F-16 - Aircraft Selection to NATO.


For years, the Lockheef F-104G Starfighter was the backbone of the NATO air force. In the mid-seventies, it had to be replaced. The Germans and Italians had already made up their minds. Together with the British, they chose the Panavia Tornado aircraft. This was a very advanced, high-performance, multi-purpose, all-weather, versatile and therefore somewhat expensive aircraft. The other European countries, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands, agreed that the Tornado would strain their budgets. For these reasons, they started looking for a less costly aircraft.

This search brought us to the so-called "Sale of the Century".

There were four candidates, two American and two European aircraft.

The most competitive and leading company in Europe was France's Dassault-Breguet, Mirage F1-E/M53,

Other European countries are Sweden's Saab-Scania JA-37 Viggen,

The United States also has the Northrop F17 Cobra and General Dynamics also had F16 aircraft, which had not yet been named at that time.

For a long time, no state could agree on an aircraft.

Then, in early 1974, these countries agreed among themselves to set up a consortium for purchases. This would make things easier.

For the Belgians it was a contradictory choice to buy a Swedish aeroplane over a French one and for the Norwegians it was just as absurd to buy a French aeroplane over a Swedish one.

In fact, the choice of European or American aircraft seemed to have been decided, but the real problem was that the United States was not very favourable to the American F-16 or F-17 aircraft, which the Europeans did not prefer. The Pentagon could not be convinced.

Then SOMETHING happened and the Pentagon announced that it would buy a total of 650 F-16s or F-17s. After this announcement, things accelerated. In a very short time as people with suitcases visited countries, preferences began to be determined and in January 1975, Pentagon announced the F-16, which had not even been named yet, as the official aircraft of NATO.

The US Air Force ordered 15 aircraft in the first phase and then reduced the number to 8. The US Navy, on the other hand, said they had nothing to do with this aircraft.

What actually happened was that the European Participant Group (Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway) entered into an agreement to manufacture the aircraft at their own facilities in Europe. Fokker's Oost in the Netherlands, SABCA's Gossellies in Belgium, Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk in Norway and Terma A/S in Denmark were to produce the aircraft for EPAF (European Participation Air Forces). EPAF signed a contract for 348 aircraft at the Paris Air Shows. 116 for Belgium, 58 for Denmark, 102 for the Netherlands and 72 for Norway.

The first sample aircraft left the factory on 20 October 1976 and made its first flight on 8 December 1976. The F-16A model was finally produced on 7 August 1978. Belgium received the first aircraft on 15 February 1978. The date of the first aircraft accepted by the US Air Force was 6 January 1979. Later, Turkey joined this production network towards the end of the 1980s (TAI). Later again in parallel with technology, this aircraft kept pace with developments, that is, its construction and development continued while flying.

Political changes in some European countries also changed the face of the F-16. It changed from an imperialist appearance to an aggressive toughness, but this transformation had no effect on the performance of the aircraft.! The new G capability of the F-16 also caused a change in the position of the pilot's seat. The seat was tilted back a little, which would later cause neck pain. The change was not limited to this. Even before the aircraft was put on the production line, changes were already being made. This change is still ongoing. Otherwise, how could an aircraft whose plans were drawn 40 years ago still be flying?

Anyway. The Dutch favoured the traditional "Jib" position because it was always there and no one ever complained about it. At that time Commodor games were just being played and the Joy-Stick seemed to be no problem for youngsters who had never held a crowbar. What about the old ones? How would the experienced pilots who had used the Joy-Stick for years welcome this innovation? By playing Commodor with their children at home!

There were three options for navigation and fire control display. The Electronic Combat Unit was a complexity in itself, and I will explain its historical development in another article.

As a result, not the best aircraft in the world, but the best marketable aircraft was accepted as the NATO standard.

The F-16, which flies today as a NATO aircraft, was not even the choice of the US Army.