The F-15 is a twin-engine fighter jet capable of extremely high speeds and altitudes, while the F-16 is a less powerful but more maneuverable single-engine fighter aircraft.

The F-15 is considered one of the most successful and formidable fighter aircraft ever built, with over 100 aerial dogfight victories and zero dogfighting losses. It can operate in all weather conditions, carry a variety of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, and is armed with an M61 Vulcan Cannon.

The F-16 is a cheaper, lighter, slightly less powerful aircraft, but was designed with an emphasis on ease of maintenance and maneuverability. Originally intended as an air superiority day fighter, it has become a versatile all-weather, multi-role aircraft and has the same M61 Vulcan Cannon as the F-15.

Comparison chart

F-15 versus F-16 Fighting Falcon comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartF-15F-16 Fighting Falcon
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(114 ratings)
Role Air superiority fighter Multirole fighter aircraft
Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas Boeing Defense, Space and Security General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin
Status Used primarily by the US, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel In service
Number built 1,198 4,500+
Unit cost US $28-30 million F-16A/B: US$14.6 million (1998 dollars), F-16C/D: US$18.8 million (1998 dollars)
National origin United States United States
Also known as McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle -
Introduced January 1976 August 1978
Number still in service 222 in US; over 1000 worldwide. 2000+ in US
Maximum speed Mach 2.5 Mach 2.02
Number of engines 2 1
Armament 20mm M61 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling cannon, bombs, missiles, drop tanks. 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling cannon, rockets, missles, bombs
Length 63 ft 9 in 49 ft 5 in
Wingspan 42 ft 10 in 32 ft 8 in
Loaded weight 20,200 kg 12,000 kg
Combat radius 1222 miles 340 mi
Service ceiling 65,000 ft 50,000+ ft
Rate of climb 50, 000+ ft/min 50,000 ft/min

Development

The F-15 was developed in response the the Air Force’s desire for a dominant air superiority fighter capable of ground attacks, partially to counter the perceived threat from the Soviet Mig Foxbat aircraft under development in the late 1960’s. The high-speed/long-range requirements for the jet led Mcdonnell Douglas to the twin-engine design of the F-15. There are now nearly 10 versions of the F-15, with such variants as a lower radar signature, 2-seat trainers, and improved all-weather radar models. The F-15 expected to be in service with the US Air Force until at least 2025.

After the Vietnam war, the US military decided it needed a highly maneuverable and inexpensive fighter jet to complement the more powerful and costly F-15. The F-16 was developed by General Dynamics with the goal of being able to maneuver with a minimum amount of energy loss, and to have a high thrust to weight ratio. Having a single engine kept the aircraft light and maneuverable. There are also about 10 variants of the F-16, which is also expected to be in service with the US Air Force until at least 2025.

Watch the documentary on the F-16 Fighting Falcon:

Characteristics

The F-15 is characterized by its twin-engine configuration, giving the aircraft so much thrust that it can accelerate while climbing straight up at a 90 degree angle, and can climb 30,000 feet in just 60 seconds. The twin-tail and swept wing design allows for a high angle of attack and good stability at extremely high speeds.

The F-16 is a single-tail, single-engine aircraft, using the same Pratt and Whitney P100 jet engine as the F-15. 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. The onboard computer helps to keep the F-16 stable. With a full load of fuel, the aircraft can sustain 9 G maneuvers.

F-15s and F-16s flying in formation.
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F-15s and F-16s flying in formation.

Strengths

Few fighter aircraft have a chance of competing with the F-15’s high speed and service ceiling. The aircraft has a long range, aided by the option of external fuel pods, and has the reliability of 2 engines. Advanced avionics allow it to pursue foes from long distances and in bad weather.

The F-16 is very maneuverable and loses little energy from maneuvering, which is partially achieved by a fly-by-wire control system. The aircraft is lightweight, relatively cheap, and has proven to be extremely versatile. Costing about $18 million per unit, it’s much cheaper to build and operate than the F-15.

F-15 low-level flying over North Wales and F-16 flying a mission in Iraq.
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F-15 low-level flying over North Wales and F-16 flying a mission in Iraq.

Disadvantages

The F-15’s high performance comes at a high cost: $30 million per unit. During its development, critics worried that the aircraft was too large and heavy to be a successful dog-fighter, although its track record has proven otherwise. The aircraft is capable of flying faster than its airframe’s G rating, which necessitates a warning system for pilots to prevent them from putting too much stress on the aircraft.

As the F-16 only has one engine, it is more vulnerable to engine failure catastrophe than the F-15, which can fly on one engine. The F-16 also has a lower maximum speed, service ceiling, and a slower rate of climb than the F-15.

F-15 vs F-16 Dogfight

An interesting dogfight between the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Falcon:

References

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