Harry Hillaker has been described as the "Father of the F-16", but he attributes much of the aircraft's success to fellow "fighter mafioso" and USAF test pilot, the late John Boyd. "He was the fighter mafia," says Hillaker, "and the key driver in disproving the aeronautical adage that bigger was better."

Having overcome entrenched opposition within the US Air Force and flown the two YF-16 light fighter demonstrators, "we were still not sure where the programme would go", recalls Hillaker. The aircraft caught the interest of former defence secretary James Schlesinger, who instructed the USAF to order the F-16 as a compliment to the F-15.

Hillaker's initial attention was just on providing an air-to-air capability. "It was only later that I went back and dug out Korean and Vietnam air force data showing we lost only 84 aircraft in air combat compared to 1,800 in air-to-ground. That really caught my attention."

Source: Flight International