Defense Issues

Military and general security

F-16 new build proposal

Posted by Picard578 on December 15, 2014

Introduction

While I have proposed design of a fighter aircraft that would be superior to any existing or projected fighter aircraft in the world, USAF is unlikely to ever accept a proposal that uses so much of the non-US technology (that being said, in my NATO air forces proposal a CAS aircraft is mostly based on US technology). Further, it would take at least 3-4 years to put into production – and considering the bureocratic nature of modern design projects and lack of external pressure, more likely timeframe is 15-20 years.

New F-16 would be based on the F-16A, but with major modifications.

F-16A data

Length: 15,06 m

Wing span: 9,96 m

Height: 4,88 m

Wing area: 27,87 m2

Turn rates:

12-14 deg/s sustained
Armament:

1 M61A1 with 511 rounds (511 rounds 134 kg)

Weight:

7 076 kg empty

9 569 kg with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM, gun ammo

11 149 kg AtA takeoff weight

Wing loading

343,3 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM, gun ammo

400 kg/m2 AtA takeoff

Thrust-to-Weight ratio (10.809 kgf)

1,13 combat

0,97 AtA takeoff

Fuel fraction:

0,31 (7076 kg empty, 3160 kg fuel)

Proposed modifications

Sensors:

  • since the F-16 does not have an IRST, a Skyward IRST should be added so as to allow the completely passive search, track and targeting. Weight gain: 30 kg sensor head, 25 kg processing unit = 55 kg
  • AN/APG-66 will be removed and nose redesigned for better high AoA performance. Weight loss: ~120 kg
  • MAW-300 IR MAWS will be added. Weight gain: 8,8 kg
  • RWS-300 RWR will replace AN/ALR-69 RWR. Weight gain: 8 kg – 19 kg = -11 kg (11 kg weight loss)
  • EW system controller unit will be replaced with EWC-300. Weight gain: 8 kg – ? kg = <8 kg

Weapons:

  • due to unsuitability of Gattling guns for aerial combat, M61 will be replaced with BK-27. Weight loss: 12 kg
  • 511 20 mm rounds weight 134 kg while 280 27 mm rounds weight 144 kg. Weight gain: 10 kg

Engine:

  • F-100-PW-229 turbofan will be used instead of F100-PW-200. Thrust: 8.074 kgf dry, 13.226 kgf wet. Weight gain: 0 kg.

F-16NG data

Length: 15,06 m

Wing span: 9,96 m

Height: 4,88 m

Wing area: 27,87 m2

Armament:

1 BK-27 with 280 rounds

8 hardpoints

Weight:

7.000 kg empty

9.503 kg with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM, gun ammo

11.083 kg AtA takeoff weight

Wing loading

341 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM, gun ammo

398 kg/m2 AtA takeoff

Thrust-to-Weight ratio (13.227 kgf)

1,39 combat

1,19 AtA takeoff

Fuel fraction:

0,31 (7.000 kg empty, 3.160 kg fuel)

Comparision with the FLX

Compared to the FLX, it is 29% heavier in terms of empty weight and has 13% higher combat weight, which will result in greater inertia. Its higher wing loading and usage of tailed delta configuration instead of FLXs close-coupled canard delta also reduces instantaneous turn rate, and leads to higher drag during level flight. F-16 could cruise at Mach 1,1 with 2 wingtip missiles; if the version in question was A, then the NG could potentially cruise at up to Mach 1,3 with 2 wingtip missiles or Mach 1,2 with 6 missiles, both inferior to the FLXs Mach 1,5 with 8 missiles, showing inferior thrust-to-drag ratio despite superior thrust-to-weight ratio (due to interference drag caused by horizontal tail, lower wing sweep, higher level flight AoA due to higher wing loading, higher trim drag due to lack of close coupled canard and higher skin drag). Its drag during turn will also be higher since it does not have benefit of close-coupled canards while having higher wing loading (341 vs 259,4 kg/m2 at combat weight), though the difference is somewhat reduced by the F-16s lower span loading (954,1 vs 988,8 kg/m at combat weight).

It should be noted that with both aircraft, wing loading itself is not the best indicator. F-16s tail produces lift during sustained turn, adding 60 ft2 / 5,57 m2, but retracts from lift while pitching aircraft up. This means that effective wing loading is 426,14 kg/m2 during instantaneous and 284,18 kg/m2 during sustained turn. FLXs canards on the other hand have area of 1,01 m2 and increase maximum wing lift by 10-30% over what can be gained from the wing itself, as well as providing additional lift during pitch-up but settling into a neutral position (where they provide no up- or down- -force) during sustained turn. Since it is unlikely that the wing will have experienced a major stall during sustained turn regardless of presence of canards, FLXs effective wing area is 36,65-43,13 m2 during instantaneous turn and 32,4 m2 during sustained turn, leading to wing loading of >190-229 kg/m2 during instantaneous and 259,4 kg/m2 during sustained turn. While both the F-16 and (likely) the FLX achieve maximum lift at 32* degrees AoA, standard F-16s are incapable of reaching that angle of attack due to insufficient directional stability and tendency to pitch up at high angles of attack (caused by widening of the nose in order to accept larger multipurpose radar). F-16NG will not have that problem and will be capable of reaching the maximum lift AoA.

As these values are based on 50% fuel, F-16NG will have significantly lower fuel fraction. At fuel fraction of 0,15, F-16NGs will have 1.527 kg of fuel, leading to combat weight of 9.450 kg, wing loading of 339 kg/m2, span loading of 948,8 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,4. At the same fuel fraction, FLX will have 956 kg of fuel, leading to combat weight of 7.284 kg, wing loading of 225 kg/m2, span loading of 856,9 kg/m and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,44. F-16NG may have superior cruise endurance given the equal fuel fraction, due to larger fuel capacity; this however is offset by higher wing loading (and thus higher 1 g angle of attack), interference drag created by presence of horizontal tail in wing’s plane, and higher span loading leading to higher vortex drag.

Wingspan of less than 8,75 m is required for optimal road basing performance; here the F-16NG is disadvantaged with wing span of 9,96 m compared to the FLXs 8,5 m. Higher wing span and lower effectiveness of outboard control surfaces (due to lack of close-coupled canards) will also reduce F-16NGs roll onset rate; lack of close-coupled canards will lead to lower pitch onset rate. This inferior transient maneuverability will, combined with inferior instantaneous turn rate and acceleration, lead to inferior dogfighting performance.

Both aircraft will have excellent situational awareness thanks to good passive sensor suite and cockpit visibility, but the F-16s larger size and stronger engine would make it more visible on IR sensors and visually (leading to maybe 5-10% greater detection distance, at least). Operating cost per hour would also be higher at >7.000 USD for the F-16NG compared to 4.450 USD for the FLX.

Conclusion

This version would be significantly superior to either the F-16A, F-16C, F-15, F-18 or the F-35 when it comes to air-to-air combat. It would still be inferior to the FLX and to Rafale (or Gripen NG), though it would come close to the F-22, and likely surpass it. It should be cheaper than either Rafale or most other modern fighters with the exception of Gripen.

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26 Responses to “F-16 new build proposal”

  1. Chris said

    This design would certainly take it closer to the YF-16 heritage.

    The problem of course as always is the MICC. The direction the US is going is the F-16V. Apparently compared to the original, it adds 2.5 tons more mass than the F-16A. I suppose it’s the closest thing to admission we’ll get from LM that the F-35 is falling apart.

    The other issue is that there’s no technical limitation preventing something like the FLX. It’s ideological and about profits.

    • NicJon said

      Couldn’t agree more Chris. 🙂

    • picard578 said

      Agreed. F-16V is a multirole aircraft and is intended to fulfill the original purpose of the “multirole F-16” scam: that is, to provide a cheap, capable bomb truck without threatening the F-15 (and now the F-22) in their royal mission of air-to-air combat (in USAF parlance, it means primarly bomber interception).

      FLX is very close to the LWF idea, except it adds BVR capabilities (admittedly, any BVR capabilities beyond air-to-air ARM were not practical in the LWF days).

  2. NicJon said

    Great work Picard. Great stuff. I really like this idea of improving the F-16A. Something Sprey has mentioned in the past – ie. Giving it a modern day 32,000 Ib engine. Sprey said ‘then you’d have a smoking aeroplane’. Spreys mate Wheeler also mentioned in regards to the F-16A – ‘Thats a fairly hot aeroplane’ even in its standard form to a Dutch current affairs program.

    Admittedly the F-16A is the most sensible version to pick to modify, so 10/10 Picard. Every upgraded Falcon has become less and less agile due to increases in weight despite engine power gains. The A version is the pick of the bunch.

    But I can’t help but wonder how the YF-16 (and/or YF-16 with your modifications) would compare Picard. Afterall, Sprey maintains that the ‘YF’ is best F-16 there ever was.

    Kind regards and great work as always! 🙂

    • picard578 said

      “Something Sprey has mentioned in the past – ie. Giving it a modern day 32,000 Ib engine.”

      I believe that is actually where I got the idea originally, though it spent a lot of time on a shelf till I dusted it off.

      “Sprey said ‘then you’d have a smoking aeroplane’. Spreys mate Wheeler also mentioned in regards to the F-16A – ‘Thats a fairly hot aeroplane’ even in its standard form to a Dutch current affairs program.”

      And they were entirely correct.

      “Every upgraded Falcon has become less and less agile due to increases in weight despite engine power gains. ”

      Lift to weight, lift to drag and thrust to drag ratios are far more important than thrust to weight ratio. And keep in mind that lower lift to weight ratio (higher wing loading) automatically means lower lift to drag and thrust to drag ratios since aircraft has to fly at higher angle of attack to maintain same flight condition (regardless of wether it is a level flight or a turn), which increases drag for the same amount of lift. Which makes it quite obvious that more thrust does not equate more performance – aircraft that has better aerodynamic performance will always be more agile than aircraft that has inferior aerodynamic performance but more thrust for size/weight. This is something many people ignore.

      “But I can’t help but wonder how the YF-16 (and/or YF-16 with your modifications) would compare Picard. Afterall, Sprey maintains that the ‘YF’ is best F-16 there ever was.”

      YF-16 could only pull 7,5 g, so I’d first upgrade the airframe to tolerate 9 g. But overall, it would be better than the F-16A (for one, F-16A cannot achieve maximum lift coefficient as widening the nose to accomodate the fire control radar reduced its directional stability).

  3. picard578 said

    I’ll note here that with baseline EJ200 and with fuel fraction of 0,15 the FLX has TWR of 1,26.

  4. Chris said

    I wonder what an improved Gripen NG or Rafale might look like.

    The reason why I ask is because the designers of those two aircraft at least seem to have some understanding of what makes a good air to air fighter and it’d be more likely that something improved would be built in Sweden or France than the US.

    I suspect that when the F-35 inevitably fails, there will be either more F-22s or a similar aircraft.

  5. Henrik H. said

    Hi Picard,
    what happened to the Gripen C upgrade proposal? I get “Error 404 – Not Found”

  6. Roman Chyla said

    While I love your articles it beats me why do you insist on misspelling the word “comparison.” Is this some kind of a test?

  7. NicJon said

    ‘It would still be inferior to the FLX and to Rafale (or Gripen NG), though it would come close to the F-22, and likely surpass it’

    Its interesting Picard – Despite the F-16NG upgrades, you estimate that the Falcon would still fall short of the Rafael, Gripen NG and be merely a rival to the Raptor. Mmm…. perhaps I should give more credit to the Dassault and Saab designs.

    p.s

    After having another look at your F-16NG specs Picard, the only thing that I’d mention would be the option of keeping AMRAAM’s – You would still keep Radar guided missiles despite their track record vs IR guided missiles such as the Sidewinder?

    Kind regards! 🙂

    • picard578 said

      “Its interesting Picard – Despite the F-16NG upgrades, you estimate that the Falcon would still fall short of the Rafael, Gripen NG and be merely a rival to the Raptor.”

      There is a limit on what you can do with old aircraft. Rafale isn’t that physically larger than the F-16, though it is heavier, but it still has lower wing loading, generally superior aerodynamics. Gripen NG also has lower wing loading, superior aerodynamics, is of similar size and weight and will have comparable sensors and armament – though cockpit visibility is a problem. F-22 similarly has better aerodynamics – F-16A (basis for the F-16NG) has ITR of 28 deg/s, while both Rafale and F-22 have STR of 28 deg/s and ITR of 36/35 deg/s, respectively, though the F-16NG will have better turn rates than the F-16A. F-16 is also let down by its cruise speed of Mach 1,2 with 6 missiles, while F-22 can cruise at Mach 1,7 with 8 missiles, which may counter F-16NGs advantage in small size and IR sensors.

      “You would still keep Radar guided missiles despite their track record vs IR guided missiles such as the Sidewinder?”

      Since US don’t have IR BVRAAM, yes – though I’d like them converted to IR guidance (AMRAAM + AIM-9X or MICA IR seeker).

  8. NicJon said

    Another question regarding the F-16NG’s Wing Area Picard…

    From YF-16 to F-16A, the wing area went from 280 sq feet to 300. However, so many changes happened that Boyd had asked that the wing area be increased to 320 sq feet to regain back agility that had been lost through all the ‘enhancements’.

    Would you consider a wing area increase upgrade Picard?

    p.s

    Of course the background was that Boyd was denied his request. The person in charge had chosen to put his career first. Years later he contacted Boyd and apologised and wanted to be friends again. Boyd hang up on him! – haha!

    • picard578 said

      “Would you consider a wing area increase upgrade Picard?”

      That would be a good idea, but it would require a considerably more thorough redesign and calculations – to the point that doing a completely new aircraft (e.g. FLX) is easier.

      Thanks for the info.

  9. MarkyMark said

    Though not entirely on topic, what do you think of vectored thrust? Why?

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