US defence and aerospace firm Lockheed Martin has ceremoniously unveiled the 4,500th F-16 multirole combat jet to roll off the production line.
It's an unprecedented achievement for a jet fighter in the modern age: no other aircraft of its type having been made in such vast numbers.
First flown in 1974, the F-16 Fighting Falcon stood out from other contemporary fast jet designs. Smaller and more agile, it established a template for many other combat aircraft since created and the first order for it was placed in 1975.
Since then, it's been manufactured in collaboration with five nations and operated by no less than 26 countries.
4,500th F-16 for Morocco
One of these 26 nations is Morocco and the 4,500th F-16 built is destined to serve with the Royal Moroccan Air Force.
Capability and versatility are key to the Fighting Falcon's ongoing success. Continually upgraded as new technologies have emerged and been incorporated, it's nonetheless maintained the same basic shape over the past 38 years.
Mach-2 capable, it can fly at more than 60,000 feet and climb at 50,000 feet per minute. Its F110-GE-100 engine produces almost 29,000 pounds of static thrust when afterburner's engaged and this gives the F-16 a close to 1:1 power-to-weight ratio. And a huge range of weapons can be fitted to its wings, including AGM-65 Maverick Air-to-Ground Missiles, AGM-84 Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles and GBU-10 and GBU-12 Paveway II bombs.
"The F-16 is the world standard for evolutionary fighters today, and it will continue to secure the freedom of the United States and its allies in peace and combat for decades to come", Lockheed Martin Aeronautics' Executive Vice President, Larry Lawson, explained in a 3 April company press release published online. He added: "This milestone demonstrates that Lockheed Martin has the finest aerospace workforce, and it is our privilege to serve air forces worldwide."
International F-16 Operators
The US armed forces still have more F-16s in service than anyone else but the list of international F-16 operators includes countries in five geographic regions.
Among the European F-16 operators are Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands while, elsewhere, the F-16 also equips Taiwan, Thailand and Pakistan, to name but three more. The table accompanying this article lists, in full, the present international F-16 operators.
At the end of February 2012, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published data that showed Lockheed Martin's 2010 arms sales were greater than anyone else's that year.
F-16 image copyright Lockheed Martin 2012