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F-16 Fleet Reports

F-16 fleet attrition vs. airframe age

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This graph explores the link between airframe age and attrition (aircraft written off after a mishap). It shows the number of airframes lost to attrition as a function of the airframe age. It also provides the cumulative distribution for the attrition. For example, mishaps with airframes 2 years old or younger account for 15% of the F-16 fleet losses.

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: F-16 airframe age in number of years
  • Vertical Axis: Number of aircraft lost to attrition and cumulative attrition distribution in percent
  • Series: The bars show the number of F-16 aircraft lost at a certain age; the line shows the fraction of the attrition that occurs on or before a certain age

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.


Attrition mostly takes place in the early years of an F-16. This particular F-16, a USAF F-16A built in 1979 crashed 3 years after it rolled off the production line. The tail can still be found at the crash site in the Nevada Desert.
For most products an attrition versus age graph displays a typical "bathtub" curve: high in the first years, as products with manufacturing defects will fail early, then low, then high again as the products near the end of their life. For the F-16, we currently only see the first half of the bathtub curve. Attrition is fairly high in the first 5 years of F-16 airframes and then decreases.

As already indicated, the attrition rate for young airframes is fairly high - 50% of F-16 aircraft losses occurs with airframes that are 6 years old or younger. This does obviously not mean that new aircraft have a 50% chance of crashing - it simply means that halve of the attrition occurs with new aircraft.

The main explanation for this is that young airframes are typically found in air forces just starting F-16 operations (one notable exception is the USAF, which had a more or less continous delivery of F-16s over 20+ years). When starting operations with a new aircraft and training personal, attrition rates are likely to be higher.

The reason why we don't see the attrition rate increasing for older aircraft is that F-16 aircraft are thoroughly monitored and air forces will retire F-16 airframes before they reach their end-of-service-life. Also, many of the older airframes have been through at least one upgrade program or Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), such as the Midl-Life Update (MLU), Operation Capabilities Upgrade (OCU) or Falcon-Up. These programs bring the airframes back to "as new" condition, further explaining the lack of "upward slope" in the bathtub curve.
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