It can be said that the F-16 is America’s most successful 4th generation fighter. To date, they are in service in more than 20 countries
The latest variant in production is the F-16V, also known as the F-16E/F Block 70/72. The F-16V is equipped with the AN/APG-83 AESA active phased array radar along with the Sniper ATP avionics suite, and the AIM-9X missile. With modern equipment, the F-16V is considered to be capable of fighting on par with Russia’s Su-35 heavy fighter.
Lockheed Martin Corporation has decided to equip the F-16V with Northrop Grumman Group’s advanced APG-83, is a full-performance fire control radar. The APG-83 helps the F-16V acquire the air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities of the 5th generation fighters. Northdrop Grumman, before providing modern radars for the F-16V, was known to be the supplier of AESA radars for the most modern US aircraft today, the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
Apparently the active phased array radar gives the fighter a new power. Many observers believe that the F-16V has the same combat ability, even more in some parameters than the Russian Su-35, which is only equipped with semi-active phased array radar. Due to the complexity as well as the expensiveness of this type of equipment, normally active phased array radars are only equipped on 5th generation fighters.
The US decision to equip new radars for the 4.5th generation fighters shows that it is likely that the 4.5th generation fighters will continue to accompany the 5th generation fighters for a long time. Compared with the semi-active phased array radar currently equipped on the 4.5th generation fighters, including the Su-35 fighter, the active phased array radar has a much higher sensitivity.
n the other hand, the life span of the F-16V’s fuselage is also more than twice that of Russian and Chinese fighters. The average life span of the F-16’s fuselage is 8,000 flight hours. Once overhauled, they can last up to 12,000 flight hours. Meanwhile, Russia’s Su-30/35 aircraft has a fuselage life of 3,000 flight hours. and after overhaul they can only fly another 1,000 flight hours. The long life of the fuselage will be very useful in maintaining the operation of the fighter, as well as in future upgrades.
The weak point of the US aircraft, it costs much more than the same Russian aircraft. Each F-16V is about 120 million USD/unit (according to the selling price for Taiwan), while the Su-35 is priced at about $100-105 million /unit, based on the order Russia sells to China and Egypt.
Approaching the F-16V fighter is also more difficult than the Su-35. The US only sells these fighters to its allies, and on political terms that not all countries accept. With Russia, customers only need money to buy Russian planes. But in return, the F-16V is more durable, and the maintenance cost is cheaper. Possessing outstanding combat capabilities with advanced avionics and a diverse arsenal, the F-16V is still a best-selling item in the US.