F16 vs F35?
It’s a heated battle between old versus new.
On one hand, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is legendary aircraft which withstands the test of time.
Then, there is the modern and ultra-sleek F-35 Lightning II that is arguably the stealthiest fighter in the world.
So, who wins in a dog-fight showdown: F16 vs F35?
Learn more about the similarities and differences between the 2 aircraft, below.
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F16 vs. F35: The Basics
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is slated to replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Consequently, whenever anything replaces something as beloved and legendary as the F-16 aircraft, it ignites a debate.
For many, the F-16 remains the superior fighter even if the F-35 is far more sleek and modern.
Nonetheless, the F-35 is destined to replace the F-16 which has pilots, service members, and aviation experts arguing over which fighter is better.
For some, the F-16 is a better multi-role fighter because it excels in speed and maneuverability (more information, below).
Meanwhile, others disagree, acknowledging the F-35 as the superior aircraft.
For starters, it’s hard to argue with something that is brand new and features advanced stealth and avionics (more details, below).
Thus, the F-35 Lightning II ranks supreme as an advanced stealth multi-role fighter.
F-16 Fighting Falcon
The F-16 Fighting Falcon (frequently compared to the F-15) is a single-engine, multi-role fighter.
The aircraft was originally developed by General Dynamics for the U.S. Air Force (USAF).
Over the years, the F-16 has evolved from an air superiority day fighter into a successful, all-weather aircraft.
Today, the F-16 Fighting Falcon remains popular despite no longer being produced directly for the USAF.
The F-16 is also featured as part of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team.
Several partner nations utilize the F-16, including numerous noteworthy variants:
- F-16A/B (USAF)
- F-16C/D (USAF)
- F-16E/F (United Arab Emirates)
- F-16IN (Indian Air Force)
- F-16IQ (Iraq Air Force)
- F-16N (U.S. Navy)
- F-16V (Singapore & Taiwan)
- QF-16 (Unmanned Version)
The F-16 aircraft has undergone many changes and upgrades throughout its half-century of service.
F-35 Lightning II
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a single-seat, single-engine all-weather aircraft.
The multi-role combat stealth fighter handles air superiority and strike missions.
Moreover, the F-35 features advanced avionics that provide forms of electronic warfare as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
The F-35 fighter is a recent addition to the U.S. Air Force and designed to compete directly with the Russian Su-57 Felon.
There are several variants of the F-35 including the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A and carrier-based F-35C:
- F-35A (U.S. Air Force)
- F-35B (Marine Corps)
- F-35C (U.S. Navy)
- F-35I “Adir” (Israeli Air Force)
Currently, many other partner nations utilize the F-35 including the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, Canada, and Italy.
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F16 vs F35: 5 Differences
F16 vs F35?
The F-35 is designed to replace the F-16 (and F-15) as the world’s most advanced fighter.
Be that as it may, the F-15 Fighting Falcon remains competitive in the skies.
Therefore, in order to determine which fighter is better (F16 vs F35) we must examine 5 essential differences:
- Speed & Range
Now, let’s examine each difference between the F16 and F35 in more detail:
There is no question that the F-16 Fighting Falcon features a more impressive legacy.
For starters, the fighter has been around far longer as the original design (more information, below) was conceived in the early-1970s.
Rather, the F-35 Lightning II is a 5th generation fighter that recently entered the market in the 21st century.
The F-16 was created after 2nd and 3rd generation fighters struggle in Vietnam.
The conflict demonstrated that these fighters were not advanced nor tactical enough to survive the harsh jungle environment.
As a result, the United States Air Force launched the F-X program, which led to the dawn of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The fighter first took flight in 1974 and officially entered service in 1978.
For years, the F-16 competed directly with the F-15 version, which was designed for shorter missions.
There was no match for the fast, lightweight F-16 of its era and, the aircraft continues to compete with new, 5th generation fighters.
On the other hand, the F-35 Lightning II was created to solve conflicts of the next generation.
The 1980s were especially turbulent despite the conclusion of the Cold War.
The USSR remained a threat which demonstrated a need for stealth aircraft that could evade enemy radar.
Accordingly, every military branch of the U.S. Armed Forces set out to launch the next, great 5th generation fighter.
However, funding such an endeavor was unreasonable, which contributed to creating a single fighter that would be compatible with each service branch.
The end result was the F-35 aircraft which has been utilized by the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.
The F-35 Lightning II first took flight in 2006 and officially entered service 9 years later (2015).
F16 vs F35 – How do the 2 fighters compare and contrast in terms of design?
For starters, the F-16 and F-35 are different fighters which were created in different generations, for different purposes.
Nonetheless, the F-16 remains competitive with modern fighters despite being in existence for a half-century.
The F-16 is highly maneuverable and therefore can handle both air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attacks.
The built-in structural and wiring provisions provide the fighter with multi-role flexibility, including the ability to perform precision strike and night assaults.
It’s versatility made the F-16 coveted during the Vietnam era as well as Operation Desert Storm.
Moreover, the lightweight aircraft is inexpensive to produce yet still performs at a high rate (see: Reputation).
The F-16 includes several noteworthy design features like:
- Ejection Seat & Recline for Pilot Comfort
- Frameless Bubble Canopy for Visibility
- Side-Mounted Control Stick for Manueverbility
- Fly-By-Wire Flight Control System for Agility
Additionally, the F-16 provides an internal M61 Vulcan along with 11 other locations for armaments (more information, below).
Despite having the official name of “Fighting Falcon”, many pilots and crew refer to the aircraft as “Viper” for its distinguished look.
Lastly, most versions of the F-16 only support 1 pilot aside from the F-16D (which supports 1 or 2 crew members).
For decades, the U.S. Air Force has relied on the F-16 Fighting Falcon for various operations.
F-35 Lightning II
Meanwhile, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is the latest offering from the U.S. Air Force.
The 5th generation fighter is designed for use across service branches including the Air Force and Navy.
It’s prepared for both air superiority and striker operations yet not direct, face-to-face combat (aka dog-fighting).
Notwithstanding, the F-35 aircraft is highlighted by advanced avionics and stealth capabilities.
As a result, pilots have an advantage in airspace thanks to enhanced situational awareness and reduced vulnerability features of the F-35.
All in all, the F-16 and F-35 are comparable in terms of dimensions and other specifications (see: F16 vs F35: __ Similarities).
However, the F-35 is equipped with far more fuel capacity and maximum takeoff weight (70,000 vs. 37,500 lb class).
Unfortunately, it does come a hefty price tag ($91 million to produce F-35 compared to $28 million for F-16).
#3. Speed & Range
Surprisingly, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is faster than the F-35.
The F-16 reaches max speeds of Mach 2 while the more recent F-35 Lightning II is less impressive at Mach 1.6.
Thus, the F-16 would beat the F-35 in a direct race (it’s approximately 300mph faster).
General Electric powers most F-16 fighters with the most prominent motor being the GE F110-GE 129 design.
Meanwhile, the F-35 depends on a single Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 turbofan engine.
The F-16 features a larger range of combat even if the ceiling is lower (65,000+ feet compared to 50,000 feet).
Additionally, the F-35 has more thrust power for accelerating and evading hostile targets.
Despite their flaws, both fighters are capable of taking care of business in terms of speed, range, ceiling, and trust.
In general, both the F-16 and F-35 are highly regarded in terms of power and performance.
So, what’s all the noise about the noise?
The F-35 hasn’t been around that long yet has already garnered a bad reputation for being loud.
In fact, several communities that surround Air Force bases have complained about the noise pollution from F-35 aircraft.
It’s even generated a report from the EPA to determine the environmental impact of F-35 fighters.
Research concluded that the noise emitted from F-35s during approach is roughly 4x louder than the F-16.
For this reason, there is little room for argument, the F-35 doesn’t win over any fans in terms of volume.
Finally, there is cost to consider when examining the main differences between the F-16 and F-35.
Yes, the F-35 is dominant in many regards, however, it’s also extraordinarily expensive.
The F-35 fighter costs nearly $100 million to produce compared to the F-16, which averages $21-$28 million (depending on the variant).
The F-35 program is the most expensive in military aviation history with current estimates anticipating it’ll take $430 billion to roll out by 2044.
Moreover, the F-35 is the 2nd most expensive aircraft in history, only behind the F-22 Raptor.
Nevertheless, initial forecasts indicated the F-35 would remain in service until 2070, meaning the investment will be worth it.
Despite it, we’ve heard conflicting reports, including Air Force plans to phase out the F-35 with the F-15EX.
All in all, the F-35 has a lifecycle maintaining cost of over $1 trillion, indicating a need to reduce operating costs.
For this reason, some consider the F-16 a better option since it costs way less to produce yet rivals the F-35 in many regards.
Sure, at the time, the F-16 was also among the most expensive aircraft produced.
However, that was in the 1970s and 80s, meaning F-16 aircraft costs the fraction of 5th generation fighters.
Still, the F-35 is comparable to the new F-15EX, leading many to conclude it’s impossible to exert aerial dominance without spending big.
For example, when comparing the costs between an F-16 and F-35, you also have to consider the era.
The new F-16V from Lockheed Martin reportedly costs $121 million, so it may all equal out in the end.
Be that as it may, the United States Air Force is already considering phasing out the F-35 with other fighters, like the F-15EX.
Related Article – F-15 Vs. F-35: 8 Big Differences Between The Eagle & Lightning II
F16 vs. F35: 4 Similarities
Then, there are the similarities.
The American lifestyle may embrace a competitive challenge (hence the F16 vs F35 debates) yet the 2 fighters share more in common than you might think.
Thus, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-35 Lightning II are not as different as some may argue.
Let’s examine 4 similarities between the F16 and F35:
The F-16 and F-35 are nearly identical in terms of specifications.
The F-16 fighter is 49.5 ft (L) x 16 ft (H) with a 32 ft 8 in wingspan.
Meanwhile, the F-35 looks like a twin next to the F-16 with the dimensions of 50.5 ft (L) x 35 ft (H).
Additionally, the wingspan is very similar (35 ft compared to 32 ft 8 inches).
The more you examine the F16 and F35, the more you’ll notice the 2 fighters compliment each other in several noteworthy features.
There are some pilots that like to brag the F-16 can defeat the F-35 in a direct race yet the aircraft is also not specifically designed for that reason.
Still, the Mach 1.6 is more than enough to take down and evade enemy targets.
Moreover, the F-16 and F-35 share a similar profile in terms of range and ceiling.
The engine of the F-35 is the most powerful in the world for a fighter yet also extremely noisy.
Nevertheless, the performance of the F-16 is unrivaled.
It’s several variants have been purchased by more military organizations than any fighter in history.
F16 vs F35?
Instead of comparing the 2 fighters, how about the remarkable legacy each aircraft has created together?
For example, both the F-16 and F-35 remain in service and compliment various military organizations around the globe.
The 2 aircraft do not generally serve alongside each other in combat operations because they serve different purposes.
Furthermore, the F-35 Lightning II has not been in existence for all that long, compared to the history of the F-16.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon was actually first used by the Israeli Air Force and Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War.
Since then, the F-16 multi-role fighter has been highly utilized by the U.S. Air Force.
In fact, the F-16 was used more than any other aircraft during Operation Desert Storm.
There, the fighters participated in coordinated attacks of airfields, military production facilities, and missile sites.
It’s also common aircraft featured at airshows, including the Air Force Thunderbirds show team.
Meanwhile, other countries (such as Greece and Belgium) utilize F-16s for a similar purpose.
Then, there are the operations the F-35 is designed for undertaking.
The F-35 officially entered service in 2016, thus, it lacks a long history in terms of operations.
Still, the F-35 Lightning II has been used by the Marine Corps (USMC) along with the U.S. Navy.
The United Sates and United Kingdom both operate F-35 fighters aboard aircraft carriers.
Furthermore, British forces were the first to use F-35 aircraft in combat, deploying them to Syria.
The Israeli Air Force, once again, is a large operator of F-35 aircraft.
The air force unit prefers the fighter as a striker.
Is it possible to consider the F-16 and F-35 as a tandem, rather than competitors?
Of course, yet pilots and crew members are usually going to take a side, and that side usually is biased.
For example, pilots of F-16 fighters usually prefer the aircraft over the F-35.
The same is true of F-35 operators with over 400 pilots currently trained across the globe to handle the 5th generation aircraft.
Nevertheless, if there is a F16 vs F35 debate, most are going to deflect attention to a 2015 dogfight between the 2 fighters.
According to reports, the F-16 significantly outmatched the F-35 in a duel.
However, there are many factors of the initial test that lack credibility.
For example, the technology of the F-35 was brand new to pilots at the time the 2 fighters squared off in a dogfight.
Moreover, the F-35 is not the type of aircraft that is designed for a face-to-face showdown.
Rather, the F-35 excels as a stealth fighter.
It’s not generally as fast as other 5th generation fighters (including the Russian Su-57) yet features more advanced avionics and stealth capabilities.
Therefore, it can outwit rival fighters since the F-35 is virtually undetectable by enemy radar.
The F-35 is fused with sensors and tactical capabilities that allow the aircraft to seek, locate, and strike an opponent before it evens catches a glimpse.
And, while the F-35 is powerful and maneuverable enough to escape, its not the primary purpose of the striker.
Be that as it may, the Air Force believes that the age of dog-fighting is over and requires more of a need for a stealth fighter.
Related Article – F15 Vs. F22: Top 10 Differences Between The Eagle & Raptor
F16 vs F35: The Verdict
The F-35 is destined to replace the F-16 fighter, but is it worthy?
There are many that hate to see the end of the F-16 legacy.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon has, after all, contributed to the outstanding history of U.S. military aviation.
The multi-role fighter continues to compete with elite 5th generation fighters that threaten to replace it.
The F-35 Lightning II is one of those fighters.
While the 2 aircraft are different in many regards, they also share a few noteworthy similarities.
Thus, it’s just as easy to compare the F-16 and F-35 as considering the differences.
Still, the F16 vs F35 debate is a worthy one to consider given the advanced features of both aircraft.
The F-35 is the latest and greatest from the Air Force, while the F-16 Fighting Falcon is one of its most famous.
Standard logic indicates the F-35 is better thanks to its new features (advanced stealth, avionics, etc.).
However, the F-16 fighter remains faster and more agile, which might give the appearance to some that it is ‘superior’.
With that said, if the 2 aircraft were ever to match up in a real-world dogfight, the results would be obvious…
The F-35 would beat an F-16 10 out of 10 times, bar none, because of its vastly superior stealth capabilities.
In fact, the F-35 is so advanced that the F-16 likely wouldn’t even know what hit it until it was too late.
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