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This U.S. Navy Fighter Jet Would Have Been Better Than the F-16


The Vought 1600 wasn’t the only legendary American fighter that very nearly found its way into Uncle Sam’s carrier fleet. At one point, a significantly upgraded iteration of the F-117 Nighthawk nearly found its way into Naval service. And just a few years later, a similar effort almost placed F-22 Raptors on the Navy’s flight decks.

the f-16 fighting falcon has been the

u.s air force’s workhorse fighter for

more than 40 years and at one point it

looked like a carrier-capable version

would do the same for the u.s navy

more than 4 600 f-16s have rolled out

off the assembly line since it first

took to the sky in 1974

and even amid this era of stealthy

supercomputers like the f-35 joint

strike fighter the f-16 force remains

the backbone of america’s air dominance

with some

1245 of the fighters still in operation

under the air force’s banner the f-16s

broad multi-role capabilities and sheer

performance make it one of the world’s

top fighter jets despite being old

enough to have seen the original star

wars in theaters

today f6 teams fly for the united states

israel pakistan

turkey egypt the netherlands norway

belgium and more but the most surprising

place this highly capable fourth

generation fighter may have ended up as

on the deck of america’s super carriers

shortly after the f-16 won the air

force’s new air combat fighter or acf

contract in 1975

then secretary of defense james

schlesinger pushed the u.s navy to adopt

a new fighter as well

the f-16 had performed well in his

pursuit of the air force contract and if

the navy could also find use for the

fighting falcon schlesinger reasoned the

defense department could procure the jet

in higher numbers and streamline

logistics for both branches

this line of thinking of course would

eventually lead to the acquisition

nightmare that has been the f-35 joint

strike fighter which was also intended

to be a single fighter platform that

could meet the desperate needs of the

air force navy and marine corps

as well as foreign buyers the f-16

then could have become a similar

boondoggle or may be proven the concept

sound if the vault model 1600

or carrier capable f16 had ever made it

into service

precursors to the f-16 and f a-18

squared off more than once

in order for the yf6 team to find his

destiny as the air force’s workhorse

fighter it first had to contend with

stiff competition in the form of

northrop’s yf-17 the yf-17 was a

lightweight prototype fighter first

designed to serve as a lower-cost

alternative to america’s most dominant

air superiority fighter in the modern

era the f-15 eagle in the minds of

military leaders the large powerful and

expensive f-15 brought more power to

bear than was really necessary for many

combat operations and as such a cheaper

but still highly capable jet could

complement america’s fleet of eagles by

assuming those lower stakes rose

ultimately the yf-16 would outperform

the northrop’s yf-17 and testing

oriented specifically toward the air

force’s needs but it wouldn’t be the

last time these two highly capable

platforms would find themselves

competing over a contract in fact as the

navy mold over the idea of converting

the f-16 for carrier use it once again

found stiff competition in the form of

northrop’s yf-17 neither general

dynamics the maker of the f-16

nor northrop who made the yf-17

had ever built a carrier fighter before

with the lucrative contract on the line

both firms sought out partners with

carrier aircraft experience general

dynamics teamed up with fault to convert

their new f-16 fighting falcon into the

vault model 1600

and northrop paired off with mcdonald

douglas to improve upon their yf-17

design the new iterations of both of

these fighters had to place a larger

emphasis on the navy’s primary needs at

the time

namely long-range radar capabilities for

intercept missions and multi-role

capabilities to support the sort of

air-to-ground combat operations america

has come to leverage heavily throughout

the past few decades


it seems counterintuitive today with the

f-16 so expertly filling the role of an

attack aircraft as well as a fighter but

the original concept behind the f-16 was

to create a no-frills fighter built to

do nothing but dominate the skies its

designers at general dynamics internally

known as the lightweight fighter mafia

assault to keep the gold plating they

believe common in new fighter programs

away from their new jet gold plating in

their minds including a number of things

we now think of as practically standard

in a fourth or fifth generation fighter

like fire control radar electronic

countermeasures for flying in highly

contested airspace radar-guided missiles

and perhaps most importantly ground

attack capabilities by the time the

f-16a began to emerge it would have some

of that gold played in the lightweight

fighter mafia so disdained liking an

apg-66 radar and some intrinsic ground

attack capabilities it still lacked

radar-guided air-to-air weapons forgoing

them in favor of the heat-seeking

sidewinder missile these additions made

the f-16 a better candidate for the

navy’s needs than it would have been as

originally imagined but it still d