The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, single-engined jet fighter aircraft manufactured by General Dynamics and later Lockheed Martin for the United States Air Force (USAF). Though designed as a lightweight fighter, it has evolved into a successful multirole aircraft. It is highly maneuverable and has proven its worth in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. The Falcon is the largest Western fighter program with over 4,000 aircraft built since its production in 1976. Though no longer produced for the Air Force, it is still being made for export. Its relatively low cost and high performance has made it popular in the United States and allied nations, serving a total of 24 countries. USAF pilots gave the F-16 the unofficial nickname of “Viper” in homage to the fictional Battlestar Galactica starfighter.
From the very beginning, the Falcon was intended to be a cost-effective workhorse that could perform various missions. Advanced aerospace science and proven reliable systems from other planes such as the F-15 and F-111 were integrated into the F-16. These simplified the aircraft and reduced its size, weight, purchase price and maintenance costs. Other innovations include a frameless, bubble canopy for better visibility, a side-mounted control stick to ease control while under high g-forces, and a reclined seat to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot. The F-16 has excellent acceleration, being one of the few jets with a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one. It can also be armed with a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, rockets or bombs. An all-weather capability allows it to accurately deliver ordnance during non-visual bombing conditions.