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I've noticed that the F-16I has these protrusions on the sides of its fuselage. What purpose do they serve?

enter image description here

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They are Conformal Fuel Tanks.

See http://israeli-weapons.com/weapons/aircraft/f-16i/F-16I.html:

Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT) - These tanks are manufactured by the "Israel Aircraft Industries" and increase the aircraft's amount of internal fuel by 50%. Their purpose is to significantly prolong the aircraft's flight range and ability to remain in the air. The tanks are installed the plane's back and conform to it's figure.

Israel does not have any heavy bombers, so they need the fighters to be capable of striking deep in enemy territory and since they can't be accompanied by tankers there, they need additional fuel.

As jwenting mentioned in comment, unlike most conformal tanks that are removable on the ground, these are fitted permanently.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the informative answer. But why not have external fuel tanks mounted on the lower surface of the wing? $\endgroup$ – Madhav Sudarshan May 9 '15 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ @MadhavSudarshan: In the picture, the two large bodies on inboard wing hardpoints and the one on middle ventral hardpoint are also external fuel tanks. They want even more fuel then that. Because they plan missions which USA would use B-2 or B-1B for, but Israel does not have those, so they have to do with F-16 and as much additional tanks as they can manage to add. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec May 9 '15 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ mind that the conformal tanks on the F-16I are permanently fitted, the blisters also containing extra equipment bays, not just fuel cells. $\endgroup$ – jwenting May 9 '15 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ Without benefit of reference to their flight manual; I'd also say that hard-point-hung tanks restrict roll rates and G loading vis-a-vis the conformal tanks. Alternatively, more room for ordinance. $\endgroup$ – radarbob May 12 '15 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ Although you call them permanently fitted, they might be that, but they are removable. $\endgroup$ – Invariant May 6 at 17:46

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