The F-16 Viper is still sleek after 40 years

Almost two weeks ago, the first example of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to be based in the Netherlands arrived at Leeuwarden Air Base. It marks the beginning of the end for the forty-year career of the F-16 with the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The F-16 is officially named the Fighting Falcon, but commonly known as the Viper. I’ve been thinking about building a larger scale version of the Viper for years. A reason why I didn’t was that the 1/18 scale model by Everblack basically was just too good.

However, the arrival of the Viper’s eventual replacement and the 40th anniversary finally made me decide to bite the proverbial bullet. I picked the same scale, 1/22, as most of my cars and my Top Gun Tomcat. The F-16 was a lighter and cheaper alternative to the F-15 Eagle and, as such, it’s a fairly small aircraft. The large scale does make the model quite a big beast, with a span of 56 studs and a length of more than 80 studs. However, it also allowed me to add more details and to more accurately represent the jet’s sleek shape. I couldn’t have done this on a smaller scale or without some of the new parts that LEGO has released in the last few years.

The model has a retractable undercarriage, which proved challenging given its weight. The jet’s weapons certainly don’t help in this respect. Much like people in their forties, jets tend to gain weight as they get older. Upgrades to Dutch F-16s in the late ‘nineties added a targeting pod, mounted on the intake, for guiding laser-guided bombs to their targets. My model carries one such bomb under each wing, plus an external fuel tank. The wingtip houses a Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

Generally I don’t like the shape of stealth aircraft. The F-35, in particular, looks very bloated to me. I realise that looks aren’t everything. However, having grown up in the Netherlands, for me the F-16 was the fighter. Its sleek lines show through, despite all the stuff mounted on the wings.

2 comments on “The F-16 Viper is still sleek after 40 years

  1. Purple Dave

    I suppose the “bloat” comes from the fact that nobody makes stealth ordnance, so it all has to be housed internally?

    Anyways, I think our military has started converting F-16’s into target drones, like they did with the F-4 Phantom when it was ready for the glue factory. The F-15 is still a major component of the USAF, with speculation that they may eventually be converted into packs of combat drones that are controlled by a manned F-35, but the F-16 never seemed to get much love here.

  2. Mad physicist

    @Purple Dave
    Indeed, the F-35 was designed to carry fairly large weapons internally, which meant that it needed a large internal volume. Since the overall length and width are constrained by the need to operate from assault carriers, you end up with something that looks like a bullfrog.

    The USAF bought more than 2000 F-16s and still operates hundreds of them, in particular with the ANG. I suspect they’ll be around for many more years.

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