Modern incarnations of the F-16, such as the Block 70/72, F-16I and F-16IQ appear to incorporate many modern technologies. These aircraft are also rather different from the original F-16A, being heavier and more of an all-round fighter than a dedicated air superiority aircraft.

With heavy wing loading and a heavier aircraft overall, why was it considered to drop incorporating thrust vectoring into the F-16, to retain more of its dogfighting capability? This is hardly new technology to the F-16, considering the VISTA first flew in 1992.

This appears especially interesting considering highly maneuverable opponents such as the emerging J-20, Su-57; but also older fourth generation aircraft. The Typhoon, Rafale, Su-37, J-10, and others, are all roughly in the same ballpark as the more modern (heavier) F-16s, correct me if I'm wrong.

Does this indicate that dogfighting is a thing of the past? How can this be, considering that the F-22 was designed to be supermaneuverable? This appears to be a contradiction to me.


1 Answer 1


Thrust vectoring adds weight, cost and complexity, and the benefit isn't important enough to outweigh that.

Various aircraft have been used to experiment with thrust vectoring, but the list of thrust vectoring fighters in service is fairly short:

The F-16 was envisioned to be a small, light, and cheap fighter. It has certainly grown heavier and more expensive over the years, but that is still one of the big selling points. Although it worked fine for the VISTA experiments, the limited space, power and cooling on the F-16 is best used for other upgrades, such as better sensors. And the F-16 is still selling fairly well. Lockheed is still getting enough orders that they moved the production line to make room for the F-35 rather than shutting it down.

Even the F-35A, intended to replace the F-16, adds stealth but not thrust vectoring. If you can kill your adversary before they even know you're there, dogfighting ability becomes less important. There's also the reality that US manufacturers build primarily for the US, and for US interests. There might be resistance to exporting an even more maneuverable F-16 when it may already be close in capability to the F-35.

  • $\begingroup$ Could it also be that modern FBW controls make the F-16 sufficiently agile without thrust vectoring? If its turning ability is limited by engine power and g-limits, then thrust vectoring wouldn't add anything. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 9:34
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    $\begingroup$ Also, a testbed isn't automatically a product. The list of thrust-vectored aircraft contains a who-is-who of modern US aircraft, of which most are experimental. You want to test the applicability of 2D and 3D thrust vectoring, on one- and two-engined jets, and possibly on different configurations. Yet there is a long way from testing to product. $\endgroup$
    – Dohn Joe
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 9:39

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