Why the US Air Force Can’t Seem to Retire the F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-16 is here to stay and will be in service for at least another 20 years until it gets eventually replaced by the F-35.

The United States Air Force is holding off on developing an F-16 replacement. This comes as a bit of a surprise as the F-16 has been in service since 1979… but replacing such an iconic aircraft is not easy.

It is one of the most historically valuable fighter aircraft ever built. It is currently used by several air forces around the world – and due to its importance, it will remain in service for at least 20 more years in the US Air Force.

The outstanding performance of the F-16

A USAF F 16 pilot breaking right on final approach over northern Las Vegas
USAF F-16 by Master Sgt. Benjamin Bloker

The F-16 Fighting Falcon, AKA “Viper” is a single-engine jet fighter that was first developed in the 1970s. It has since become one of the most widely-used military aircraft in the world.


This aircraft is known for its versatility and maneuverability, it can be equipped with various weapons systems, and it has been used in conflicts all over the world, including the Gulf War, Iraq War, and War in Afghanistan.

Now, it remains one of the most popular fighter jets. This fighter jet is one of the most respected aircraft in aviation history… But, the only doubt it has raised is his age.

The controversy about keeping this fighter jet in service

F-16 by Andrew Lee. Public Domain.

The decision to hold off on developing a new fighter jet comes as a surprise to some USAF specialists as this plane has been in service for over 40 years and is starting to show its age.


They believe that the Air Force is making a mistake by not developing a new fighter jet sooner. They argue that this 4th generation aircraft is outdated and won’t be able to keep up with more contemporary jets.

However, part of the F-16 fleet will be upgraded under the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), which will take care of its structural changes. Also, the Post Block Integration Team (PoBIT) will be in charge of its operating system.

This way, the Fighting Falcon is expected to get a revamp and increase its capabilities. These improvements should be enough to appease its critics and make this aircraft as effective as it was decades ago by having the most modern technology.


Only time will tell if the Air Force’s decision to hold off on developing a new fighter jet was the right one. For now, they are focusing on other priorities and trusting that the Viper will continue to be a valuable asset for the United States Air Force.

The F-35 will replace the F-16 anyway

F-35 training
F-35 training by Christopher Callaway. Public Domain.

In the past, the F-16 has been one of the most popular fighters in the U.S. Air Force. But, with the newer F-35 now available, some have been wondering if it’s time to make the switch.

The F-35 is a 5th-generation multi-role fighter that will replace the F-16. The F-35 has many advantages, including a more powerful engine, increased fuel capacity, and a larger weapons payload.


Luke F-35s, F-16s train daily
Luke F-35s train daily by Brooke Moeder. Public Domain.

For this reason, the Air Force does not want to rush the retirement of the F-16 since its replacement is in sight, and when it deploys the sixth generation aircraft, the F-35 will take the place of the F-16.

The F-16 is one of the top aircraft in the world despite its age

An aircraft like this, if modernized, will have far greater capabilities to stand up to any aircraft of today.

It has all the potential to be in service with any air force in the world and has had exceptional service, being one of the most recognized wartime aircraft in the world. Even today, any country would be happy to have the F-16 in its fleet.


Featured image credit: 310th F-16 by Ridge Shan. Public Domain.

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