Since its introduction in 1978, over 4,450 F-16 Fighting Falcon's have been built, making it one of the most successful military aircraft of all time. Although it is no longer purchased by the U.S. Air Force (where it is scheduled to remain in service until 2025), improved versions are still being built by Lockheed Martin for 26 nations around the world. The latest version, unveiled this week at the Singapore Airshow, is the F-16V, which features a number of enhancements designed to enable the 4th generation fighter to better interoperate with the 5th generation F-35 and F-22 fighters.
The "V" designation of the F-16V refers to "Viper," which is nickname given to the F-16 by U.S. Air Force pilots due to its similarity to Battlestar Galactica's Colonial Viper starfighter. Amongst the enhancements included in the new F-16V are an upgraded mission computer and architecture, improvements to the cockpit, and an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
AESA radar allows the aircraft to broadcast powerful radar signals that are spread out across a band of frequencies that makes it hard to detect over background noise. Lockheed Martin says it has also developed a way to "affordably" retrofit AESA radar to existing F-16s.
The F-16V is just the latest in the continuing evolution of the aircraft, which began with the initial production F-16A (single seat) and F-16B (two seat) variants. Other variants include the F-16C/D which entered production in 1984, and Block 60 F-16E/F/IN/IQ variants.
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