General Dynamics F-16/79: The Low-cost Viper

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In February 1977, President Jimmy Carter announced a new arms transfer policy to curtail arms proliferation. Under this policy, most foreign countries could only acquire aircraft with a reduced capability than those in the U.S. inventory. As a result, only a few countries were able to purchase F-16 fighter jets. Thus, the “Export Fighter” or “FX” project was born, targeting countries that were not allowed to purchase the original F-16.

To develop a less-capable low-cost export fighter, General Dynamics teamed up with General Electric in 1979. They decided to use J79 engine for F-16, which also used in F-4 Phantom II and F-104 Starfighter. Design work started on February 15, 1980, and the first F-16/79 made its maiden flight on October 29, 1980. This was possible because only minimal changes were required to convert F-16 into F-16/79, and new fatigue or structural tests were unnecessary. On January 9, 1981, F-16/79 completed demonstration flight testing.

Suggested camouflage for aggressor role, reminiscent of the Soviet MiG fighter

General Dynamics also proposed F-16/79 to the U.S. Navy, as adversary aircraft.

Despite its limited capabilities, the F-16/79 could be an appropriate solution for some countries. But President Carter eased his policy in 1980, and his successor Ronald Reagan abolished restrictions that prevented U.S. allies from purchasing F-16. Eventually, F-16/79 became meaningless and none of them were sold.

The only prototype ever built is two-seat F-16/79B based on YF-16B 75-0752, which restored to original configuration later. A single-seat version named F-16/79A was also proposed, but never built.


F-16/79 dimension


F-16/79 shares most of the component with original F-16, and externally identical except engine, aft fuselage fairing, intake.

The J79 engine for F-16/79 is an enhanced variant designated J79-GE-17X (later J79-GE-119). This version introduced a Combat Plus feature like J79-GE-J1E in Kfir C.7, which increases fuel flow to the engine momentarily and closes the engine nozzle slightly to produce extra thrust by increasing exhaust gas temperature. As a result, J79-GE-17X achieved maximum thrust of 18,700 lbf (8,482 kgf) at sea level.

But the Combat Plus was only available for a short time during full afterburner, while compressor inlet temperature is lower than 15 ℉ (-9 ℃). And even with Combat Plus, the thrust was much lower than the F100 engine. Also the extra heat from the engine required additional heat shield and ballast for weight balance, adding extra weight of 2,000 lb (900 kg). To top it all, fuel consumption was also increased. This led to a decrease in overall flight performance.

Weapons carriage capability of F-16/79


F-16/79 has the same weapons capability as the regular F-16A/B. As it was an export model, short-range missiles were limited to AIM-9E or AIM-9J/P series. The ability to operate radar-guided missiles has been proposed as an option, but unlike its competitor, it has never been demonstrated on a real aircraft.

Crew: 2
Length: 47.8 ft (14.56 m), 49.5 ft (15.09 m) including pitot tube
Wingspan: 32.83 ft (10 m)
Height: 16.7 ft (5.09 m)
Wing area: 300 ft² (28 m²)

  • Empty weight: 17,677 lb (8,018 kg)
  • Takeoff gross weight: 25,056 lb (11,365 kg)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 37,422 lb (16,974 kg)

Fuel capacity: 5,773 lb (2,618 kg) internal
Powerplant: 1× J79-GE-119 afterburning turbojet engine
Maximum thrust:

  • @ Sea level: 18,700 lbf (8,482 kgf)
  • @ 35,000 ft (10,668 m), Mach 2.0: 20,840 lbf (9,452 kgf)


  • Maximum speed: Mach 2 at 35,000 ft (10,668 m)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,240 m)
  • Maximum load factor (full internal fuel, 4× AIM-9, 1× empty external tank): 9.0 g
  • Sustained turn rate (2× AIM-9): 11.5 °/s (approx.) at Mach 0.9/15,000 ft (4,572 m)
  • Instantaneous turn rate: 19.1 °/s at 15,000 ft (4,572 m)
  • Acceleration time: 45 seconds from Mach 0.9 to 1.2, 110 seconds from Mach 0.9 to 1.6


  • Gun: 1× 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan (512 rounds)
  • Hardpoints: 11 total (2× wingtip, 6× under wing, 3× under fuselage), total payload of 12,366 lb (5,609 kg)
  • Air-to-Air missiles: 6× AIM-9E/J/P Sidewinder (station 1/2/3/7/8/9)
  • Air-to-Ground missiles: 6× AGM-65A/B Maverick (station 3/7)
  • Bombs: 18× Mk 82 500 lb general purpose bomb (TER on station 2/8, MER on station 3/7)
  • Others:
    • 2× 370-gallon external tank (station 4/6)
    • 1× 300-gallon external tank (station 5)



This would be a great event vehicle


Would be a good fit between F-16 and F-5E.

I’d be kind of neat to see this in-game at some point, alongside the F-20

If the F-20 ends up as a premium, I could see this as either a squadron or event vehicle (or vice versa)