The General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon is currently the most numerous combat aircraft in NATO. Originally developed for the USAF as a day fighter, the F-16 has evolved into a highly capable multi-role combat aircraft that despite flying for the first time in 1974 is still in production. Over 4,500 F-16s have been produced over the past 49 years and 3,000 of them are still in service with 25 nations around the world. The most recent version is called the Block 70/72 and includes a new cockpit, computers, and an advanced AESA radar based on the one installed in the F-35.
The Netherlands originally ordered 213 F-16s which were licence built by SABCA in Belgium. The fleet was reduced to 54 aircraft that have been updated to the F-16AM MLU specification which includes the Link 16 datalink, Helmet Sight, Targeting Pods, new computers and the ability to use the Aim-9X Sidewinder providing a full multi-role capability. The Royal Netherlands Air Force have begun to retire their F-16 fleet as deliveries of the F-35A have continued. Today, the final fleet of 24 F-16s are all based at Volkel AB.
The RNLAF will be sending a pair of single seat F-16AM's to RIAT 2023 for static display. This could be one of the final times that this once common RNLAF fighter will be seen in the UK before they are retired by the end of 2024.
Photo Credit: Paul Fiddian
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