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Comparison of F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters: pros and cons


It is possible that very soon our Armed Forces will receive American F-15 Eagle or F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. This article is about them.

The US Congressmen have just introduced a bill to start training Ukrainian pilots. It will allow the United States to begin training Ukrainian pilots and crew members on F-15s, F-16s and other aircraft. In fact, this may mean that soon our military will receive one of the variants of these aircraft. So we decided to talk about them in more detail.

F-15 vs F-16

In general, comparing two US Air Force fighters is not an easy task. But I set myself the goal of finding out what capabilities each of these two planes has and how they will benefit the Armed Forces in the fight against the enemy. So first let’s take a closer look at our heroes.

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F-15 Eagle

The F-15 Eagle is an all-weather, highly maneuverable tactical fighter, a fourth-generation combat aircraft capable of providing the Air Force with an advantage in air combat.

F-15 vs F-16

The advantage of Eagle in air is achieved through a combination of high maneuverability and acceleration, range, armament and avionics. It can break through enemy defenses and impose combat on almost any modern enemy aircraft. The F-15 Eagle has electronic systems and weapons to detect, search, track and attack enemy aircraft while operating in both friendly and enemy-controlled airspace. The Eagle can be armed with AIM-7F/M Sparrow missiles or modern medium-range AIM-120 air-to-air missiles under the fuselage, AIM-9L/M Sidewinder or AIM-120 on two pylons under the wings, and there is also a six-barrel M61 Vulcan 20-mm cannon at the root of the right wing. Weapons and flight control systems are designed so that one person can safely and effectively conduct combat operations in the air.

Comparison of F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters: pros and cons

High maneuverability, climbing speed and acceleration of the F-15 Eagle are achieved thanks to the effective ratio of thrust and engine weight and low wing load. The low wing load (the ratio of the weight of the aircraft to the area of its wing) is a vital factor of maneuverability and, combined with the high capabilities of the engine, allows the aircraft to rotate smoothly without losing air speed. As a result, the F-15 Eagle is one of the most efficient (and best) fighters ever built.

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F-15 vs F-16

The extremely high efficiency of the F-15 Eagle is confirmed by the fact that during the entire period of combat use it received 108 victories and no losses in the air. The Eagle is used in the United States, Israel, Japan and Saudi Arabia. It has now been partially replaced by the F-22 Raptor, but the U.S. Air Force will retain at least 178 combat-ready Eagles by 2025. The price of one F-15C is about $ 29.9 million.

F-15 vs F-16

We should also mention the recently developed and introduced F-15EX, which aims to replace the old F15 Eagle C with an upgraded version, because the US no longer produces the F-22 Raptor, and the oldest F-15 Eagle C are already due to decommissioning. A contract for the purchase of new F-15 Eagle EX has already been signed, production for the US Air Force has begun. Ukraine could also get this model in the future, since the latest modification has combined all the advantages of a successful glider with the latest electronics.

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F-16 Fighting Falcon

The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multi-role fighter, a fourth-generation fighter aircraft created by the United States and used in dozens of countries around the world.

From the very beginning, the F-16 Fighting Falcon was designed as a workhorse with a fairly low price, which could carry out various types of missions and be serviced at a relatively low cost. It is much simpler and lighter than its predecessors, has efficient aerodynamics and avionics (including an electronic fly-by-wire flight control system, nicknamed ‘e-jet’), which helps it achieve excellent performance.

F-15 vs F-16

It is versatile and usable in all conditions, unlike other fighters designed for specific tasks, such as the F-104 Starfighter, which was too expensive, and others designed for special operations from aircraft carriers, such as the F-14. Tomcat.

F-16 Fighting Falcon is a small and agile fighter, whose pilot sits over the fuselage. This provides him with excellent visibility, which is very important during combat. The F-16 Fighting Falcon is also equipped with a powerful M61 Vulcan cannon and can be equipped with air-to-air missiles. The F-16 Fighting Falcon also has the ability to attack ground targets, so it can be used to support ground forces if needed. For this purpose, the F-16 Fighting Falcon can be equipped with a wide range of missiles or bombs.

F-15 vs F-16

The F-16 Fighting Falcon meets a series of specifications from the US Department of Defense, developed in 1974. At the design stage, two companies were selected: General Dynamics with a prototype YF-16 and Northrop Corporation with a prototype YF-17 Cobra. The chosen prototype was the F-16 Fighting Falcon from General Dynamics, which received high committee marks and was cheaper and easier to maintain. The U.S. Navy has decided to use the YF-17 design for the F/A-18 deck-bomber and, more recently, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, due to the apparent reliability of the aircraft’s twin-engine scheme, which is vital for naval and special operations.

F-15 vs F-16

The US Air Force has suspended the use of F-16 Fighting Falcon A/B variants, currently only F-16 C/D variants are used. Currently, it is the F-16 Fighting Falcon C/D series that are actively used by US Air Force pilots.

Theoretically, new orders can still be fulfilled, but in practice there is little interest in the production of additional aircraft due to the large number of F-16 Fighting Falcon, which are in reserve at AMARC (which is almost 300 units), while in waiting of the new F-35 Lightning II. The F-16 Fighting Falcon largely remained in production due to foreign orders and long-term orders from NATO partners.

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F-15 vs F-16

This indicates the success of the program and the qualities of the aircraft itself, which has been actively produced for the past thirty years. It is a kind of benchmark for value for money in the world of fighter jets.

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Pros of F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon

To be honest, the F-15 Eagle is almost unmatched in terms of speed, maneuverability and flight ceiling. Here it is simply out of reach for the competitors. The fighter is able to fly long distances due to its external fuel tanks and the presence of two engines. In addition, modern avionics equipment allows the F-15 Eagle to pursue enemy aircraft over long distances and in all weather conditions. This Eagle once became a real horror for the Soviet MiGs, which were an easy target for him.

F-15 vs F-16

The F-16 Fighting Falcon, in turn, is very maneuverable and consumes little energy to maneuver, which is partly achieved by a convenient control system. The plane is light, relatively cheap and proved to be extremely versatile. Costing about $ 18 million per unit, it is much cheaper to manufacture and operate than the F-15 Eagle. It has managed to prove his effectiveness during military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Cons of F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon

Of course, the perfect plane does not exist. Despite its success in air duels, the F-15 Eagle received a lot of criticism from the pilots themselves. They find it quite large, bulky and heavy. Sometimes there were complaints about his maneuverability and the piloting process itself. Sometimes pilots had to solve avionics problems right in the air. Yes, the engineers quickly took care of everything, but such cases show that not everything is as good as we might think. In addition, the price of $ 30 million is one of the biggest disadvantages of this fighter.

F-15 vs F-16

With the advent of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the US Air Force hoped that the problem of price and maneuverability would disappear. That’s exactly what happened. This “kid” worked wonders in the air. But here arose a completely different, rather unpleasant problem. The fact is that the F-16 Fighting Falcon has only one engine, so it is more vulnerable due to engine failure than its predecessor, which, if necessary, could fly even with one engine. In addition, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has a lower top speed, lower operating ceiling and lower climb speed than the F-15 Eagle.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

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Main differences between F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-15 Eagle fighter is capable of high speeds and gaining considerable altitude, while the single-engine F-16 Fighting Falcon is more maneuverable. The F-15 Eagle is considered one of the best fighters ever built. This is evidenced by more than 100 triumphs in air battles with opponents and zero losses. It can operate in any climate, use a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, and is equipped with the M61 Vulcan cannon.

And the F-16 Fighting Falcon is a less expensive, lighter, slightly less efficient aircraft, but it does not require extra maintenance and mobility. Originally proposed as a contender for dominance in the air, it has become a multi-component universal tool adapted to any climatic conditions and has the same M61 Vulcan cannon as the F-15 Eagle.

The creation of the F-15 Eagle allowed the US Air Force to obtain a fighter that could be used not only for air combat, but also for ground attacks, and was capable of facing the obvious danger of the Soviet MiG series aircraft, which saw operation since 1960s. The need for fast/long-term operation of the aircraft forced McDonnell Douglas to choose the twin-engine configuration  of the F-15 Eagle. There are currently almost 10 modifications of the F-15 Eagle with many variations, such as lower radar visibility, double crews and models with improved climate radars. It is known that the F-15 Eagle will be in service with the US Air Force at least until 2025.

F-15 vs F-16

After the Vietnam War, the US military decided that the Air Force needed a new fighter that would not be as expensive, lighter and more maneuverable than the F-15 Eagle. This is how the F-16 Fighting Falcon, created by General Dynamics, came into being, which almost completely met the existing tasks. A single engine provided the fighter with lightness and maneuverability, new modern components in the manufacture of the body reduced its weight. In addition, there are about 10 variations of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, very similar to what was and is in the F-15 Eagle. The aircraft is now in service with the US Air Force and partner countries and is expected to end its operation no earlier than 2025.

F-15 vs F-16

Interestingly, due to the design with two engines that provide powerful acceleration, the F-15 Eagle is able to climb straight up at an angle of 90 degrees, and at the same time can rise to a height of 30,000 feet (about 10 km) in just 60 seconds. The design with a two-keel tail and low wing loading provides reliability at very high speeds.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-keel, single-engine monoplane, although it uses the same Pratt and Whitney P100 engine as the F-15 Eagle. It was the first production aircraft designed with relaxed, or negative, stability. Most aircraft are designed with positive stability, meaning they naturally want to return to straight and level flight with no input from the pilot. Having relaxed stability means thus makes maneuvering more efficient in terms of energy loss, as the airframe is not resisting maneuvers. An integrated computer supports the stability of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.  The fighter can withstand a load of 9 G with a full fuel tank.

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Key differences

  • The role of the F-15 Eagle is to work as a fighter mainly in the air, while the F-16 Fighting Falcon works as a multi-role fighter.
  • Number of engines: the F-15 Egle has two, while the F-16 Fighting Falcon has only one engine.
  • The length of the F-15 Eagle is longer than the length of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Aerial combat  of F-15 Eagle against F-16 Fighting Falcon

Interestingly, YouTube even has a video of an air battle between the F-15 and F-16. If you are interested, you can view it.

Which of these two planes would we like to see in Ukraine?

The answer to this question is simple – both. I am sure that both the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon would be very useful for our defenders. The appearance of each of them would force enemy aircraft to somewhat reduce their fervor. American pilots are generally surprised by the skills of their Ukrainian colleagues, calling them aces and real fighters. And the availability of modern NATO-style aircraft  at their disposal can drastically change the situation. If the congressmen announce the beginning of the training of our officers, then we hope that the planes will soon appear in the service of the Ukrainian Air Force. Then the occupiers will definitely be in trouble, since they will no longer have an advantage in the air, and the ground hordes of orcs will not feel safe.

We look forward to our Victory. And it will come, because evil must be punished. Glory to Ukraine! Death to enemies! Orcs, burn in hell!

You can also help Ukraine fight with Russian occupants via Savelife or via an official page of the National Bank of Ukraine.

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Yuri Svitlyk
Yuri Svitlyk
Son of the Carpathian Mountains, unrecognized genius of mathematics, Microsoft "lawyer", practical altruist, levopravosek
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