F-15, JF-17 and Bison pilots describe fighting F-16s
Whenever I interview a modern fighter pilot, the subject of how his or her fighter compares to the F-16 in a close-in fight is always brought up. Here we find out how pilots of the F-15C and JF1-7 rate the Viper.
F-15C versus F-16
“Ok, first, most answers in air combat are…’it depends’. It depends on skill, experience, recency of experience, are we fighting where it is optimal for one plane and not the other? Assuming equal pilots (meaning both have the same air-air experienced and recency of experience), the F-16 is a more efficient turning plane. It enjoys a slight advantage in sustained turn ability, where as the Eagle has a slight advantage in instantaneous turn ability. The turn circles are almost identical. Depending on configurations, the thrust-to-weight ratio is all pretty close to equal.
So how did I fight an F-16? First I always assumed the pilot was awesome. Assuming we meet 180 degrees out with our speeds where we want them — and no one has an angular advantage I would elect to take the fight single circle (the tactical scenario may not favour this is a full up air battle). My goal is to get slow and use my ability to fly at higher AOA/slower speeds than the F-16 can. The F-16 has decent AoA capability, but the FBW (fly-by-wire) system is limited in speed of movement of the controls as it approaches its AoA limit. The F-15 has no such limits. In my experience I usually had more air-air experience (total and recency) than the vast majority of F-16 pilots and usually had little trouble neutralising and then killing them in close. Like all victories it comes down to flying your particular aircraft at the extremes and doing it more efficiently and precisely than the other pilot. That being said, an F-16 can win a single circle fight if the adversary is not on their game, it can also lose a 2 circle fight if they are not proficient at it.
Hope that helps!
Let me add this. Air-to-air combat is incredibly fluid, it changes very fast. So even though a F-16 may have a better sustained turn rate then an F-15C, if through my intercept I can achieve 30 or more degrees of lead turn, I will happily go 2 circle. And that is the goal, to merge with an advantage, that way, any enemy advantage is minimised and maybe even negated and a quick kill follows. That is the goal!
In my 2000+ hours I fought the Viper a lot, I have flown against many Weapon School grads, and average pilots. In most all cases I did really well. For any fighter pilot, it is about controlling the fight and forcing the fight that favours your aircraft. Because most F-16 units don’t do much air-to-air (A/T=Adversary Tactics folks being the exception), their experience, especially recency, was often spotty at best. So was I confident ? Always. Did I do well? Usually. But everyone has bad days and good days. That is why there is no absolutes in air-air combat.”
— Shari Williams
JF-17 versus F-16
Which threat aircraft is most challenging and why? “Definitely the Su-30 is the most difficult aircraft in terms of current Indian Air Force inventory but we regularly fly against the F-16 and more importantly AMRAAM, so Adder and Alamo seem less worrisome (smily face).”
How comfortable and ergonomic is the JF-17 cockpit?
“It is one of the most digitised cockpit I’ve flown till date. Even the F-16’s cockpit fades in comparison to the Thunder’s cockpit layout.”
In a WVR fight would you rather be in an F-16 or JF-17?
“F-16 .. for the initial 180deg turn, then Thunder all the way. JF-17 with PL-10 mod (currently in pipeline) will trump F-16 with AIM-9M any day of the week, but currently on brute performance F-16 has the edge.”
Full JF-17 pilot interview here.
MiG-21 versus F-16
How confident would you feel going against a modern F-16 or MiG-29?
“It is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Modern day fighters have systems assisting you. Superior radar, helmet-mounted sighting systems, great Radar Warning Receivers, counter missile systems, electronic warfare systems like the self protection jammers etc. The older version MiG-21 had none of these, so they are clearly out of the fray. The MiG-21 Bison is the most modern MiG 21, and it is formidable in all of these — the only downside being the limited endurance that a MiG-21-class of aircraft has. Eventually it is the man-machine combo that makes or breaks an air combat.
— Group Captain MJA Vinod, full interview here