F-16XL, the Cranked Arrow that fought the Eagle

[Would you like to see this in-game?]
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Although it ultimately lost against the F-15E Strike Eagle, the two planes that makes up the F-16XL variant are real enough to potentially live again in the skies of War Thunder.

History

Spoiler

With YF-16 winning the Lightweight Fighter Program, General Dynamics quickly looked onwards and began working on derivatives of the F-16 to further improve the airframe. Led by Harry J. Hillaker - the deputy chief engineer of the YF-16 - the project partook in the Supersonic Cruise And Maneuvering Program (SCAMP) with the goal of producing an aircraft capable of Supercruising, or the ability to maintain supersonic flight without the assistance of afterburners. To achieve this, the team experimented with various wing configurations in collaboration with NASA Langley Research Center before settling on a “Cranked-Arrow” delta wing, which proved to offer more than twice the wing area with minimal difference in drag.
Impressed by this development, the USAF provided two F-16 airframes to Hillaker to be heavily modified into the full-size prototype of the SCAMP concept. Now dubbed F-16XL, the craft gained an additional 56 inches from the extra sections added to the front and back and the second prototype became a two-seater after a mishap during construction, but the large, new, carbon fiber-skinned wing undoubtedly drew attention. Not only could it hold 82% more fuel, it also boasts 17 hardpoints (or 27 according to some sources), twice the amount of the F-16A at the time. Furthermore, it can achieve up to eighty-three knots over its production counterpart at sea level at military power setting and 311 knots on afterburner at altitude while carrying a bomb load.
The reception of the plane was high, as F. Clifton Berry Jr. - the editor-in-chief of Air Force magazine at the time - would say in 1983, “To say that Hillaker’s design team achieved its objectives is an understatement.” So it was no surprise that the Air Force would submit the design to the Enhanced Tactical Fighter (ETF) competition (later, Dual-Role fighter program) to determine the replacement of the F-111 Aardvark. There it would face competition from another modified form of an existing aircraft: the F-15E Strike Eagle.
Unfortunately for the F-16XL, the F-15E has several leg-ups on its delta-winged rival. Sharing many parts with the production F-15D allows for a cheaper production cost compared to the largely new construction of the XL, and the existence of the second engine may mean life or death in the mission deep within enemy airspace - the primary goal of ETF competition. These factors, plus higher top speed and service ceiling, ultimately meant defeat for the F-16 variant.
All was not lost for the two prototypes, however, as the two would live the rest of their active life as NASA’s research crafts to perform various aeronautical experiments before retiring to the Air Force Flight Center Museum.

Specifications

Spoiler

For clarification, “75-0749” will be referred to XL#1 and “75-0747” as XL#2


Length: 54 ft 2 in (16.51m)

Wingspan: 32 ft 5 in (9.88 m) (34 ft 3 in/10.44m measurement listed in some sources includes the AIM-9 at wingtip)

Height: 17 ft 7 in (5.36m)

Wing Area: 633 square ft (58.8 square m) (A source lists this as 663 square ft, I believe this is a typo.)

Empty Weight: around 22,000 pounds

Maximum Take-Off Weight: around 48,000 pounds

Take-Off Roll: Estimated to be 3,000 ft (914.4 m)

Maximum Speed at 40,000 ft:

  • Mach 1.8 (1,260 mph / 2027.77 km/h) for XL#1
  • Mach 2 (1,400 mph / 2253.08 km/h) for XL#2

Service Ceiling: 50,000 ft (15.24 km)

Powerplant:

  • Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan for XL#1 (12,240 lbf dry and 23,830 lbf with afterburner)
  • General Electric F110-GE-129 turbofan for XL#2 ( 17,155 lbf dry and 28,984 lbf with afterburner)

Crew:

  • 1 for XL#1
  • 2 for XL#2

Armament:

  • 1 × 20 mm M61 Vulcan rotary cannon
  • 17 hardpoints (Some sources suggest 27 in the following layout: 16 wing weapons stations, 4 semi-submerged AIM-120 stations, 2 wingtip stations, 1 centerline station, 2 wing “heavy / wet” stations, 2 chin stations for LANTIRN)
    • AIM-9 Sidewinder
    • Mk 82 500-pound General-Purpose Bombs
    • AIM-120 AMRAAM Missiles

More Pictures

Spoiler

Evidence that it has more than 17 hardpoints. It’s carrying 2 AIM-9 Sidewinders on the wingtip stations, two underwing 370 gal fuel tanks, 10 Mk.82 (500lbs) General Purpose bombs on underwing stations, 2 Mk.82s on the centerline, and 4 semi-recessed AIM-120 AMRAAAMs.




Sources

Primary Source

Secondary Sources

11 Likes

Very interesting vehicle

4 Likes

+1 , would make a very cool event vehicle

3 Likes

Delta Wing F-16 would be nice.
Ideally it’d be tech tree.
Would be nice to see this as a unique aircraft in many peoples’ hands.

4 Likes

Does this even have any countermeasures, I can’t see any

1 Like

That is actually a really good question, on your standard F-16 they’re located underneath the fuselage near the horizontal elevators. However on the F-16XL the AMRAAM/Sparrow would be over where those ports are.

What is the capacity of chaff and flare dispensers in a combat aircraft? -  Quora
75-0747 • f-16 photography

It also couldn’t receive the BOL rails the F-16C received because its before they were even invented.

Perhaps its those black circles on the protrusion near the wingtip?

Very interesting question, i’d be interested if anyone else has an answer.

1 Like

I don’t think F-16Cs used BOL rails, the only ones I know of are the F-14s and F-15s.

Also notice these sensors on both sides of the fuselage, is it possible that is a missile warning sensor?
image

US F-16s don’t seem to have these sensors, while some foreign variants do:
image

I’m probably wrong, that’s just an assumption as they suddenly got a tonne of countermeasures.

I couldn’t tell you but as its rear facing it would stand to reason. Although equally i’d be confused as to why the US one’s lack it.

Excellent question! From NASA’s Elegance of Flight documentation (now linked as a source), the two doesn’t appear to have chaff/flare dispensers but it does have room to fit one should it enter production.


image

So Reileyy would appear to be right!

1 Like

Event? I have to disagree. This thing is like top tier, and would perfectly end or near end the F16 line

Were done with event vehicles.

Atleast until gaijin finds a way to reintroduce them, and this would be a huge -1 for an event imo

Were getting to the point where we can only go so far with tech, and the game needs to keep going on

Unless we want most other viable tier 8s in both ground and air to be event

Just my opinion

3 Likes

There are two planes of subtle differences so if Gaijin is generous, it could be one for tech tree and the other for event; preferably the more powerful engine two-seater for the former…

1 Like

+1

I want this thing to an agonizing extent, beautiful jet with insane potential in game.

1 Like

Nice!

perfect squadron vehicle

3 Likes

This is one of the few prototypes I could see actually being a TT aircraft for the US, maybe alongside the A-6F Intruder II.
+1 from me!

4 Likes

10000% Yes

Here are some reasons why adding the F-16XL to War Thunder would be exciting:

The F-16XL, an experimental prototype, boasts a unique cranked-delta wing design. Its extended body and backward-leaning wings lend it a futuristic look that sets it apart from other aircraft. General Dynamics F-16XL - Wikipedia

image

General Dynamics developed the F-16XL as a potential replacement for the standard F-16 Fighting Falcon. Despite not being mass-produced, its involvement in experimental flight research and ties to NASA make it historically fascinating.

The F-16XL was engineered for both air-to-air combat and ground assault missions. In War Thunder, it could function as a flexible multirole aircraft, enabling players to participate in both aerial battles and ground attacks.

The aerodynamic design of the F-16XL offers exceptional speed and maneuverability. Its performance attributes would make it an exhilarating addition to the game, particularly in fast-paced aerial combat.

The F-16XL comes in several versions, including the Block 10, Block 15 (Air Defense Fighter), and Block 20 (Mid-life Update). Each model could provide different gameplay experiences, catering to a range of player preferences.

The F-16XL was fitted with cutting-edge avionics and systems. Incorporating these features into War Thunder could enhance gameplay depth and strategic decision-making.

I Still have my edits live, there was differences to the below post its not word for word as he states, he’s just being pedantic

1 Like

(The above commenter has since edited their post, it was previously almost identical to the below answer written by chatGPT)

Put more effort into your posts

image

There are a lot of cool event vehicles like the F16XL F15 STOL/MTD and sooo on but gaijin decides to give us a indian jaguar

I could photoshop that as well, its not hard, slight change in the composition as well, to try and make it look authentic.

Be more creative in the future

Also reading different sources help

General Dynamics F-16XL - Wikipedia

Elegance in Flight: A Comprehensive History of the F-16XL Experimental Prototype and its Role in NASA Flight Research

F-16XL: A Military Aviation Giant in US History - MilitaryView

These are just a few, i’ve looked at before getting some source material together

If i wanted to go into more detail i would,

For Example (with source links separate this time)

The F-16XL, a derivative of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, is known for its unique cranked-arrow delta wing design. The idea for this design originated from a research project by General Dynamics in the mid-to-late 1970s known as the F-16 “SCAMP” (Supersonic Cruise and Maneuver Prototype) (1)

The goal of this project was to study the effects of laminar airflow at supersonic speeds and the causes and effects of sonic booms (2)

The design team, led by Harry Hillaker (the designer of the original F-16), started the Supersonic Cruise and Maneuver Prototype (SCAMP) project, Several wing designs were considered, including one using a forward-swept wing, but the large “cranked-arrow” wing was pursued due to its much more efficient lift-to-drag ratio at supersonic speeds (3)

The company worked closely with NASA’s Langley Research Center and invested significant R&D funds for wind tunnel testing. Over several years, the design was refined, leading to the final F-16XL design by late 1980

The F-16XL was intended to enhance both air-to-air and air-to-ground mission capabilities while retaining parts commonality with the F-16A. It was thought that the cranked arrow wing shape, paired with the strength of the standard F-16 fuselage, would garner even more speed and maneuverability (4)

However, despite its innovative design, the F-16XL lost to the F-15E Strike Eagle in the United States Air Force’s Enhanced Tactical Fighter competition in 1981

Source Material Taken from
(General Dynamics F-16XL - Wikipedia) - (1) (3)
(General Dynamics F-16XL Technology Demonstrator / Research Aircraft) - (2)
(F-16XL: The Stunning F-16 On ‘Beast Mode’ Built to Replace the F-111 | The National Interest) (4)

Here’s a video of the chatGPT result. Did I pull out the adobe premiere for this one?. Anyone curious is welcome to try it themselves.