F-16A Block 15 Armament question

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madmax17

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Unread post23 Mar 2017, 13:22

Hey all,

Trying to do some research on USAF F-16 units in the early 80s. From what I can tell F-16A Block 15s were not capable of using AGM-65 Mavericks. But I was wondering about laser guided bombs. I know early versions couldn't designate for themselves, but could these Block 15s carry GBUs if someone else was designating for them?

Thanks for the help, I am a ground guy so am quite ignorant on things in the air.

-Max
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basher54321

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Unread post23 Mar 2017, 20:19

AGM-65A/B and GBU-10/12 are on the early charts as rated loadouts - have a photo from 83 of an Israeli F-16 (B5/10) with a Mav - but GBUs not that I know of.
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Unread post23 Mar 2017, 20:29

GBU's came much with the introduction of the Block 40/42's around 1987/88ish. But AGM-65's was on the table from early on. I have pictures of block 5/10's flying with AGM-65's on triple launchers.
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jbgator

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Unread post24 Mar 2017, 00:27

To my knowledge the Maverick was always an option but I don't recall exactly if that was true in early 80s. In Europe we didn't do Maverick at TJ nor did we teach it in FTU when I was there 86-89, but I did lots of Maverick at Homestead in Blk 15 jets from 1991 on. We trained with A, B, D, and G models and I shot a live B and D from the Blk 15s and a G-model from a Blk 32. The A-model was useless and dangerous as you needed to get closer to get a lock on and shoot than you did dropping dumb bombs and often you had to reattack to get lock on. Sometimes you couldn't (go all that way, face all those threats, and come away empty handed?). The B-model was only slightly better. The D and G were great and wish I had seen the H. Never flew with the Laser Mavs but I know they have been used in Afghanistan.

I don't remember if we had a SMS code for GBU-10/12 but if we ever had a reason to buddy lase I am sure we could have loaded them as Mk-84/82 as they had close enough ballistics. But buddy lase was not a big option prior to TGPs and not required much after. Ground Lase is not very good unless they are on a significantly elevated position. Otherwise the Laser skips causing laser "dashes" across the ground and you never know which one the bomb is going to like. Sometimes it likes the designator. This was very apparent when we flew with NVGs for the first time and saw ground FACs using IR Laser pointers that looked like dashed lines when they were at a low graze angle.

At any rate, that is old news. Everyone has a TGP these days so what does it matter?
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Unread post24 Mar 2017, 01:05

3 AGM-65 on LAU-88 at stations 3 & 7 were cleared for the earliest F-16s. I have no idea if they were actually used. One restriction was not firing the inboard missile unless in wartime. The plume from that missile would singe the horizontal tail and reduce its lifetime.
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madmax17

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Unread post24 Mar 2017, 02:07

Hi all,

Thank you for the answers, definitely helps!

I'm asking because I'm trying to adapt the rules for a Cold War boardgame for 1983, and I know less than nothing about the air aspect. Basically trying to figure out if F-16A Block 15s should:

1) have stand-off capability?
2) if so, with LGBs or AGM-65 or both?

The air rules are pretty simplified, as the main focus is their effect on the ground units.

For example, ground support aircraft can operate in one of two modes: bombing (in the same 1 square mile hex as the target unit) or stand-off (however many miles away). They can also choose to operate at Low and High altitude; though it doesn't give specifics as to what these are. Low altitude means they can be engaged by ground units' flak fire, which I assume is AAA like the ZSU-23-4 and IR weapons like SA-7/14, SA-9, SA-13 at the regimental level.

At High altitude, aircraft can be attacked with SAMs; each side is assigned a SAM strength for the scenario, which I guess is an abstraction of the Air Defense network in that sector at that time, tying together Division and higher Radar-controlled SAMs.

The three American aircraft types are A-10A, F-16A, and F-4E. So far I'm operating with (please feel free to correct any of this):

-A-10A: Primary weapons will be 30mm, AGM-65, cluster munitions, napalm. Will be deadly at low altitude and pretty resilient, but will be vulnerable and less useful at high altitude

-F-4E: Primary weapons will be GBU-10/12 (possibly GBU-15 with AN/AXQ-14 data link?) and AGM-65 at high altitude, bombs, cluster munitions, napalm, and 20mm at low altitude.

But I didnt really know anything about the early F-16A, so figured i would ask those that knew.

@jbgator: when you say TGP, are you talking about LANTIRN and the like?

So based on that, should i give the F-16A Block 15 stand-off capability, if so what weapon and altitude?

Thanks for the help, looking forward to learning more!
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Unread post24 Mar 2017, 13:57

TGP = Targeting Pod - so yes AAQ-14 (one half of LANTIRN), AAQ-32 / AAQ-28 etc


Being a game you can stick any of the rated loadouts on I guess including the GBU-8 - if you stick with what seemed to have been used then MK dumb bombs on the deck - and any standoff would be called Dive Toss I suppose.
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madmax17

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Unread post24 Mar 2017, 18:36

Hi Basher54321,

Thanks for the reply and sending the load-out sheet. I'm more concerned with only allowing them to use what they actually would have used in a wartime situation, rather than what the aircraft was theoretically capable of using.

For example, I spoke with an F-4E pilot, and he said they never trained with rocket pods, not only because they didn't have any, but also because there was a number of previous accidents or near-accidents, so the enthusiasm just wasn't there to use them. So, won't be allowing F-4E's to use rockets in the game.

As of right now it sounds like F-16A Block 15 aircraft in 1983 didn't really practice to use AGM-65 or GBU's, so am leaning towards just having them use dumb bombs, cluster munitions, and napalm.

I looked up the Dive Toss, seems like this could be either GBU or dumb bomb? And would be conducted at low altitude correct? What kind of stand-off distance would be reasonable with this?

Thanks!
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Unread post24 Mar 2017, 21:40

I can't speak for PACAF in 1983 but in Europe, F-16s would have been using only free-fall bombs and older cluster munitions. I never heard of anyone discussing using Napalm and I never trained for it. In the southern region around the Med we trained for medium altitude as well as low altitude employment. That was mostly due to reduced threat and better weather. In central Europe they would have flown more low altitude because of threat and weather. I never heard of a USAFE F-4 doing AGM-65 but they may have. I'm not sure when the AGM-65D came out but I doubt anyone would have wanted too use A or B Mavericks. Later I flew F-4E with Pave Spike and it was not as flexible as a TGP.

Our medium altitude employment was dive bombing with dumb bombs from 15-20K feet trying to stay above 5-10K feet. The F-16 was fairly accurate in dumb bombing but it wasn't until Desert Storm that we found out the limitations for high altitude deliveries. DS also taught us the trade offs between medium and low altitude deliveries. The risks down low are different than the risks up high and it would take a lot of space for me to fully explain the decision processes you go through. Suffice it to say that AAA and low altitude SAMs/MANPADs are deadly at low altitude but sometimes WX drives you down there. A dense medium altitude SAM capability is challenging but having altitude, speed, ECM, and Weasels usually makes it more survivable than Low Alt. For that reason, capability to survive and be effective (weapons) from medium altitude has been the focus since DS. But in 1983 that was only true when the weather was good and the SAM threat was considered low. In those days the focus was on going low. Even the only real standoff capable jets like the F-111 were going low.

Dive toss can be used from medium altitude but the primary use in the F-16 was to enable a wingman to standoff outside the fragmentation of lead's bombs so 9-10K feet slant range. It was not a true standoff capability from a threat perspective. In the F-4E we used dive toss for LGBs but the Phantoms I flew were not ARN101 jets so DT was not very accurate. The wSO could not find a target on his own by slewing the soda-straw Pave Spike pod around.

So for your 1983 timeframe it isn't unreasonable to assume a fighter needs to get inside 24K feet (2 miles) of a target to kill it. But I am not a gamer so I don't really know how that stuff works.
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Unread post24 Mar 2017, 23:20

Hello jbgator,

I am not trying to change the subject on this thread; but since you flew the F-4E Phantom I was wondering if you could answer a question. Back in the mid 1980's were your USAFE F-4E Phantoms AIM-7F capable? If it was do you recall engagement range parameters?

I figured that they probably were, since the E was the USAF's most potent version. And USAFE Phantoms were at the "tip of the spear" in Central Europe circa early/mid 1980's.

I have seen ANG F-4C/D only loaded with AIM-7E-2. And I know for a fact that Navy/USMC F-4S was 7F capable. A Phantom RIO said that the 7F was mated to their Pulse Doppler AWG-10B radar for LDSD intercepts; and said it was far better than previous Sparrow versions.

I always thought the F-4E looked menacing with Europe 1 camo and the shark teeth....
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jbgator

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Unread post24 Mar 2017, 23:56

I did not fly the F-4 in USAFE in the mid-80s. I flew the F-4E in the NJANG from Sept 1989-Jan 1991. These were what were called Slatted Vanilla E's. They had slats (apparently the original E did not), they had the old spinning mass INS that could predict which state you were in half the time, and iron sights for bombing and strafe (They did do Pave Spike with LGBs and had DTOS if the WSO and MX knew how to get the INS to work OK). But they could carry AIM-9L/M. I don't recall which version of AIM-7 we simulated (I never flew with a real one before I left) but I think they were 7F which still had beam limitations (although we learned later via WSEP the 7M still had some limitations). We typically held our shots to make sure of high Pk since we expected adversaries to react (and I mostly shot when the WSO told me to). I don't recall ranges nor would I post them here if I did (even though the 7F is old now).

The F-4s at TJ when I was there in 1983 were D-models. They were all gone by the end of 1983. The only Es were up in central Europe. I flew the F-16 for almost 9 years before I flew the F-4 briefly. I was never comfortable in the Phantom after flying the F-16 (I flew F-4E for less than 18 months) and iron sight bombing/strafe was a challenge. Hats off to the folks who went to war in them but I have not ascribed to the "manly" argument in any jet. It wasn't manly to fly F-16A models with AIM-9P2 missiles on nuke alert in 1983-84. There were no live AIM-9Ls available then. It wasn't manly to wrestle an F-4 around the sky when I could have been flying an F-16. And it isn't manly to hold on to the F-16 when you could be flying an F-22 or F-35. The P-51 and F-86 were manly airplanes but I don't want to go to war in them today. I've had several old F-4 Pilots/WSOs give me the "manly" talk before. More recently I have heard similar talk from old F-16 pilots RE the F-35.

My sense was the F-4 represented a generation of aerospace development trying to make a supersonic fighter feel like a P-51. It had a very complex "feel" system. In certain speed ranges and situations it was like working out on gym equipment and others it was like balancing on the head of a needle. If the bellows failed, your choice, depending on if it failed fast or slow. It was clearly a Navy jet, forget about flaring and smooth touchdowns. And if the GIB was not capable of doing his job you were helpless to overcome it from the front seat. I flew with some WSOs who could really make the airplane sing and could land it better than me (not saying much), but others I categorized as CG adjusters. They kept the CG in limits for safe flight. It was a historical jet and I'm glad I got to fly it (just as I would love to fly a P-51, F-86, etc.) but I'm glad I never had to go to war in any of them. I was glad to get back in the F-16 in 1991 and never looked back.
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Unread post25 Mar 2017, 00:27

jbgator,

Thank you for the response. I very much appreciate it.
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madmax17

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Unread post25 Mar 2017, 01:29

jbgator wrote:I can't speak for PACAF in 1983 but in Europe, F-16s would have been using only free-fall bombs and older cluster munitions. I never heard of anyone discussing using Napalm and I never trained for it. In the southern region around the Med we trained for medium altitude as well as low altitude employment. That was mostly due to reduced threat and better weather. In central Europe they would have flown more low altitude because of threat and weather. I never heard of a USAFE F-4 doing AGM-65 but they may have. I'm not sure when the AGM-65D came out but I doubt anyone would have wanted too use A or B Mavericks. Later I flew F-4E with Pave Spike and it was not as flexible as a TGP.

Our medium altitude employment was dive bombing with dumb bombs from 15-20K feet trying to stay above 5-10K feet. The F-16 was fairly accurate in dumb bombing but it wasn't until Desert Storm that we found out the limitations for high altitude deliveries. DS also taught us the trade offs between medium and low altitude deliveries. The risks down low are different than the risks up high and it would take a lot of space for me to fully explain the decision processes you go through. Suffice it to say that AAA and low altitude SAMs/MANPADs are deadly at low altitude but sometimes WX drives you down there. A dense medium altitude SAM capability is challenging but having altitude, speed, ECM, and Weasels usually makes it more survivable than Low Alt. For that reason, capability to survive and be effective (weapons) from medium altitude has been the focus since DS. But in 1983 that was only true when the weather was good and the SAM threat was considered low. In those days the focus was on going low. Even the only real standoff capable jets like the F-111 were going low.

Dive toss can be used from medium altitude but the primary use in the F-16 was to enable a wingman to standoff outside the fragmentation of lead's bombs so 9-10K feet slant range. It was not a true standoff capability from a threat perspective. In the F-4E we used dive toss for LGBs but the Phantoms I flew were not ARN101 jets so DT was not very accurate. The wSO could not find a target on his own by slewing the soda-straw Pave Spike pod around.

So for your 1983 timeframe it isn't unreasonable to assume a fighter needs to get inside 24K feet (2 miles) of a target to kill it. But I am not a gamer so I don't really know how that stuff works.


Thanks @jbgator!

-good to know on the Napalm, will probably strike that then, same for F-4E and A-10A would you think?

-I believe AGM-65D reached IOC in 1986, so too late for my scenario.

-regarding low/medium/high altitude, what are the bands for those definitions? i.e. low altitude is anything below xyz feet, etc.

-good to know on the AAA/MANPADS at low vs SAM at medium(+) trade-off; was the focus in the 80s to stay low due to the Soviet SAM network and crappy Central European weather?

-In the F-16A, if it didn't have a TGP, how was it able to buddy lase?

-When you say a fighter would need to get within 2 miles to get a kill, are you referring to any fighter, or F-16A specifically? And with LGB or dumb bombs? And at what altitude?

Thanks for the help, i really appreciate it!
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Unread post25 Mar 2017, 01:59

I don't think anyone used napalm then.

The threat envelope for AAA and MANPads was surface up to about 10K feet. The envelope for SAMs was ~300' (depending on terrain) and up to higher than we could fly. So you didn't fly in the middle of those envelopes (heart). You either went very low (below 300') or as high as you could go (20-30K). And you spent as little time in the heart of the threat envelope as possible by quick pop-up attacks from low altitude or quick diving attacks from high altitude climbing back up as quick as possible. Until we got target location and ID capability from level flight at medium altitude with TGP you had to look out with eyeballs to find the target and roll into a dive to hit it. Only the Pave Spike (F-4)/Pave Tack (F-111) had capability to see at distance/altitude and they needed some way to be cued. In the case of Spike the pilot would point the pipper at the target (in a dive) and the WSO would find it in the pod. I don't know how Pave Tack worked in the F-111 but assume it was a little more flexible. But they still flew in at low altitude to attack doing either a level delivery or toss/loft in those days. In DS they did level deliveries from medium altitude (LGB down the air shaft of hardened aircraft shelters) but don't know when they made the transition to that tactic. Yes, everyone stayed low in central Europe because of WX and the SAM threat.

If an F-16 ever did buddy lase before TGPs they would need someone else to do the lasing (Pave Spike, Tack, or ground laser). To my knowledge that was never practiced by any F-16 units in 1983.

Based on the employment slant ranges I mentioned any fighter in 1983 would need to get within 24,000' or 2 miles horizontally to kill a target. That is all the stand off we had. The best would probably be F-111 doing a LGB toss with Pave Tack. Had they trained to do medium altitude level deliveries they could possibly have bomb ranges outside 4 miles but I don't think they trained for that at that time.
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Unread post26 Mar 2017, 00:40

(jbgator and I overlapped at Torrejon. I flew the F-4D and F-16A there, and he showed up towards the end of my tour.)

F-4 and AGM-65 in USAFE: JB, sorry to disagree, but we did use the AGM-65A/B on the F-4 in USAFE. Attached (I think) is a photo of my F-4D at TJ in 1982. Note the LAU-88 and TGM-65 on the right inboard station. Our combat loadout was 6xAGM-65.

F-4Da.jpg


WSOs: Agree with JB. I was fortunate to get to fly with Vietnam vet WSOs with several hundred combat missions "up north". Some of them were outstanding. I basically made sure that we didn't hit the ground. The WSO worked the (ancient) radar, the ALQ-119, the ALE-40, the radios, checked six, did the time-distance-heading on our low levels, and alternated between launching AIM-7s and the AGM-65. They were VERY good. On the other hand, there were some that (as JB says) were weight and ballast for the CG.

F-16A (Block 15) and AGM-65: I looked in my logbooks and don't find any Maverick missions in the F-16A at TJ before I left. I don't recall why TJ would have given up that tasking. However, we did employ the AGM-65A/B at Kunsan AB in 1985, and I launched a live AGM-65B at Nellis AFB in 1986.

"Standoff": A little history on the Maverick missile; The F-4 and F-105 were the primary USAF air-to-ground fighters in Vietnam. They were "red reticle" or "iron sight" or manual bombers. We were terribly inaccurate, especially in combat conditions. I don't recall the exact numbers (and they were classified anyway) but to kill a Soviet tank, you had to physically hit the topside with a MK82 to kill it, and you had to get within something like 8 feet with a MK84. I worked with JMEMs a lot, and recall that an F-4D dropping 12xMK82 on a single pass had something like a 10% PK on a Soviet main battle tank. The main concern for USAFE was trying to stop waves of thousands of Warsaw Pact tanks rolling through the Fulda Gap. The MK20 Rockeye was one attempt to solve the problem. While better than MK82 GP bombs, it still had a pretty low PK. Another solution was the AGM-65. As I recall the AGM-65 PK was around 50% once launched. Therefore, an F-4 carrying 6xAGM-65 had a good chance of taking out three tanks, whereas an F-4 armed with 12xMK82 had a 10% chance of taking out one tank. Clearly, the Maverick was a much better tank killer than a GP bomb. Note that there was no mention of "standoff" with the AGM-65. It was not a "standoff" weapon, but a precision guided anti-tank munition.

A little reality check on the "standoff" concept: When attacking a runway, the enemy defenses (ZSU-23-4, SA-6, etc) are not parked on the center of your target runway. They surround the airfield within a radius of 3-5 miles. Similarly, if you attack a bridge, the defenses are not located on the middle span of the bridge, they're on the hilltops surrounding the bridge. When you attack a tank on a battlefield, it is surrounded by 30,000 troops within 10 miles carrying SA-7s and six bazillion guns. When you say that you are employing a "standoff" weapon against a target, that does not "stand you off" from all the defenses that you have to fly over to reach said target. As JB said, in USAFE in the early 1980s, you had to get right in amongst them to deliver your weapons. There was no "standoff" as it is envisioned today.
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