They Supersized The Air Force And Got This

They Supersized The Air Force And Got This | World War Wings Videos

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The F-16 is no doubt one of the world’s best multi-role fighters, setting the standard of what a multi-role fighter should perform like. However, believe it or not, it was designed to just be a fighter jet at first. 

Rising to the Occasion

In 1965, the military figured that the heavier and more advanced US aircraft failed to match the Soviets in close-range combat.

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Then the Fighter Mafia entered the picture – these consisted of a group of US engineers and officers that would ultimately influence the development of next-generation fighter planes for the USAF.

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Their studies showed that excessive weight had negative consequences on the aircraft – a contradiction to the current military doctrine of bigger and more powerful jets. It was during this time that General Dynamic’s YF-16 prototype was developed

The F-16XL

The creators of General Dynamics wanted to improve their design and started working on a bigger multi-role aircraft.

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Many options were considered: The F-16 with forward-swept wings or with canards, but in the end they settled for a cranked delta wing, or double delta wing – the F-16XL. 

A Game-changer?

It had better lift performance and 65% more fuel capacity than the original. Ventral fins on the lower fuselage were also removed and the fuselage was elongated by approximately 1.24 meters. 

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Weapon configurations would either have larger bombs on 4 pylons or up to 16 smaller bombs in a checkerboard style.

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In combat, a regular F-16 would need another jet to escort it, but the F-16XL could carry armament for self-defense and strike missions. 

A Different Breed

The XL’s wing design is made up of 2 blended wing surfaces. The first section was swept back by 70 degrees and optimized for supersonic speeds. The second was swept around 50 degrees helping in low-speed performance in landings. 

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In total, the wings gave the jet a 25% increase in lift-to-drag ratio and a 50% increase in range due to a bigger fuel capacity.

The F-16XL is also capable of just a bit under Mach 1 cruise speed, even achieving supersonic speeds without an afterburner.

So What Happened?

The Air Force was incredibly impressed and gave the green light for two prototypes for General Dynamics. However, although the XL was more tailored for ground attack missions, it was still a far cry from the ultimate 4th-generation plane, the F-15. 

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The F15E had a higher maximum speed, bigger range and combat radius, higher flight ceiling, and a bigger payload capacity.

Most importantly, it only needed minor changes to the original F-15B while the F-16XL was almost a completely different plane at this point.

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To nobody’s surprise, the F-15E was chosen as the more economical winner. 

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