April 21, 2013: Strategy Page
The U.S. Air Force prefers to use its F-16 fighters for everything. While the F-16 is a capable and versatile aircraft, the main reason for using it so much is because it is so cheap to operate. It costs the air force $23,000 per hour to operate an F-16C. Other fighters are much more expensive. An F-22 costs $68,000 an hour, while an F-15C costs $42,000 and an F-15E $36,000.
The only aircraft that beats the F-16C is the A-10C, which costs $18,000 an hour. But the A-10 is not a fighter and is optimized for ground support. The F-16 can also do that, but not as well. The other ground support aircraft, the AC-130U costs $46,000 an hour. That’s why these are being replaced by C-130 transports ($18,000 an hour) with special cargo containers consisting of sensors and weapons similar to those on the AC-130.
The F-16, like the A-10 can also drop smart bombs. Both aircraft are much cheaper at this than the bombers. The B-52H costs $70,000 an hour, the B-1B $58,000 and the B-2 $169,000. The problem with the bombers is that with smart bombs you don’t need a lot of bombs. So what the F-16 can carry (a dozen or more, depending on weight) is usually adequate in places like Afghanistan. For an attack on, say, North Korea, the bombers would come into their own, at least for the initial assault when there are a lot of targets to hit.
With the right sensors, missiles and electronic weapons plus well-trained pilots the F-16 can beat just about any other fighter out there. For stealth fighters, that would have to include sensors that can handle stealth. But stealth fighters often have the best sensors and electronics as well. Thus against most foes a well tricked out F-16 can do it all.