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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

The F-16 Block 72 Fighter Is Simply a Rockstar in the Sky


The Indonesian Defense Ministry in February purchased $22 billion worth of Western fighter jets. Among the powerful platforms soon to be acquired by the Indonesian air force is the newest variant of the American-made F-16 airframe — Block 72.

This newer model of the F-16 Fighting Falcon airframe incorporates many fifth-generation elements that also adorn the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, making this variant a 4.5-generation platform. 

Since entering service in the late 1970s, the F-16 has earned a steady reputation as a formidable fighter, and it continues to fly with dozens of nations across the globe.

Additionally, the Fighting Falcon’s extensive combat experience makes it an appealing, cost-friendly alternative for client states.

Indonesia’s purchase of the Block 72 variant will likely be emulated by other nations – and that’s a smart move for many clear reasons. 

F-16: How the Fighting Falcon Rules the Skies 

Developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin), the F-16 fighter was designed to achieve air superiority.

A fighter tactics instructor in the Korean War collaborated with a mathematician to create an airframe with elevated combat potential.

The energy-maneuverability equation that emerged from their efforts guided the development of the F-16

The Falcon’s smaller frame and increased thrust-to-weight ratio greatly improved air-to-air training for pilots. Since the fighter is all-weather capable, it can effectively strike targets during non-visual bombing conditions.

Perhaps the most significant perk lending to the Falcon’s export success is the fighter’s inexpensive makeup.

Although the Falcon lacks the range of the F-15 Eagle, it costs less than half to produce it. 

The Fighting Falcon’s first combat success dates back to 1981, when Israel’s air force used its new fleet of F-16 fighters to take out Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor, using 16 MK-84 bombs. The U.S. Air Force’s fleet of Falcons first saw action during the Gulf War a decade later.

F-16s were then the standard fighter for U.S. and NATO air campaigns over Iraq, Syria, and the former Yugoslavia.   

What Sets the F-16 Block 70/72 Apart?

The Block 70 and Block 72 variants of the F-16 airframe feature the same capabilities and are only differentiated by their engine. Block 70 variants sport the General Electric F110, while the Block 72 models are powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100 engine.

Both models feature an advanced upgrade package that includes the AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a modernized cockpit with new safety elements, conformal fuel tanks, and advanced weapons.

The 70/72 Block variants also have a prolonged service life of 12,000 hours, which is roughly 50% more than its predecessors. The APG-83 AESA radar included with the Block 70/72 upgrades leverages hardware and software commonality with the F-22 and F-35 fifth-generation fighters.

According to The Defense Post, “the radar is linked with a new active and passive internal electronic warfare system (Viper Shield), incorporating a new digital radar warning receiver.” 

Since its introduction, at least five nations have opted to procure the F-16 Block 70/72 in the near future.

Bahrain is set to receive 16 Block 70 jets, and Bulgaria and Jordan also have placed orders. Indonesia’s air force has an existing fleet of F-16 fighters, making the Ministry’s recent announcement to procure the newer Block 72 airframes a no-brainer. 

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Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

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