During the Vietnam war a lot of aircraft are not well adapted to the actual combat situation. This prompts the need for a new breed of airplane for the United States Air Force.
In 1972 the LWF (Light Weight Aircraft) program is started.
After a thorough evaluation of the presented prototypes, the US Air Force decides for the General Dynamics F-16 January 13, 1975.
Some years later General Dynamics will merge with Lockheed Martin.
At the same time different European Air Forces need to replace their aging F-104s. Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway join the F-16 development program.
Belgium initially orders 116 ‘Fighting Falcons’ but eventually buy 96 F-16A (single seat) and 20 F-16B (two seat) aircraft.
Belgian and Danish aircraft are assembled in Belgium by SABCA and SONECA while FN Herstal manufactures the Pratt & Whitney PW-F100 turbine engines.
The F-16 is famous for its maneuverability. To be able to cope with the G-forces the ejection seat is canted 30° to the rear. The maneuverability is obtained through inherent instability (Relaxed State Stability). This instability in flight is corrected by a computer connected with the flight controls. The human flight control inputs (stick and rudder pedals) are converted to electrical signals. Together with other inputs such as angle-of-attack, mach number, accelerations, etcetera, the signals are processed in the Flight Control Computer. This FCC in turn controls the hydraulically actuated steering planes.
Another striking feature of the F-16 is the ‘Heads-up Display’ (HUD) which enables the pilot to see all important flight an tactical information while looking straight forward towards his objective instead of having to look down inside the cockpit.
Although the F-16 is designed as a fighter plane, it soon proves to be a very good bomber.
February, 1983 the Belgian government orders another 34 F-16A and 10 F-16B aircraft. Later this will be augmented to 40 F-16As and 13 F16-Bs.