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F-16 Fleet Reports

F-16 fleet attrition over the years



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Data

This graph shows the yearly attrition of the F-16 fleet, i.e. aircraft written off after mishaps. It shows the absolute number of aircraft lost each year as well as the corresponding attrition rate (airframe losses as a percentage of the active fleet that year). For example, 1979 shows 2 airframes lost, correspondng to a 2% attrition rate (as there were only about 100 active airframes that year). On the other hand, 1991 has a much higher number of airframes lost (36), but a much lower attrition rate (1.29%) as there were much more active F-16s that year.

Disclaimer: This report is generated in real-time from our F-16 Aircraft Database. We strive to keep our database up-to-date and complete, nevertheless for some countries data is hard to verify (e.g. accuracy for the Middle East is only 90%). Please contact us if you have any questions or feedback.

  • Horizontal Axis: Years that saw active F-16 service
  • Vertical Axis: Number of F-16 aircraft lost to attrition as well as percentage of active fleet lost to attrition
  • Series: The bars represent the number of F-16 aircraft lost to attrition each year, while the line represents the percentage of the fleet lost each year


Click on the color labels to disable/enable series; click on the zoom icons to zoom in (+) or out (-). Click on the full screen icon to display the graph full screen.

Analysis


The F-16s steep learning curve took a heavy toll in the early years. This particular aircraft is a Dutch block 1 which crashed in July 1981 - and was also the first zero altitude ejection.
The first year with large-scale F-16 deployment was 1979 with 96 aircraft active. That same year, the first 2 F-16 aircraft were lost to attrition. The following years, the attrition gradually increased as more and more F-16s were delivered and the active inventory grew. Attrition peaked in the early 1990s, with over 30 airframes lost in 1991, 1992, and 1993 - the peak year being 1991 wih 36 airframes lost. After that, attrition steadily decreased to about 15 aircraft per year despite the fact that the fleet is still expanding.

The obvious reason for the higher attrition in the early years is that the airforces needed to gain experience on the F-16. The Viper introduction also presented a steep learning curve as for most airforces the F-16 was a significant leap in technology from earlier generation aircraft (like the F-104, F-5, and F-4).

Of course, the number of aircraft lost per year is only one aspect - it's necessary to also take into account how many F-16s were actually in service in that year. The line on the graph above shows the attrition rate as % of the active fleet, for each year. As can be expected, the anual attrition rate is fairly high in the first 5 years at about 2%. By contrast, the F-104 had an overal attrition rate of merely 30% These initial high attrition rates gave the F-16 a reputation of a crash-prone aircraft. Tellingly, the list with unofficial nicknames for the F-16 such as "Electric Jet", also includes "Lawn Dart".

After that, the attrition rate declines steadily, dipping below 1% in 1994. Currently, anual attrition rates are typically less than 0.50%, reaching 0.25% in 2008 and an all-time low of 0.18% in 2005.

Attrition rates for the F-16 have decreased substantially in comparison with other fighter types in the past. This is due to the fact that after 30 years of service, most air forces have gained a lot of experience on the type. With current introductions (i.e. Greece, Pakistan) only the most experienced fighter pilots - with minimum 1,000 hours in fighters - are allowed to fly the type, while in the early years young pilots with few hours had to be introduced on the type. This way attrition is kept at a all-time minimum.

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