Why Don’t The Newest US Air Force F-16s Use These High-Tech Fuel Tanks?

Fuel is the ever-present specter that looms over every pilot. It’s great when you have enough of it, and terrifying when you don’t. This is especially true for notoriously fuel hungry tactical fighters. Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) have become an increasingly popular way to add range to existing fighter designs, such as the F-16, without making a large impact on the jet’s speed and agility. Many overseas operators utilize CFTs on block 50/52 and later Vipers, but why don’t America’s late model F-16s have a similar luxury?

Conformal Fuel Tanks are not just the domain of late model F-16s, the F-15 has long benefitted from its own CFTs, and CFTs are in the works for the Gripen, Super Hornet, Rafale, Ching Kuo and Eurofighter. Advanced versions of the MiG-29 have also been fitted with a dorsal conformal fuel tank and China’s J-10 has a CFT option in development.

via Why Don’t The Newest US Air Force F-16s Use These High-Tech Fuel Tanks?.

Any fast jet guys around have a rebuttal? CFTs for F-16s have been around for many years, and always seemed a no-brainer to me. And of course, CFTs were developed for the F-15A/B/C/D but not used (by the US anyway) but are standard equipment on the F-15E Strike Eagle. And CFTs are being developed for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

 

4 thoughts on “Why Don’t The Newest US Air Force F-16s Use These High-Tech Fuel Tanks?”

  1. Drops are quicker, easier, and less expensive. You can clean ’em off in one second with the jett button. Among other things.

  2. I think we don’t have CFTs on the F-16, and rarely if ever on non-E F-15s, because the AF operates the largest tanker fleet in the world.

    Other F-15 and F-16 operators and users of the Gripen, Rafale, Ching Kuo, Eurofighter, MiG-29, and J-10 have only modest air-to-air refueling capabilities. The Super Hornet is probably getting CFTs to be competitive on the export market with the above aircraft, and because the Navy now relies on buddy tanking and the AF.

    Why take the performance penalty of CFTs when we have a different, and arguably better, solution in the tanker fleet?

  3. Jjak pretty well nailed it.

    The USAF did the flight test for the conformal studies in the 90s for LM, so their decision to not invest in that infrastructure is based from experience. Further, more recent research has shown that F-16s with two externals can out-persist the F-15E configuration of your choice; in conjunction with the aforementioned tanker fleet, there is little value for the investment by the Air Force.

    Now the Super Hornet (especially the Growler) and Navy? That’s worth the money.

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