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General Dynamics F-16XL

United States (1982)
Picture of General Dynamics F-16XL Technology Demonstrator / Research Aircraft
Picture of General Dynamics F-16XL Technology Demonstrator / Research Aircraft Picture of General Dynamics F-16XL Technology Demonstrator / Research Aircraft
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The General Dynamics F-16XL was developed from the existing F-16 multirole fighter, originally for research and then as a potential strike fighter for the USAF.


Detailing the development and operational history of the General Dynamics F-16XL Technology Demonstrator / Research Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 10/23/2017. Authored by Dan Alex. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

What began life as a General Dynamics research project evolved into a United States Air Force contender to replace the expensive, complex and large General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark" swing-wing interdictor fighter-bomber. The resulting product became the "F-16XL", a highly-modified form of the original F-16 "Fighting Falcon" multi-role fighter. The F-16XL was pitted against a McDonnell Douglas offering, this a ground-attack/fighter-bomber derivative of the original F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter but lost out in the USAF decision. Despite its promising nature, the F-16XL fell to aviation history with just two completed prototypes.

Debuting in 1974, the original Fighting Falcon was adopted for U.S. military service in 1978 and went on to see well over 4,500 units produced (now under the Lockheed Martin banner). It has become an export favorite and remains well-liked by her pilots for her multi-faceted mission qualities. The F-16XL itself was born through a research-minded endeavor undertaken by General Dynamics in the mid-to-late 1970s as the F-16 "SCAMP" ("Supersonic Cruise and Maneuver Prototype"). The program was a design study centering on the effects of laminar airflow at supersonic speeds along with the causes and effects of sonic booms.

The end result was an evolution of the original F-16 approach which included an all new wing planform consisting of a "cranked-arrow" delta surface area. This allowed for improved lift (at the expense of increased drag), increased maneuverability and range. Along with the changes to the wing, the aircraft was a whole four feet longer than the original F-16. The two completed prototypes became S/N 75-0747 and S/N 75-0749.

In 1981, the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) competition was in play and the F-16XL was entered to face-off against the modified F-15 for the USAF challenge. The F-16XL was evaluated with wing-mounted and underfuselage air-to-air missiles as well as loads of conventional drop bombs under the many available hardpoints found under the new wing area. Testing began in 1982.


Picture of the General Dynamics F-16XL Technology Demonstrator / Research Aircraft
Picture of the General Dynamics F-16XL Technology Demonstrator / Research Aircraft


The F-16XL featured an overall length of 54 feet with a wingspan of 34 feet and height of 17.6 feet. When empty, it exhibited a weight of 22,000lbs and 48,000lbs for a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW). Power was served through 1 x General Electric F110-GE-100 turbofan engine offering 17,100lbs through dry thrust and 29,000lbs with afterburner engaged. Performance included a maximum speed of 1,400 miles per hour (Mach 2), a cruise speed of 600 miles per hour, a range of 2,850 miles, a service ceiling of 50,000 feet and a rate-of-climb reaching 62,000 feet per minute. The F-16XL held an inherent operational range that proved nearly double that of the original F-16 offering.

Armament-wise, the F-16XL fielded a single 20mm M61 Vulcan internal Gatling cannon for close-in engagements. Its offensive capacity was relatively staggering when compared to the original F-16 mount. There proved some 27 hardpoints overall, allowing the aircraft to manage a bevy of missiles and conventional drop ordnance. There were sixteen underwing stations cleared to carry 750lbs each while two positions were plumbed for external fuel stores. The wingtips were reserved for the tried-and-true AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile. There were four semi-recessed positions and used to carry AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-ranged air-to-air missiles. A fuselage centerline position was multipurpose and two chin positions were outfitted with LANTIRN (Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting InfraRed for Night) equipment. All told, the aircraft offered double the weapons-carrying capability of the original F-16.

Despite the changes, the USAF elected to go in the direction of the F-15 derivative in 1984 and this begat the F-15E "Strike Eagle" still in use today. The F-15E held several inherent advantages over the enhanced F-16XL: its twin-engine configuration offering not only more power and speed but also improved the survivability of both air crew and airframe during low-level strike runs. The existing F-15 airframe also required far less modifications to achieve the strike role - a second cockpit was added aft of the primary one and this outfitted with the necessary ground attack instrumentation. There already existed a two-seat trainer variant so the airframe was more or less proven for the conversion process. Comparatively, the F-16XL relied on a single engine which meant any direct damage to the installation endangered both crew and airframe. The first F-16XL prototype was a single-seat model which forced the crewman to take on all the duties of mission management and attack. The second prototype introduced a second crew station. Lastly, the changes required to the existing F-16 airframe were both complex and expensive in the terms of serial production, clearly giving the advantage to the McDonnell Douglas design in the eyes of USAF brass.

As such, the F-16XL was passed over as America's F-111 replacement. After their days as USAF test subjects, the prototypes were passed on to NASA for further flight research and some additional modifications to the designed ensued. Testing was headed through the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California until about 1999 before both were placed into storage. They were officially retired as recently as 2009 and remain in storage to this day (February 2014), leaving their full capabilities as a strike fighter to the imagination of the reader.

Despite the setback, the F-16 line has enjoyed a healthy service life the world over and continues to play an important front-line role for many nations including the United States.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 1400mph
Lo: 700mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (1,398mph).

    Graph average of 1050 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the General Dynamics F-16XL (S/N 75-0749)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Pie graph section
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Pie graph section
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
2
2


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1982
Type: Technology Demonstrator / Research Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): General Dynamics / NASA
Production: 2
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Global Operators:
United States
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the General Dynamics F-16XL (S/N 75-0749) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
54.13 ft


Meters
16.5 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
34.12 ft


Meters
10.4 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
17.59 ft


Meters
5.36 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
22,046 lb


Kilograms
10,000 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
48,061 lb


Kilograms
21,800 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x General Electric F110-GE-100 turbofan engine developing 28,900lbs of thrust with afterburner.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
1,398 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
2,250 kph


Knots
1,215 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,771 mi


Kilometers
2,850 km


Nautical Miles
1,539 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
49,213 ft


Meters
15,000 m


Miles
9.32 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
62,000 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
18,898 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an aircraft Gatling-style rotating gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft guided bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (27 (including wingtip mounts reserved for AIM-9 Sidewinders)):

STANDARD:
1 x 20mm cannon M61 Vulcan internal cannon

OPTIONAL (evaluated):
Mission-specific ordnance would have included an array of standard drop bombs, laser-guided bombs, air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface missiles.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• F-16XL (S/N 75-0749 - Single-seat prototype.
• F-16XL (S/N 75-0747 - Two-seat prototype.