General Dynamics test pilot Joe Bill Dryden:
Pitch rate in all configurations was as good as to slightly better than a Block 10 A model (No slouch in itself) and the roll response was better. On several occasions, during demonstrations with VIPs, I had to remind them that we had 12 MK82s on the airplane! They would frequently forget because of the ease with which the airplane would attain high airspeed…….How high an airspeed? Mull this over for a while, you put 6 MK82s on your little airplane, plus tanks and try to get close to my radius. ill put 12 x MK82s on board with no tanks, still go further than you can and for the same fuel flow by going 60 to 80 knots faster than you. I risk going in to the classified arena, but with the right fuses on the bombs you could get well on the plus side of the Mach, all the while enjoying a much better ride.
Is there a but here?
Yes using the F100-PW-200 engine from the F-16A, it was a tad underpowered, more F-14A than F-16A………..so take off requirements were nowhere near and some of it’s A-A capability was a bit degraded you could say.
Perhaps an example from one of the Red Eagles pilots who flew some BFM against it in a MiG-21F-13:
[Red Eagle Matheny flying the MiG] “We briefed each other about our airplanes and they [Edwards F-16XL pilots] turned to me and said they would be all over me – they had a roll rate of 800 degrees per second, which was the fastest in the inventory. – I got to thinking about that and it turned out the roll rate meant nothing. The problem with that airplane[F-16XL] was that it was a big bleeder: it just bled speed like nothing else when forced to turn hard – I ate them alive in the MiG-21. The F-15E on the other hand was a pretty good performer – they resisted the urge to get slow and jump in a phone booth with a MiG. They flew around the ranges at low level trying to burn off all this gas and he still needed to burn off more when we joined up on each other”.
Could they not have improved that somewhere?
Potentially, the second F-16XL had higher thrust F110-GE-100 engine but unfortunately the majority of the evaluation data and the Dual Role Fighter evaluation was done with the lesser thrusted F-100-PW-200. In fact Harry Hillaker stated they were not allowed to use the GE engine in the evaluation (see below) for whatever reason. NASA later got it supercruising with a F-100-GE-129 (29,500 lbs class), and by the late 1990s both General Electric and Pratt & Whitney offered suitable engines with a potential max thrust class to 36,000lbs and 37,000 lbs respectively.
Was there some competition against the F-15 at some point?
There was a USAF competitive evaluation originally called the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) competition, which in 1981 was renamed to became the Dual Role Fighter (DRF) competition. Technically not really a competition because both were evaluated and flight tested to totally different sets of conditions and to different flight test plans it seems.
Why did the USAF run this evaluation?
It was felt by some in the USAF the F-111F was becoming a bit outdated and instead of just an upgrade they wanted something that had A-A capability and a good precision night strike role against the Soviet masses.
So, they chose two short assed fighters to replace the F-111?
Pretty much – they would both get LANTIRN eventually and have a good A-A capability but still lacking in range.
Surely the F-16 was cheaper was it not?
On unit cost and cost per flight hour yes – but the USAF considered the F-16XL a radical new airframe compared to the F-15E, which was considered just a modification, so the USAF estimated research and development cost would be higher for the F-16XL.
Okay but in the end the F-15 was chosen as the winner and that was that.
No – following the DRF decision that the F-15E was going into production in February 1984, the USAF announced its intention to put the Single seat F-16XL into production anyway with the designation F-16F. So, work began on the F-16F design concept and Full Scale development into 1985.
So where is it then?
The program was terminated in late 1985 by the USAF it later appears there was no budget for every program out there such as the ATF (F-22) and black projects such as F-117 that were unknowns to most who ran the DRF so sadly the F-16F had to take the chop - basically lack of funding finally killed it off.
End of the F-16XL – not quite
The two F-16XLs were given to NASA in the late 1980s for various types of flight testing and we can thank them for taking some time to research into the history of the F-16XL and providing useful information on it.
But there’s more
An interesting rebuttal, ten years after the DRF, written by Harry Hillaker in response to an article in Aerotech News and Review which perhaps gives a passionate and better insight into how farcical some of these things can be:
As the recognized “Father of the F-16,” and Chief Project Engineer during the concept formulation and preliminary design phases of the F-16XL and Vice President and Deputy Program Director during the prototype phase, the article was of considerable interest to me. The disappointment was that only one side of the issue was presented, a highly biased, self-interest input that does not adequately, nor accurately, present the real story of the selection of the F-15E.
First, it should be understood that we (General Dynamics) did not initiate the F-16XL as a competitor to the F-15E, then identified as the F-15 Strike Eagle. We stated as unequivocally as possible to the Air Force, that the Dual-Role mission should be given to the F-15: that the F-15 should complement the F-16 in ground strike missions in the same manner that the F-16 complements the F-15 in air-air missions. A fundamental tenet of the F-16, from its inception, has been as an air-air complement to the F-15—no radar missile capability, no M=2.0+ capability, no standoff capability: a multi-mission fighter whose primary mission was air-surface with backup air-air capability.
We proposed the F-16XL as a logical enhancement of its air-to-surface capabilities. The F-16C represented a progressive systems enhancement and the XL would be an airframe enhancement optimized more to its air-surface mission—lower weapons carriage drag and minimum dependence on external fuel tanks.
The statement that “a prototype version of the F-15E decisively beat an F-16 variant called the F-16XL,” is misinformation. I don’t know what was meant by “beat,” it is patently true that McDonnell-Douglas clearly won what was called a “competition.” However, by the Air Force’s own definition, it was, in reality, an evaluation to determine which airplane would be better suited to the dual-role mission. In a formal competition, each party is evaluated against a common set of requirements and conditions. Such was not the case for the dual-role fighter. The F-15 Strike Eagle and the F-16XL were evaluated and flight tested to different sets of conditions and to different test plans—no common basis for evaluation existed.
The F-15 had only one clear advantage in the evaluation—a “paper” advantage. The weapon loading for one of the missions used in the evaluation precluded the use of external fuel tanks on the F-16XL; the F-15 could carry that particular weapon loading and still carry external fuel tanks, the F-16XL could not. That one mission was the only place the F-15 had a clear advantage. (It should be noted that a fundamental design feature of the XL was the elimination of external fuel tanks with their attendant restrictions on flight limits and their weight and drag penalty.)
Further, the Air Force would not allow us to use the GE F110 engine in our proposal even though the No. 2 XL, the 2-place version, was powered by a F110 engine and provided better performance than the P&W F100 engine. And although you would expect the F-16’s clear advantage to be cost, the Air Force treated the F-15E as a simple modification to a planned production buy and the F-16XL as a totally new buy. Neither airplane used in the flight test evaluation was a “prototype” of a dual-role fighter. The F-15 was closer systems and cockpit-wise than the F-16XL and the F-16XL was closer, much closer, airframe-wise.
The F-16XLs were designed to, and flew, at their maximum design gross weight of 48,000 pounds, whereas the F-15, more than once, blew its tires while taxiing at 73,000 pounds, well below its maximum design gross weight [which was 81,000 pounds], a condition not demonstrated in the flight test program.
In a meeting that I attended with General Creech, then TAC CINC [Commander-in-Chief], the general stated that either air¬plane was fully satisfactory. When asked why he and his staff only mentioned the F-15 (never the F-16XL) in any dual-role fighter statement or discussion, he gave a reply that was impossible to refute, “We have to do that because the F-16 has a heart and soul of its own and we have to sell the F-15.” I’ll have to admit that I sat mute upon hearing that statement because there was no possible retort.
We had no allusions as to what the outcome of the Dual-role fighter “competition” would be and debated whether to even respond to the request for information. We did submit, knowing full well that it was a lost cause and that to not submit would be an affront to the Air Force who badly needed the appearance of a competition to justify continued procurement of the F-15—they had patently been unable to sell the F-15 Strike Eagle for five years. As is the case with too much in our culture today, the Air Force was more interested in style, in appearances, than in substance.
Even today, I feel that giving the F-15 a precision air-surface capability was proper and badly needed. What continues to disturb me is that the F-16XL had to be a pawn in that decision and had to be so badly denigrated to justify the decision—a selection that could have been made on its own merits.
The concept of retaining performance with a usable Air to Ground loadout lives on today in the form of the F-35 Lightning II.......which comes with a 43,000 lbs thrust class engine to start with.
General Dynamics F-16XL (F2275)
Page 267 Red Eagles (Davies.S), Osprey publishing 2008 - Matheny flew the MiG-21F-13 against the F-16XL and F-15E concept demonstrators.
Elegance in Flight (Piccirillo.AC), 2014 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – Chapter 7: The Dual Role Fighter competition.
Code One Magazine, July 1989 (General Dynamics) Vol 4 No 2 -The F-16XL flies again
Code One Magazine, July 1991 (General Dynamics) Vol 6 No 2 – Interview with Harry Hillaker
1999 Aviationweek online: http://aviationweek.com/awin/pws-229a-edging-close-500-hours
Pratt&Whitney's self-funded F100-PW-229A - a re-fanned F100 fighter engine that can produce as much as 37,150 lbst. - is edging close to 500 total hours of run time
1998 General Electric online: http://www.geaviation.com/press/military/military_19980907.html
Designated the F110-GE-129 EFE (Enhanced Fighter Engine), the engine will be qualified at 34,000 pounds of thrust and offered initially at a thrust rating of 32,000 pounds, with demonstrated growth capability to 36,000 pounds.
View File Northrop's F-5F Ejection Seat
Northrop's F-5F Ejection Seat v1.00 (2018.07.28)
Northrop's F-5F ejection seat with front and rear seats for finer details
good flight !
Taylor Gavin 2018.07.28
Submitter Gavin1976 Submitted 07/28/2018 Category Pilot Mods
Northrop's F-5F Ejection Seat v1.00 (2018.07.28)
Northrop's F-5F ejection seat with front and rear seats for finer details
good flight !
Taylor Gavin 2018.07.28
In part 2 we continue to look at the Northrop F-20A Tigershark and how its story intertwines with other aircraft programs of the 1980s.
Another F-20 is flown
The second Pre-production F-20 (82-0063 / GI1001) was flown in August 1983. This configuration included a bigger radome, enlarged canopy, and an up-rated 17,000 lb thrust F404 engine. (Note: The first pre-production jet mentioned in part 1 (82-0062) also received the 17,000 lb thrust engine in 1983.)
Also note: “Pre-production” means that Northrop was not going through a Prototype or Full Scale Development (FSD) phase so these aircraft were actually intended to be sold with the F-20 upgrades and changes.
F-20 #2 (Northrop Grumman)
Let’s get some people on board to really help sell it (F-20 Tigershark Vs F-15)
You remember the Light Weight Fighter Mafia right – well they had mostly since left the Pentagon and had reformed as the err “Reformers” (or “Critics” to the USAF), which included John Boyd, Ex USAF Col Everest Riccioni, Pierre Sprey, Chuck Spinney and James Fallows.
James Fallows was Washington editor for The Atlantic Monthly.( Described as an anti-military liberal journalist) Fallows had cottoned onto the Reformers in 1979 when researching ideas on how to cut military budgets and had interviewed John Boyd who was still smarting over what was done to the F-16. Fallows was able to gain publicity for the Reformers and their ideas, for example through the best-selling book National Defense in 1981.
The Reformers had jumped on the AIMVAL/ACEVAL (Air Intercept Missile Evaluation / Air Combat Evaluation) results in the late 1970s where Red force F-5s had faced off against a blue force of F-15 and F-14s, and the book National Defense was the perfect platform to spin the results. The book took choice cuts from the results carefully omitting information that didn’t fit their agenda and the press went for it, with the Chicago Tribune printing that the F-15 had been “fought to all but a draw” by the F-5 and CBS calling the F-15 a “turkey”.
In National Defense reformer Everest Riccioni claimed F-15s couldn’t fly many sorties and so the Air Force actually had a “Phantom fleet”. He then claimed the Air Force could buy 1000 advanced F-5s (The F-20) for the cost of 250 F-15s and generate 10 times more sorties in wartime (2500 v 250). Did I mention that Northrop had hired Everest Riccioni and Pierre Sprey at the time and Riccioni was working on the F-20 program.
In reality what had happened in AIMVAL/ACEVAL was that tactics used were not entirely realistic and a lot of it was skewed in favour of the F-5. Despite this the F-15 still had a 2.5 Kill ratio in favour and the AIM-7 (another Reformers target) was responsible of the majority of the simulated kills.
From the USAF point of view neither Pierre Sprey or Everest Riccioni had any credibility compared to John Boyd (who had taken a back seat at this stage) and the scraping nails account of this episode suggests this did more harm than good to the F-20 program regarding US support.
F-15C - Can you say “it’s a Turkey” in a Pierre Sprey accent? (Airliners.net)
What else could have upset the USAF
Although a typical sales tactic, Northrop had no real data to back up any claims they were making for the F-20 such as cost, reliability and sortie rate. For example, as RAND point out………. Northrop claims of reliability on the F-20 were pretty much irrelevant. Only 1500 flights in a “test” environment with hand-picked engineers cannot be compared to years of “operational” experience the F-16 had around the world maintained by guys with varied experience in different environments.
True cost and sortie rate could never be known as none ever went operational. Some of Northrop’s claims also seemed to stay the same despite airframe and avionics changes that would increase cost.
F-20 goes to Top Gun
Back in the mid-1970s the USAF were allocated F-5s that never made it to South Vietnam that were wanted because they were very similar in performance and some other aspects to the MiG-21 and so were perfect to use as aggressors at Red Flag.
Naturally in 1984 when the US Navy wanted a MiG-29 simulator / aggressor for Top Gun, Northrop seeing a way in offered the F-20A at a low price with its promise of lower operating costs. Senator Pete Wilson had managed to get money through congress in the hope the F-20 was selected.
General Dynamics also offered the F-16N (F-16C Block 30 with gun replaced by ballast) for a very low £11m each which was the same unit price as the F-20. The USN went with the F-16 which they believed to be a better simulator for 4th Gen threats…and it probably was being a bit larger with superior performance, also high-tech avionics were not required, in fact they stuck in the basic APG-66 radar from the A model.
The USN literally got steal of the century on unit cost here…………. or they would have done if someone at the Navy hadn’t specified titanium wing attachment brackets without testing them (another story).
F-16N (Lockheed Martin)
Another F-20A flies
The third pre-production F-20 (82-0064 / GI1002) first flew on May 12 1984 and was similar to 82-0063 / GI1001 in configuration it seems.
F-20 Pre-production figures from Flight Manual
F-20 #3 (Northrop Grumman)
Tragedy befalls Northrop and the program
On the 10th October 1984 the first pre-production F-20 (82-0062) crashed at Suwon Air Base in Korea killing pilot Darrell Cornell.
Cornell had apparently succumbed to G-LOC after a 9G pull up as part of practicing an established demonstration routine with the aircraft appearing unresponsive after the maneuver.
The Northrop F-18L and McAir
All this time Northrop had been having a handbag face slapping argument with McDonnell Douglas (McAir). In October 1979, Northrop filled a $700 million antitrust suit against McAir.
Northrop had developed the YF-17 for the Light Weight Fighter (LWF) competition in 1974 and this was later developed into the FA-18 carrier-based fighter under some kind of teaming agreement. Under this agreement McAir as prime contractor would build 60% of the carrier capable FA-18 and Northrop would build 40%. For the land-based F-18L Northrop were prime contractor building 60% and McAir building 40%.
The Northrop F-18L was what might have been if the YF-17 had won in 74. Without all the extra weight needed for carrier ops and a totally different 9G structure it was over 2500 lbs lighter with a top end of M2.0 and was initially specified with a hard wing losing 3000 lbs of fuel reducing its range.
Northrop basically had accused McAir of trying to monopolize the business and basically interfering with the F-18Ls chances of success in the export market by launching active sales efforts for the FA-18 to potential customers when they showed interest in the F-18L. Another suit also claimed McAir was unfairly using Northrop technology from the F-18L to sell its own FA-18.
McAir then counter-sued against Northrop, claiming that the Northrop F-20 avionics had been taken from the McAir FA-18…….
The suit was finally settled by April 1985……. which meant McDonnell Douglas would pay Northrop $50 million and become the prime/sole contractor for all FA-18s including export sales, and thus the F-18L was never heard from again…………..
The F-18L - another unloved Light Weight Fighter devoid of orders (Northrop Grumman)
F-16C v F-20A merge head on
In April 1985 to try and finally get some sales from the US Government, Northrop offered 396 F-20s to replace current F-16C production at a fixed price of $15 million, undercutting the F-16C fixed price of $18 million. General Dynamics hit back with a 720-plane proposal for stripped down F-16s at $13.5 million each with cheaper avionics. These were apparently jokingly referred to as the “F-16C-minus”. This clearly came to nothing.
F-20 #3 again (Northrop Grumman)
On the 14th May 1985 at Goose Bay, Canada the second pre-production F-20 (82-0063 / GI1001) crashed in a similar manner to the first killing Dave Barnes. Barnes was incapacitated during or after a 9G pull up as part of the demonstration being practised for the Paris air show. With no flight recorder on board the enquiry attributed this again to G-LOC and possibly a result of reduced G tolerance after flying four high G demonstration flights that day.
The Air Defense Fighter (ADF) competition
In 1986 the US Air Force (as ordered by Congress) held a competition for 270 mainland Interceptors for the defense of the Continental US. Both the F-20 and F-16 were contenders, and good point defense fighters despite the reservations of some. Sadly, again the F-20 was not favoured for a few reasons:
The F-20 was not in production so the costs couldn’t be guaranteed The cost to operate and maintain it would be higher than Northrop had claimed.
In the end neither the General Dynamics or the Northrop proposal were selected by the Air Force, instead it was decided to take 270 F-16A Block 15s in service from the Air National Guard (ANG) and modify them to an ADF and OCU (Operational Capability Upgrade) standard, with:
A higher thrust F100-PW-220 engine Capability to use bigger 600 US Gal drop tanks An Advanced IFF interrogator An upgraded APG-66 (V) 1 radar with increased range, small target capability and the capability to fire AIM-120 and AIM-7.
F-16 A Air Defense Fighters (USAF)
Making the F-20 better (The fourth Pre-production jet)
Interestingly by the 1986 ADF competition there had been changes to the F-20 to increase range and deal with carriage of AIM-7s with proposals to:
Increase internal fuel to 5050 lbs by replacing the fuselage bladder with integral fuel tanks. Increase external drop tank size. Increase thrust of the F404 to 18000 lbs to offset the extra weight and drag. New Electromagnetic Maneuvering flaps. Fly By Wire control system with backup Hydromechanical controls (similar to FA-18) Northrop & GE were also working on an upgraded APG-67 radar with enhanced range. This was proposed by putting a bigger antenna on it and moving it back in the nose. Luckily, they also intended to replace the obsolete M39s with a single modern gun to make some room for the radar move. This is said to have been planned for the fourth Pre-Production aircraft (82-0065/ GI1003) but was only 25% compete when cancelled. This remained a paper airplane but nonetheless a valiant effort to reduce some of the performance deficiencies.
Of course, the glaring problem here is that by making these changes the cost and complexity increases, reducing its advertised selling points and ending up with a jet that offers nothing significant over the F-16 and FA-18…………and unfortunately the US was still not interested in buying it.
Northrop closed the F-20 program at the end of 1986 at the cost of around $1.2 billion……… it just was not meant to be with everything against it. However, despite the loss Northrop were still doing okay out of the FA-18, ATF (YF-23) and B-2 programs at that time. No conciliation to them but perhaps an example of how competition can sometimes benefit US services by keeping cost down.
Summary of the F-5G/F-20A Pre-Production Aircraft
F-20A on Display at the California Science Center https://californiasciencecenter.org/exhibits/air-space/air-aircraft/f-20-tigershark
F-20A Utility Flight Manual (NTM 1F-20A-1) for GI1001 & GI1002, Jan 1984 (Northrop)
Northrop F-5G/F20A Tigershark (Baugher J ) 2000 online at http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_fighters/f5_51.html
A Case study of the F-20 Tigershark (Martin, Schmidt) 1987, RAND Corporation
The Reformers (Correll JT), Feb 2008 Air Force Magazine. P40-44
The Revolt of the Majors How the Air Force changed after Vietnam (Michell III, ML) Auburn University
Sierra Hotel: Flying Air Force fighters in the decade after Vietnam. (Anderegg CR) 2001 Air Force History and Museums Program
Boyd (Coram R) 2002, Back Bay Books
F-20A Tigershark (Wade, M) 2007 online at http://www.thecid.com/f20a/index.html
F-16.net online at http://www.f-16.net/
Code One Magazine (General Dynamics)
Northrop F-18L (Baugher J), 2000 online at http://www.joebaugher.com/navy_fighters/f18_9.html
Huge Lawsuit settled, ( AP News archive) 1985, online at http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1985/Huge-Lawsuit-Settled/id-cca766d9766ec7f4d1aa29c5ca5db7cb
The Land Based F-18L, Flight International December 1978 p2034-2035
Title Photos for Part 1 and Part 2 from Northrop Grumman