General Dynamics A-16

Last revised March 31, 2000

In the 1980s, the USAF set aside Blocks 60/62 for the A-16, a dedicated close air support version of the F-16.

However, the A-16 got wrapped up in the debate about close air support. The supporters of the A-16 project wanted the USAF to replace its A-10A Thunderbolt IIs with A-16s, arguing that the A-10 was too slow to survive above a high-tech battlefield. Detractors argued that the A-16 had insufficient range and load-carrying capability to make an effective attack aircraft, and, in addition, it would be too vulnerable to enemy antiaircraft fire. The Army even got into the debate, arguing that the Key West agreement of 1948 under which they were prohibited from operating fixed-wing combat aircraft was now obsolete, and that the USAF's A-10s should be turned over to them for use alongside AH-64 Apache helicopters. In 1990, Congress decreed that some USAF A-10As and OV-10 Broncos be turned over to the Army and Marine Corps beginning in 1991.

However, all of these plans came to naught. On November 26, 1990, the USAF was ordered to retain two wings of A-10s for the CAS mission and announced that they would retrofit up to 400 existing Block 30 F-16C/Ds with new equipment to perform the CAS mission, effectively killing the A-16 program. No order for the A-16 was ever placed.


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