In an aircraft like F-16, how do the pilot prevent going faster than Vne (velocity, not exceed)?

From the block 50 manual it seems to indicate Vne is 800KIAS/2.05M.

I believe even the earliest F-16s could go mach 2, so the newer with their much more powerful engine should easy exceed 2.05 mach.

Is there an automated system that reduce throttle when exceeding?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The pilot controls the speed and makes sure it doesn't go too fast $\endgroup$
    – Steve Kuo
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think the answer to this is very different from the answer to the same question about any other plane. I could probably pretty easily get the single-engine propeller trainer I'm flying at least well close to Vne by gaining some altitude then pointing the nose hard down and pushing the throttle to maximum. Not saying I'm going to try it, mind you. Likely much the same applies to a Boeing 777... $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 16:01
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling The question is basically if there's hard limits in the FLCS system for airspeed, just like an Airbus does. (i.e. the FBW Airbus will put in an unoverridable pitch up command to prevent overspeed) I know the F-16 has hard AOA limiters (just like an Airbus), but not sure for airspeed. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 21:56

1 Answer 1


Section V of the Block 50 F-16 Flight Manual, is the "operating limitations". It says:

MAXIMUM AIRSPEED OPERATING LIMITATIONS Refer to figure 5 3. Maximum operating airspeed is 800 knots from sea level to 30,000 feet MSL. Above 30,000 feet MSL, the aircraft is limited to Mach 2.05.

The introduction to section V states (my emphasis):

The aircraft and system limitations that must be observed during normal operations are presented in this section..

What does "observe" mean? One might assume that means the pilot can just sit back and watch them automatically occur, or the pilot must "observe" them by knowing and acting apon them. As evidence it is most likely this second interpretation, the list of contents in this section appears to be many things that the pilot needs to do.

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It does not seem like a list of things the aircraft does automatically.

But more signifficantly, the contents of the flight manual also includes a section describing the flight law control system (FLCS) limiters:

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There is no mention of maximum speed.

So, it looks strongly like the FLCS limits 4 things (AOA/G, roll, yaw, rudder authority), and warns you about some other things (low speed), but does NOT limit maximum speed.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Observed means the limitations should be respected and followed by the pilot. Values give their should not be exceeded for safe operations. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ @CarloFelicione. Yes, I agree, and maybe should have worded it more strongly in that direction. But the black and white evidence that really puts it beyond doubt is the contents of the section describing the FLCS limiters. $\endgroup$
    – Penguin
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ It even mentions in the same document: "Maximum airspeed operating limitations may be easily exceeded in level flight due to the improved performance engine excess thrust capabilities" $\endgroup$
    – ROIMaison
    Commented Aug 17, 2023 at 8:10
  • $\begingroup$ Be advised that, while it's very easy to find, the HAF F-16 manual you have cited is still classified. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ Romeo, yes! "observed" means do it, just like "observe" the speed limit on the highway does. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 26 at 20:47

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