F-16s, A-to…V?

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The F-16A first flew in 1975, followed by the F-16B (Battleland once sat in a B-model backseat for a stomach-tickling ride), F-16C. F-16D, F-16E, F-16F, F-16I, F-16IN, F-16N, F-16Q, and now: the F-16V. Manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced the V-model – for Viper, the plane’s pilot-generated nickname (officially it’s the Fighting Falcon, but c’mon, admit it: Viper is a cooler name) – on Wednesday at the Singapore Air Show. Like a ’57 Chevy that keeps getting better with age, the V version will feature an active electronically-scanned array radar and upgraded avionics (new variants generally indicate an improved plane, one that can carry two people, or one optimized for a specific mission or sale to a specific country).

“We believe this F-16V will satisfy our customers’ emerging requirements and prepare them to better interoperate with the 5th generation fighters, the [Lockheed-built] F-35 and [Lockheed-built] F-22,” Lockheed’s George Standridge said. The F-16 is the world’s best-selling 4th-generation fighter. Nearly 4,500 of them have flown with 26 air forces (they’re so popular they’re even being (non-Lockheed-) built in…China). Not bad for a plane that first lifted off from the runway outside its Fort Worth factory 36 years, two months, and eight days ago.