The original specification called for the F16 to withstand the same
rigours in flight as an F4 Phantom II (ie. a similar flight utilisation profile) and indeed the first F16 pilots were mostly former F4 pilots who had converted to the F16. They flew the F16 as they would an F4. However, it was only a
matter of time before the first rookie pilots fresh from Flight School, took to the air. Predictably, they flew the F16 as it should be flown, having flown nothing else. This put a higher than expected strain on the airframe. The F16 is a
fully monocoque design, and strengthening the airframe means toughening the skin, because it is load bearing and hence the not inconsiderable weight gain. General Dynamics could hardly be faulted on this. They designed the F16 according to
The F18C was originally designed to be a multirole shipborne fighter. The airframe was actually limited to 7.5g for a long time. Itīs roll performance isnīt as good as the other two planes. Added to that it has
suffered a number of problems related to departure from controlled flight- the so-called "Falling Leaf "syndrome. This phenomenon is considered to be non-recoverable.
Structurally the Mirage is at least the equal to the
American "teen" fighters and ahead of them in several respects. It is known that,in the middle of the ī90s, the IDFAF did actually consider purchasing the F18C because of repeated concerns voiced in the United States regarding
the structural integrity of the F16.
The F18A/C fleet has suffered from structural problems over the last few years. That a carrier borne fighter should exhibit structural problems isnīt unexpected. The carrier environment is
extremely punishing on planes and crew. However, that the land based export F18 should exhibit the same structural problems within the same timespan is unexpected.
So whereas Greece ,for example, is upgrading some of itīs Mirage 2000EG
(which have seen considerable use) to the Dash 5 MKII avionics standard, Canada and Australia are having to consider replacing the centre fuselage barrel of their F18Aīs in addition to an avionics upgrade.
The low wing loading of the
delta wing confers very good low-speed handling qualities. The Dassault test pilot Guy Mitaux-Maurouard developed a zero speed manouvre that was often displayed at Farnborough and Paris. He put the aircraft into a 75° climb and throttled
back to idle. The speed bled off until the nose was pointing vertically downward. The control surfaces were still effective at an airspeed so low (below 65 knots) that it wasnīt displayed in the HUD.