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You can now listen to Fox News articles! Let’s crown the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon the most successful fighter jet of all time. The F-16 has ripped up enemy ground forces in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Serbia, and is set to change the balance of power for Ukraine and Taiwan. No other jet fighter out there is almost 50 years old and still in such demand. Go ahead, criticize me. Sure, the F-15 Eagle has the 104-0 air combat kill ratio. The F-22 Raptor is the most technically superior fighter, with its stealth and speed, and F-22s were just sent back to the Middle East to counter unsafe Russian air activity over Syria. MASSIVE NATO AIR DRILL TO SIMULATE ATTACK ON MEMBER NATION: ‘OUR RED LINE’Looking back, who doesn’t love the Navy’s “Top Gun” F-14 Tomcat, now retired, or early jets like the F-86 Sabre of Korean War fame? F 16 fighter jets takes part in the NATO Air Shielding exercise near the air base in Lask, central Poland on October 12, 2022. (RADOSLAW JOZWIAK/AFP via Getty Images)Still, nothing can match the combat power, versatility, and long production run of the F-16. This is one busy jet. Right now, F-16s from Portugal and Romania are flying NATO’s air policing against Russian intruders up in the Baltics. F-16s from Taiwan face down mass packages of Chinese combat aircraft. Remember that sonic boom over Washington, D.C. on Sunday, June 4? That, folks, was just one F-16. The shockwave emitted as the F-16 accelerated past the speed of sound jolted and shook houses along a 40-mile arc ranging across suburban Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. If you heard it, you were lucky; it’s very rare, because restrictions bar the F-16s guarding the capital from going supersonic except in an emergency. And yes, American F-16s are also certified to carry tactical nuclear weapons for extended deterrence for allies, as Russia’s lugubrious Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained last week. F-16s sat nuclear alert in Germany for years during the Cold War.Get ready for this: over 4,560 F-16s have been produced since the 1970s. That’s not the record for a jet fighter. You Vietnam veterans know that the total of 5,195 F-4 Phantoms produced from 1958 to 1979 is a bigger number. F-4s won more air-to-air kills against communist MiG fighters in the Vietnam War than any other airplane, by far. But most any F-4 pilot will agree the F-16 is just plain better. The F-16 is a flat-out beautiful airplane. F-16 wings can withstand 9Gs – that’s nine times the force of gravity, the accepted maximum for fighter pilots. I flew in a two-seat F-16 with the Air Force’s Aggressor squadron in Alaska a while back. Their squadron ready room had lots of red stars, hammers, and other Chinese and Russian-looking décor and paraphernalia, since their mission is to master enemy tactics, then train our pilots to defeat them. FILE: Taiwan’s F-16 fighter jets fly in close formation over President Office during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan, Oct. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)All their F-16s had custom striped adversary paint schemes. We spent an hour jinking and banking, “committing out” on other aircraft targets as directed by master controllers. The F-16 was so smooth, I was sorry when we touched down. The sleek F-16 fighter suffers from funny nicknames like “Viper “and “Lawn Dart” but it’s a true multi-role airplane. The F-16 first flew in 1974 and was purchased by the Air Force to be the cheap little brother of the F-15 Eagle. The F-16 did much more. It went on to stock up NATO air forces and kick butt in multiple wars in Iraq, hitting everything from strategic targets to Iraqi ground forces. The design turned out to be tough and versatile. The Air Force just kept upgrading the F-16 with new technology and weapons. Currently, the F-16 carries 180 different configurations of conventional weapons. Lockheed Martin’s new plant in Greenville, South Carolina, is churning out four F-16s per month. F-16s will fly through the year 2060. The F-16 is truly a global aircraft flown by 25 nations from Poland to Israel to South Korea, you name it. Foreign customers will buy $64 billion worth of the jets in years to come. So while the F-16 has a mighty combat record, and a global following, it’s also the huge future tasks that establish the F-16 the Greatest Of All Time. Naturally, F-16s were the right choice for Ukraine. What a shame it took President Joe Biden so long. Give Ukraine’s combat-hardened pilots a 45-day checkout course and they could be flying F-16s right now. Yes, Russia’s air defenses positioned from Belarus to Crimea are formidable, but F-16s could still be highly effective using proper tactics. F-16s can unleash precision weapons on Russian troops, artillery, vehicles, and other military targets in Ukraine. I was shocked when National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN that “the critical systems for the counteroffensive are not planes.” What is this, World War I? Airpower has dominated the American way of war since 1918. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds debuted a ‘Super Hornet’ flight formation, which included F-16 Fighting Falcons and F/A-18s. The moment was captured by MC2 Cody Hendrix and took place during a joint training over Naval Air Facility El Centro on March 2, 2021. (U.S. Navy/SWNS)Hopefully the appreciation of airpower will go up soon. The next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Charles Q. Brown, is an F-16 pilot extraordinaire and he understands the perils of China. That brings us to Taiwan, whose air force has relied on the F-16 for many years. Taiwan is upgrading its F-16s and buying a new batch, too. Taiwan’s F-16s would be at the forefront of any hot war with China. If it comes, heaven forbid, the F-16s are going to defend Taiwan and its 23 million people and convince China’s thug President Xi Jinping that blockade and coercion can’t conquer that island. CLICK HERE TO GET THE NY NEWS APPWhat about the F-35 Lightning? This stealth cousin to the F-22 is a big success for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and many allies from Britain to Germany. Yet the F-35 is not likely to surpass the F-16 lifespan or production run, especially as the Air Force brings in more drones to augment fighter missions. And in the end, it’s that big future of the F-16 that makes it the GOAT. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM REBECCA GRANT Rebecca Grant is president of IRIS Independent Research.

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