Just how good was the F-16N?

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Unread post11 Dec 2017, 17:03

I came across this discussion on just how good the Navy F-16N was at NFWS. Here are a few excerpts by a Naval aviator who flew the F-16N, F-14A, F-8, and A-4.

"There is a lot of good discussion here. Fun, as it brings back lots of good memories. I flew the F-16N as an adversary and the F-14A on two Enterprise cruises. Let me throw out some concepts, though, just for consideration:

1. Corner velocity. Corner velocity is just the minimum speed at which an airplane can attain its maximum G loading. So, in the case of an F-14A, because its maximum G loading was 6.5 (lower, in fact, with a full load out), it's corner velocity was around 300-320 KIAS (give or take). The F-16N can pull 9.3 G's at about 410 KIAS. Slower than that, and you couldn't pull as many G's. The F-16N at 410 KIAS had about a 1000 foot turn radius near sea level. Tight enough that when we came into the break at NKX, we'd offset to the abeam side a fair bit to have enough abeam distance after the turn to land without using 60 degrees angle of bank the whole way around.

2. Turn radius. Turn radius in the context of minimizing it, i.e., making a turn as tight as possible.Turn radius is always at its minimum at, or to an extent, below corner velocity. For example, an F-14 at corner velocity would turn tighter than an F-14 at higher than corner velocity speed. Same for an F-16N. At max G, as you go faster than corner velocity, your turn radius increases. As your speed decreases below corner velocity, however, your turn radius, to a point, remains relatively constant. So, for example, an F-14A at 260 KIAS and 4.2 G's might well have a turn RADIUS equal to an F-14A at 320 KIAS and 6.5 G's. Turn radius is just a function of airspeed a G loading. At any given airspeed, the airplane that can pull more G's will have a tighter turn radius. A 300 knot F-14 at 6.5 G's would have the same turn radius as a 300 knot F-16N at 6.5 G's. The wildcard is that, below 9.3 G's, the F-16N is AOA limited but my recollection is that's not a big issue until you get below about 240 knots or so.

3. Turn rate. Turn rate is the speed with which the nose comes around in the turn, normally measured in degrees per second. This is almost completely dependant on maximum G loading. A 9 G airplane at its corner velocity will ALWAYS generate more turn RATE than a 6 G airplane at its corner velocity. In the case of turn RATE, being below corner velocity will ALWAYS lower you turn rate. (Let's not get into vectored thrust, as neither airplane had it). So, the maximum speed at which you have a minimum RADIUS, AND the minimum speed at which you have maximum turn RATE is CORNER VELOCITY.

4. Maximum instantaneous turn. This is the fastest turn RATE an aircraft can generate, at corner velocity while giving up energy in the form of altitude. If you give up energy in the form of speed, your turn rate will very rapidly decrease. When you are executing a maximum instantaneous turn in the F-16N at corner velocity, you are generally not as "nose low" as you are in an F-14A at its corner velocity. In other words, the F-14A bled energy faster than the F-16N in this arena.

5. Maximum sustained turn rate. This is the measure of how hard you can pull without losing altitude or airspeed. It's a convenient way of comparing bleed rates between airplanes. There's a YouTube video of a guy in a P-47 fighting an ME-109 at treetop level. They were both in level turns, but with its much more powerful engine, and slower corner velocity, the P-47 just kept the turn going and marched around the circle until he gunned the ME-109.

These are just a few aerodynamic concepts. There are many more that come into play like roll rates, high AOA flight performance, use of flaps, one circle Vs. two circle fights, the minimum speed for a tactically useful loop, cockpit visibility, minimum controllable airspeed and nowadays, vectored thrust....to name just a few.

Also, these are all "snapshots" of capabilities. The value in understanding them gets pretty murky when you start discussing the nuances and huge variety of maneuvers to drive the geometry of the fight that can be used to optimize the utilization of these capabilities.

For example, turn radius is only 100% determinative if you both have the same center of turn. Maneuvering to offset that center, either vertically, or horizontally, by positioning the "lift vector" can be the most important factor. The classic "A-4 sucker move" was to get slightly out in front of the Tomcat's wingline in the hopes he would pull hard enough for a shot to get below the speed at which he could pull into the pure vertical. If you could get him, say, below about 280 KIAS and offset your turn center inside his, the fact that you were slower, with the same turn radius, could work to your advantage, as he would fly out in front of you due to his higher speed. This could force a rolling scissors with the A-4 starting out with a significant positional advantage (and conversely, a significant energy disadvantage). At that point, the fun began! This is where the argument that "it's the pilot, not the machine" comes into play.

We (NFWS adversary pilots) all had 1000+ hours in the F-14 so we knew at a glance what it could do. But guns only, clean and 1v1, it would be extremely difficult for an F-16 to lose.

I just looked in my logbook and saw my first 1v1 against a crew from VF-24 in the F-16N was with 28.4 hours in the airplane. I remember this one for that and other reasons. I was simulating a Mig-21. To do that, I was limited to no burner while turning or climbing and only minimum burner to chase them down or run. The F-14 was flying a classic energy fight, using the vertical and made the mistake of "breaking" my altitude. This gave me some turning room which resulted in a guns kill on the Tomcat.

The F-14A would stand no chance whatsoever against the F-16N in a guns only fight. But they weren't designed for that. There is no arena, clean, unrestricted, 1v1, guns only, where the F-14A has an advantage or even close to parity. The F-16N had better energy sustainability, faster instantaneous and sustained turn, the ability to perform a tactically useful loop at a slower speed, better climb, faster roll rate, it just had everything. I never got the F-14A much over 50,000 feet. In the F-16N, going UP through 45,000 feet I went into burner. At 55,000 feet, I was maintaining .9M AND pegging the VSI at 6000 fpm! I finally chickened out at 62,000 feet, but it was by pulling back on the reins. I also pulled 10g's once and when I went to write it up, the contractor said, "if it wasn't from going through jet wash, and the airplane let you do it, it's not an over-G." In a one circle fight, you'd outclimb it and in a 2 circle fight you'd be nose on when the Tomcat (God Bless her) had 60 degrees to go.

A full on F-16N, unrestricted and slick, was a "supersonic balloon with a turret gun". There was no escape."


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Unread post11 Dec 2017, 20:24

"supersonic balloon with a turret gun". There was no escape." :lmao: :lmao: :lmao:
I talked to a F-14 driver who had recently completed Top Gun years ago, he said he wanted to get out of the Navy and transfer to the AF to fly Vipers...

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