Indian newspapers are full of stories (like this one) that Lockheed will offer India an advanced version of the F-16 with supercruise capability. That’s the ability to cruise supersonically without reheat and it is a key feature of the stealthy F-22. Well the stories are not quite correct.
Here’s what happened. Lockheed was briefing a group on Indian journalists on the F-16 and one of them asked about supercruise. A helpful test pilot volunteered that he has flown the F-16 supersonically without reheat. The story was born, but can the F-16 supercruise? Not really.
Lockheed says a clean F-16, with only wingtip missiles, can reach Mach 1.1 without reheat. But the company says supercruise is defined as the ability to fly faster than Mach 1.5, in combat configuration. The USAF’s F-22 factsheet suggests it can supercruise at Mach 1.75.
So what will India be offered for its 126-aircraft MMRCA requirement? Lockheed says it will propose “the most advanced F-16 version yet”, although is a lot of “similar to the Block 60″ in its description of the F-16IN. It’s not providing details yet, as the bids are not in, but the F-16IN will have advanced displays, conformal tanks, the latest engine and, assuming export approval, active electronically scanned array radar.
The F-16IN will likely be a very capable fighter – just not a supercruiser.
“Who needs to supercruise…!” (USAF photo)