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Lockheed Martin to celebrate delivery of 4,500th F-16
F-16.net ^ | Apr 2, 2012 | Bob Cox

Posted on 04/06/2012 6:12:02 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar

In late 1969, a conspiracy was hatched in secret all-night meetings in Washington, D.C. area hotel rooms that would have a profound impact on military aviation and Fort Worth.

A handful of people were at the meetings: two rebel Air Force colonels, a Pentagon analyst and a General Dynamics engineer. Their goal was to create a fighter jet -- a relatively simple, inexpensive plane that could be sold by the hundreds.

Fortunately, the conspirators succeeded, probably beyond any of their wildest dreams.

On Tuesday, Lockheed Martin will celebrate delivery of the 4,500th F-16, the direct result of those late-night meetings.

It's a huge milestone for Lockheed and Fort Worth. The F-16 is arguably the finest combat airplane of the jet age. It's the principal frontline warplane of the U.S. Air Force and of the armed forces of 25 other nations.

"It's the best air-to-air fighter. Then it proved to be the most adaptable" plane for ground attack missions as well, said Pierre Sprey, a former civilian weapons analyst in the Pentagon and frequent Defense Department critic who was one of the "fighter mafia" insurgents who went up against the military establishment to launch the F-16.

As important as its capabilities, the F-16 remains a relatively low-cost aircraft. Plane No. 4,500 is bound for Morocco. Half of the F-16s ever built have been sold to foreign nations. About 1,600 jobs at Lockheed remain tied to the program.

Beyond the quality of the airplane, perhaps the signature accomplishment of the F-16 program was the process the Pentagon used to buy it. Unlike almost every other modern military aircraft program before or since, including the F-35 joint strike fighter, the F-16 was designed and built quickly, met performance specifications, and was free of technical delays and cost overruns.

'A great feeling'

Since the mid-1970s, the economic fortunes of Fort Worth and the surrounding region have been intertwined with the F-16. Tens of thousands of plant employees -- executives, engineers and assembly-line workers -- built careers, raised families and enjoyed comfortable lives thanks to the F-16.

It's unlikely that the old "Bomber Plant" in west Fort Worth would be operating today if not for the F-16. When General Dynamics began work on the program in 1972, the end of the F-111 bomber program was in sight, and no other contracts were in the offing.

"That plant would not exist without the F-16. No doubt about it," said Jay Miller of Arlington, an aviation historian and author of a book on the F-16.

Numerous small businesses have thrived supplying components and services to General Dynamics and Lockheed, which bought the plant in 1993.

Since the first production F-16 rolled off the assembly line in 1978, more than 3,500 have been produced in Fort Worth. Nearly 1,000 have been assembled overseas, with many Fort Worth-produced components.

Johnny Waller worked on most of those planes since getting a subassembly job in 1986. Waller, now a supervisor, says it has been a rewarding experience.

"This helped me provide for my family all these years," Waller said, and it's been a source of pride. "There's no other airplane like it. It's a great feeling to be a part of something that's been this successful."

Steve Mills, another supervisor, has spent 29 of his 30 years at the Fort Worth plant working on the F-16. In the late 1980s, at the peak of production, he once worked 30 straight days as the plant strained to produce one plane almost every day. Employment at the west Fort Worth plant topped 30,000.

"It was good money. It's been a good living," Mills said.

'Spark of innovation'

Four men could be called father of the F-16: Sprey, Air Force Cols. John Boyd and Everest "Rich" Riccioni and General Dynamics engineer Harry Hillaker.

Boyd, a fighter pilot, was the visionary leader of the fighter mafia. The group believed that the military services were wasting vast sums on complex, poorly conceived and poorly performing planes. They argued inside the Pentagon that the U.S. needed a small, low-cost fighter it could buy by the hundreds. The Air Force and Navy opposed the idea.

Hillaker was an aircraft designer. He and Boyd, neither of whom is still alive, mapped out the genetic code of the F-16. Hillaker oversaw the engineering process that brought it to life.

"We had a tremendous team," said Dwain Mayfield, a retired engineer who worked on the F-16 prototypes, "but there's a spark of innovation that one or two people bring to a program. Harry brought that spark. We all referred to him as the father of the F-16."

Riccioni in 1969 persuaded Air Force officials to grant a tiny $149,000 to study fighter jet technology. That was the seed money for what would become the F-16.

In January 1971, reform-minded Deputy Defense Secretary David Packard ordered a lightweight fighter competition. Five companies submitted proposals, including LTV Corp. in Dallas.

General Dynamics and Northrop were awarded contracts to design and build two prototypes. Their planes, the YF-16 and YF-17, would undergo a competitive flyoff. There was no guarantee that the Pentagon would buy any more aircraft.

General Dynamics rolled out the first YF-16 prototype in December 1973, months before Northrop completed its YF-17. The plane was transported to Edwards Air Force Base in California and reassembled for flight testing. It quickly became apparent that the YF-16 was something special.

Its performance "was eye-watering," said test pilot Phil Oestricher, a former Marine fighter pilot whose unplanned first flight in January 1974 is part of aviation lore. "There was no doubt in my mind this was an absolute winner."

As flight testing continued, the Pentagon said it would consider buying hundreds of the winning design.

In January 1975, the Pentagon declared General Dynamics the winner. The Air Force contracted for eight "full-scale development" planes to incorporate design changes and said it would buy 650 F-16s. Within months Belgium, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands ordered 348.

'Not on my watch'

Performance is the top reason for the F-16's longevity, said George Standridge, a Navy F/A-18 fighter pilot turned Lockheed marketing executive.

"It's a great airplane. The platform works," Standridge said.

Another reason is that with both General Dynamics and Lockheed, Standridge said, buyers have been able to count on the company's performance. "You know when you're going to get it. You know what it's going to cost."

Today's F-16 looks little different than the early models, but the aircraft has been modified numerous times to accommodate new technology and weapons. It's not the simple lightweight plane that Boyd and Hillaker envisioned, but it still performs.

Slightly more than 3,000 F-16s are in use today worldwide, many of them built in the early years, according to the authoritative website f-16.net. The U.S. has retired its older jets, but numerous countries have upgraded their aircraft to extend their useful lives well into the future.

Lockheed has only about 70 more orders for F-16s, which would take production into early 2016. In recent years it has picked up a couple of orders per year to guarantee production a few more years.

But Bill McHenry, Lockheed's chief F-16 salesman, said production won't end then, "not on my watch."

"We continue to find nations that have a need for fourth-generation fighters out there," he said.

Iraq is the most recent nation to join the F-16 club, ordering 18 planes last year.

'Most fulfilling'

The success of the F-16 program is in stark contrast to the F-35 that is now under development at Lockheed.

The F-16 was designed to be relatively simple. The F-35 is an incredibly complex program -- three models, one of which has a short takeoff and vertical landing. The F-35 is years behind schedule and vastly over budget, and expected foreign buyers worry that they cannot afford enough airplanes to replace their aging F-16s.

Asked about that disparity, Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said, "It's not valid to compare development of the early F-16 to the F-35 because of the vast differences in the airplanes and programs."

Critics, however, say complexity is at the core of everything that's gone wrong with the F-35. The Pentagon and the military forgot the lessons learned on the F-16: Keep it simple, keep costs low. "The idea you can have three common airplanes and one of them is STOVL is ridiculous," Sprey said.

The success of the F-16 is a source of immense pride to the men who helped launch the program four decades ago.

"I've talked to some of my colleagues about it," Mayfield said, and "the most fulfilling thing is that we helped change the face of tactical fighter aviation around the world."


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: f16

1 posted on 04/06/2012 6:12:07 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
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To: Jet Jaguar

Heck, they’re getting so cheap, I might pick one up myself.


2 posted on 04/06/2012 6:14:41 PM PDT by smokingfrog ( sleep with one eye open (<o> ---)
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To: Sparky1776; militant2; TaMoDee; freedumb2003; PERKY2004
F-16 Ping.


3 posted on 04/06/2012 6:15:11 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
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To: Jet Jaguar

Is it really a better air to air fighter than the F-15?

I have read somewhere that the F-15 has the best combat record of any fighter ever.


4 posted on 04/06/2012 6:19:25 PM PDT by yarddog
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How much longer until it surpasses the production numbers of the F4?


5 posted on 04/06/2012 6:23:45 PM PDT by ak267
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To: Jet Jaguar

My husband and I both worked there back when it was still General Dynamics and left shortly a year or two after the A12 went bust.


6 posted on 04/06/2012 6:23:51 PM PDT by Qwackertoo (Gingrich/West 2012)
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To: Jet Jaguar

Breathtaking photo.

Still so damn efficient. The deign of the airframe may go back to the golden age, but no one has done better for price/performance. She even outdoes her older sister the F/A 18 in that area.

A squadron of modern F-16s could take out 99.99% of all countries’ air fleets in nothing flat.


7 posted on 04/06/2012 6:25:54 PM PDT by freedumb2003 ('RETRO' Abortions = performed on 84th trimester individuals who think killing babies is a "right.")
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To: yarddog

I work the F-16. The F-15 has a better record as I hear.


8 posted on 04/06/2012 6:35:42 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
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To: Qwackertoo
My husband and I both worked there back when it was still General Dynamics and left shortly a year or two after the A12 went bust.

Did you work on the A12 team?

Darn shame it ever got air under the wheels. It may have overweight and late etc, but it may have equaled the A6 and had stealth. Now the Navy has F-18 specific version instead for the A-6's role, and from what I read it is a drag bucket.

9 posted on 04/06/2012 6:36:14 PM PDT by taildragger (( Palin / Mulally 2012 ))
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To: Jet Jaguar

The F-16, and the B-52, testaments to American ingenuity and know-how. Hopefully, that engineering prowess will pay off with the newer series you are looking to build. American knowhow and muscle is where it’s at!


10 posted on 04/06/2012 6:36:44 PM PDT by factoryrat (We are the producers, the creators. Grow it, mine it, build it.)
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To: Jet Jaguar

The F-16 is today’s P-51. Best air superiority fighter with guns.


11 posted on 04/06/2012 6:36:52 PM PDT by SkyDancer (Talent Without Ambition Is Sad - Ambition Without Talent Is Worse)
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To: yarddog

they are both in search of their first loss. In Desert Storm F-15 and F/A-18s got Air to Air kills, the F-16 was otherwise occupied.

I don’t count the Pakistani F-16 that suffered from fratricide.


12 posted on 04/06/2012 6:42:16 PM PDT by donmeaker (Blunderbuss: A short weapon, ... now superceded in civilized countries by more advanced weaponry.)
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To: factoryrat

Rather, they are testimony to stagnation in military thought and art. F-16s didn’t protect us on 9-11 against an enemy that didn’t care about the laws of war, and didn’t feel bound to match us strength to strength.

It is like this. Your virus=protection software protects from a computer virus circulated in 1993. That is not because the virus protection software is so very good.


13 posted on 04/06/2012 6:46:41 PM PDT by donmeaker (Blunderbuss: A short weapon, ... now superceded in civilized countries by more advanced weaponry.)
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To: taildragger

Yes, we both were on A-12. I was in the test station software and he was in the test station hardware. The rest is history, 20 years of marriage last August and 2 kids. :)

We went back to F-16 departments and then left Ft. Worth for Rocket City U.S.A. (aka Huntsville AL). Me a stay-at-home-Mom and him engineering positions.


14 posted on 04/06/2012 6:48:51 PM PDT by Qwackertoo (Gingrich/West 2012)
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To: Qwackertoo

Glad to have you here.


15 posted on 04/06/2012 6:50:18 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
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To: Jet Jaguar

Thank you.


16 posted on 04/06/2012 6:51:01 PM PDT by Qwackertoo (Gingrich/West 2012)
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To: donmeaker
There was a saying in the company that every enemy plane shot down during Desert Storm was shot down by a Mcdonnell Douglas aircraft. By the time the F-16 was mobilized to the area the Iraqi Air Force wasn't flying anymore. All that was left for the 16 was an air to ground role.
17 posted on 04/06/2012 6:56:59 PM PDT by Hillarys Gate Cult (Liberals make unrealistic demands on reality and reality doesn't oblige them.)
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To: Jet Jaguar

I substitute taught for a while. One day it was the AFROTC.

Between classes I would read their textbook. One thing caught my eye because my father worked at Eglin for 35 years.

It said F15s shot down 24 Iraqi jets with no losses. The First Fighter Wing at Langley accounted for one and the 33rd wing at Eglin shot down 23.

Despite that, every-time I saw an interview of one of the fighter pilots, it would be the First Fighter Wing.


18 posted on 04/06/2012 6:58:06 PM PDT by yarddog
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To: yarddog
Is it really a better air to air fighter than the F-15? I have read somewhere that the F-15 has the best combat record of any fighter ever.

John Boyd was the greatest fighter pilot who never got to fly in combat, but he never lost a dogfight and could get on the tail of aces in less than a minute. He argued that the F-15 was a great airplane until the Pentagon started loading it up with incompatible armaments ostensibly to make it a multi-mission aircraft. It ended up costing five times more than original design specs and was not great at any specific mission. Boyd knew the Air Force needed a fighter pilot's fighter and was the prime motivator for the F-16.

19 posted on 04/06/2012 7:01:19 PM PDT by immadashell
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To: donmeaker

“Rather, they are testimony to stagnation in military thought and art. F-16s didn’t protect us on 9-11 against an enemy that didn’t care about the laws of war, and didn’t feel bound to match us strength to strength.”

Pretty one dimensional argument there. It wasn’t the weapons systems which failed to prevent 9/11, it was the intelligence and leadership.


20 posted on 04/06/2012 7:05:29 PM PDT by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: immadashell

“Not a pound for air to ground”.
The original F-15 was PURE fighter/air superiority. It just got bigger because it had to get FASTER. In the air superiority mission, I’d challenge anyone to say it wasn’t great at that specific mission. I think it’s proved that.

The F-16 began life as a multi-role fighter. Not the fastest and it couldn’t get first look/shot/kill, but it was a hell of a platform.

The high (f-15)/low (f-16) mix worked well, but the while the F-16 is agile, it isn’t half the air-to-air platform of the F-15.


21 posted on 04/06/2012 7:32:54 PM PDT by SJSAMPLE
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To: donmeaker

With some technology, you reach the point of diminishing returns. If we come up with something new and better, you won’t hear about it until it has been deployed and has become obsolete. The F16 and the B52 are proven platforms, and have a track record to back it up. It’s the stuff you won’t hear about that will amaze you, and will keep our enemies guessing.


22 posted on 04/06/2012 7:41:28 PM PDT by factoryrat (We are the producers, the creators. Grow it, mine it, build it.)
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To: SkyDancer

What about the Tom Cat? Was that the F-14?


23 posted on 04/06/2012 8:06:38 PM PDT by JOE6PAK (The universe is a lot safer if you bring a towel.)
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To: JOE6PAK

Just going on what the men folks in the family talk about. The F-14 was a twin-burner, a Navy plane. I’ve flown Air Combat USA and that was the talk there. They teach ACM, what fun!


24 posted on 04/06/2012 9:10:17 PM PDT by SkyDancer (Talent Without Ambition Is Sad - Ambition Without Talent Is Worse)
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To: donmeaker

A Turkish F-16 was shot down by a Greek Mirage 2000 in 1996 though the circumstances remain disputed (accident in a mock dogfight VS intentional incident).

http://www.turks.us/article.php?story=20040304083228294

http://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?t=23087


25 posted on 04/06/2012 9:40:14 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
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To: freedumb2003
She even outdoes her older sister the F/A 18 in that area.

The F/A-18 is the younger sister of the F-16.

26 posted on 04/07/2012 3:14:12 AM PDT by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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To: A.A. Cunningham

>>The F/A-18 is the younger sister of the F-16.<<

I stand corrected. I think meant her bigger sister. I knew the F-16 came first.

I claim Senior Moment. :)


27 posted on 04/07/2012 11:56:45 AM PDT by freedumb2003 ('RETRO' Abortions = performed on 84th trimester individuals who think killing babies is a "right.")
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To: JOE6PAK

>>What about the Tom Cat? Was that the F-14?<<

Yes, that was indeed. The only thing other than an F-15 to effectively shoot down the Tomcat was politics.


28 posted on 04/07/2012 11:58:48 AM PDT by freedumb2003 ('RETRO' Abortions = performed on 84th trimester individuals who think killing babies is a "right.")
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