The General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force (USAF). Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather aircraft. More than 4,500 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Although no longer purchased by the U.S. Air Force, improved versions are still built for export customers. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.
The Fighting Falcon has key features including a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while maneuvering, a seat reclined 30 degrees to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot, and the first use of a relaxed static stability / fly-by-wire flight control system which helps to make it a nimble aircraft.
The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and 11 locations for mounting weapons and other mission equipment. The F-16’s official name is “Fighting Falcon”, but “Viper” is commonly used by its pilots, due to a perceived resemblance to a viper snake as well as the Battlestar Galactica Colonial Viper starfighter.
In addition to active-duty U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, and Air National Guard units, the aircraft is also employed by the USAF aerial demonstration team, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and as an adversary/aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy. The F-16 has also been procured to serve in the air forces of 25 other nations.