F-16XL: A MISUNDERSTOOD AIRCRAFT

The F-16XL was a great aircraft, but was not appreciated the role for which it was designed.

F-16 XL

The General Dynamics F-16XL (Extra Large), also known as F-16E, was a derivative of the F-16, but with different and better features. The variant had two delta wings, designed in collaboration with NASA, which allowed many benefits such as reduction of resistance during transonic and supersonic flight.

The air intake had been improved with the introduction of mobile elements, so that despite the reduction of the weight-power ratio, the F-16XL had a speed greater than the standard airplane, about Mach 2.2 thanks to the new engine F110 by the thrust of about 12.5 tons.


The variant of the Fighting Falcon, born as an experimental fighter, was a promising aircraft. It provided 17 docking points for a total of 9,200 kg of freight like Panavia Tornado. With the same load war of a traditional F-16, its radius of action was higher than 45%, while with the same radius of action the load doubled.

The stealth skills were better because of the arrangement of the AMRAAM missiles under the fuselage and the front angle of the wings unfavorable to radar. Also it could introduce in the internal tanks the same amount of fuel of an F-15, avoiding the use of external tanks.


The F-16 XL could carry a load of 4,900 kg bombs under the wings and under the fuselage 4 AMRAAM missiles, virtually as two standard Fighting Falcon.

However, the project, despite the excellent quality, was not followed.

In the occasion of the first and only market opportunity to replace the F-111, the rival F-15E Strike Eagle won the challenge.

The main problem of the F-16, being a lightweight fighter, is precisely the relationship between the payload and the radius of action, too limited for effective use in the role of long-range missions. Current F-16 users often have introduced the tanks "conformal" above the fuselage to increase the flight range.



The F-16 XL program, having found no interest from potential customers, was suspended and the two prototypes (one sigle ship and one double ship) have served with NASA as research aicraft.


Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo Credits: NASA

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