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.
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.