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F-16 is the greatest fighter jet of all time and we have the receipts

Let’s crown the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon the most successful fighter jet of all time.  

The F-16 has ripped up enemy ground forces in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Serbia, and is set to change the balance of power for Ukraine and Taiwan. No other jet fighter out there is almost 50 years old and still in such demand. 

Go ahead, criticize me. Sure, the F-15 Eagle has the 104-0 air combat kill ratio. The F-22 Raptor is the most technically superior fighter, with its stealth and speed, and F-22s were just sent back to the Middle East to counter unsafe Russian air activity over Syria.  

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If you heard it, you were lucky; it’s very rare, because restrictions bar the F-16s guarding the capital from going supersonic except in an emergency. 

And yes, American F-16s are also certified to carry tactical nuclear weapons for extended deterrence for allies, as Russia’s lugubrious Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained last week. F-16s sat nuclear alert in Germany for years during the Cold War. 

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Get ready for this: over 4,560 F-16s have been produced since the 1970s. That’s not the record for a jet fighter. You Vietnam veterans know that the total of 5,195 F-4 Phantoms produced from 1958 to 1979 is a bigger number.  

FILE: Taiwan's F-16 fighter jets fly in close formation over President Office during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan, Oct. 10, 2021.

FILE: Taiwan’s F-16 fighter jets fly in close formation over President Office during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan, Oct. 10, 2021.  (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

All their F-16s had custom striped adversary paint schemes. We spent an hour jinking and banking, “committing out” on other aircraft targets as directed by master controllers. The F-16 was so smooth, I was sorry when we touched down.  

The sleek F-16 fighter suffers from funny nicknames like “Viper “and “Lawn Dart” but it’s a true multi-role airplane. The F-16 first flew in 1974 and was purchased by the Air Force to be the cheap little brother of the F-15 Eagle. The F-16 did much more.  

It went on to stock up NATO air forces and kick butt in multiple wars in Iraq, hitting everything from strategic targets to Iraqi ground forces. The design turned out to be tough and versatile. The Air Force just kept upgrading the F-16 with new technology and weapons. Currently, the F-16 carries 180 different configurations of conventional weapons.  

Yes, Russia’s air defenses positioned from Belarus to Crimea are formidable, but F-16s could still be highly effective using proper tactics. F-16s can unleash precision weapons on Russian troops, artillery, vehicles and other military targets in Ukraine.  

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I was shocked when National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN that “the critical systems for the counteroffensive are not planes.” What is this, World War I? Airpower has dominated the American way of war since 1918. 

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What about the F-35 Lightning? This stealth cousin to the F-22 is a big success for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and many allies from Britain to Germany. Yet the F-35 is not likely to surpass the F-16 lifespan or production run, especially as the Air Force brings in more drones to augment fighter missions.  

And in the end, it’s that big future of the F-16 that makes it the GOAT. 

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