The block 52
is one of the safest F-16 versions around. This Polish F-16D is taking off from Karup AB in Denmark
on September 15th, 2009 during Exercise Bold Avenger.
As far as the total attrition rates are concerned, earlier versions have higher fleet attrition then younger models. This is quite obvious, as older models simply have had more service years during which to accumulate attrition. This trend holds true for both A/B and C/D models (A/B and C/D have been built in parallel - the first C/D rolled of the production lines while block 15
aircraft were still being built). Both early A/B models (e.g. block 1/5/10) and early C/D models (block 25/30) show higher total attrition than younger models (block 15/20 and block 40/50 for example). From these numbers it is impossible to conclude that one version is safer than the other, nor is it possible to conclude anything about higher attrition in early models due to crew inexperience.
When you look at the average annual attrition however, it is possible to compare different versions, since the service life factor has been eliminated. From these numbers it is clear that older models do have a larger attrition rate than later models (and again this holds true for both A/B and C/D models). There are two key factors that explain this: design maturity (later models benefit from modifications, fixes and additional safety measures) is one factor; crew experience is the other (early versions suffer higher attrition since crews and air forces are still training and optimizing operational procedures). Without additional data however, it is hard to determine the exact contribution of each factor.