The Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force. Designed as a lightweight, daytime fighter, it evolved into a successful multirole aircraft. The F-16's versatility is a paramount reason it has proven a success on the export market, having been selected to serve in the air forces of 25 nations. Over 4,400 aircraft have been built since production was approved in 1976. Though no longer being purchased by the U.S. Air Force, advanced versions are still being built for export customers. In 1993, General Dynamics sold its aircraft manufacturing business to the Lockheed Corporation, which in turn became part of Lockheed Martin after a 1995 merger with Martin Marietta.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a dogfighter with numerous innovations including a frameless, bubble canopy for better visibility, side-mounted control stick to ease control while under high g-forces, and reclined seat to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot. The F-16 has an internal M61 Vulcan cannon and has 11 hardpoints for mounting various missiles, bombs and pods. It was also the first fighter aircraft deliberately built to sustain 9-g turns. It has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than one, providing power to climb and accelerate vertically—if necessary. Although the F-16's official name is "Fighting Falcon", it is known to its pilots as the "Viper", due to it resembling a viper snake and after the Battlestar Galactica starfighter. In addition to USAF active, reserve, and national guard units, the aircraft is used by the United Air Force aerial demonstration team, The USAF Thunderbirds and as an adversary/aggressor aircraft by the United States Navy.
The F-16 is scheduled to remain in service with the U.S. Air Force until 2025. The planned replacement is the F-35 Lightning II, which will gradually begin replacing a number of multirole aircraft among the air arms of the program's member nations.