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Experimental drag polar of the F-16 Falcon using wind

tunnel tests
D. Boucher
Ecole de lAir, Salon-de-Provence, F-133001
H. Guillot
Ecole de lAir, Salon-de-Provence, F-133002

The aerodynamics of the General Dynamics F-16 Falcon has been studied using
experimental and theoretical methods. Subsonic wind tunnel tests on a 1/48 model of the F16 were used to determine the lift and drag on the aircraft at several Mach numbers. The
main objective was to determine the drag polar of the model in several low speed airstream
velocities at a Mach number under 0.2 and then extrapolate the results to a higher Mach
number. This experiment has been conducted with Aerolab wind tunnel of the San Jose State
University Aerodynamics Department. The result of the experiments met the theoretical
results of lift and drag on an F-16 fuselage. The performance of the F-16 is finally discussed
using the results on the model.

I. Introduction
he F-16 is a multi-role jet fighter aircraft developed by General Dynamics since 1976 with about 5000
aircrafts already produced. It was designed exclusively for the use of the United States Air Force. Today, F16s are in operation in 21 nations around the world.
The purpose of this work is to obtain a drag polar (drag vs. lift curve) of the F-16 Falcon. The aerodynamics of
the aircraft were studied using experimental and theoretical methods by the use of a 1/48 scaled model of the F16 tested in the Aerolab Wind tunnel of the San Jose State University. The data collected are the normal and the
axial forces of the model on the earth axis at several speeds under 140 mph. This allows to obtain lift and drag
coefficients which are necessary to build the drag polar. However, we will not be able to obtain this polar for the
cruise phase of the F-16 Falcon at around Mach 0.8 577 mph. Thus, the problem is the relevancy of the
extrapolation of the drag polar at higher speed values than those achievable in the wind tunnel.
The drag polar of the F-16 model will be determined for several speeds and angles of attack. The speed of the
free stream velocity in the wind tunnel can be chosen very precisely by changing the fan power. In order to be
more accurate, a total of five measurements are taken in every configuration to get an average value. Although
the F-16 has already been much studied, few datas have been published for confidential reasons. Also, the
method used is interesting because it easily gave us available results.
The introduction of this paper gives a presentation of the context of our project as well as a description of the
experiments achieved. The second part explains the theory which can give results about the lift and drag of the F16. The third part describes precisely the experiments accomplished. The fourth and final part concludes with the
results we obtained and compares it with published data.

II. Theory
The goal of this experiment is to study the drag polar of the F-16 Falcon. Our objectives are as follows:
Determine the axial and normal forces at 50, 75 and 100 miles per hour with an angle of attack varying
from -20 to +20 degrees.
Determine the lift and drag forces
Compute the lift and drag coefficients
Draw the drag polar curve
A. Hypothesis

Third-year cadet, Commandant Fayolle Entry,

Third-year cadet, Commandant Fayolle Entry,

We will study the aircraft in a steady flow which means that

We will consider that the fluid is perfect which implicates that the fluid is inviscid, the heat flux by
conduction is zero and transformations in the fluid are reversible.
We will assume small .
We will consider that the fluid is incompressible.
The rotational speed is zero.
The Kutta-Joukowski condition is respected which dictates
at the leading edge and the tailing
edge of the wing.
The flow speed is subsonic.

for each parameter

B. Lift and drag

The equation of an outline of a wing P is
. The equation of the extrados is
and the
equation of the intrados is
. We will name c the length of the chord. The chord is the segment between
the leading edge and the trailing edge. The span where we calculate the strength of the aerodynamics forces is
named L.
Because of the perfect fluid hypothesis,


By integration, we have the forces applied on the part of wing in the body axis:

Center of pressure is the average location of the pressure. Pressure varies around the surface of an object.
Aerodynamic force acts through the center of pressure.

Considering the non-dimensional parameters

We can define the law slope of the outline of the wing

In this way, we define our two coefficients:

The lift and drag coefficients computed in the aero axis are then obtained with the following relations :

Assuming small , this leads to

strength between CA and CN.
Finally we have:


because of the comparison of the

Now, we can say that

where S=cL.
In the same way, we can find the way to calculate the pitching moment in the body axis, i.e. perpendicular to
the symmetry plan (x;y) and around a given point Mo(xo;yo). If
pitching moment coefficient

, we can find the



C. Principles and corrections

According to our hypothesis, we can apply the potential flow theory. Indeed, the forces derived from a
potential and the rotational speed is zero at first time. Thus, considering an uniform flow and all our hypothesis,
we are allowed to use the linearized method which divides the study of the wing into three parts :
Flat plate at incidence
Skeleton profile
Symmetrical thick profile
This method gives the following results:


We can complete our study by taking into account the compressibility aspect of the problem. We have to use
Euler results within the similitude rules of Prandtl-Glauert. Indeed, those similitude rules allow to take into
account the compressibility aspect of the problem as we work in a subsonic flow.
Thus we have:

, where

If we have an infinite wing, the pressure distribution is the same everywhere which becomes false with a finite
wing. Indeed, the pressure distribution is modified due to the continuity of the pressure on the tip of the wing.
This gradient of pressure creates a transversal flow that need to be taken into account. For that, we use some
tables which give the correction factors for non-elliptic lift distribution.

Fig 3 Presentation of a wing

We can define the creation of an induced drag written
The finite wing corrections depend on the aspect ratio and taper ratio because the lift coefficient will be affected
by the perpendicular stream velocity to the quarter cord. The experiments showed that if AR
Diederich found an equation making the link with the previous corrections.

Actual F-16

S= 27.88 m2




b = 10 m
The non-linearity of the function
versus is due to the small AR. As a fighter aircraft, the F-16 has a very
low AR ( around 3.2 ) compared to airliners ( around 12). We must take into account this fact by introducing the
coefficient as the non-linear lift factor and as the non-linear moment factor.
Thus, we have:

Fig 4 Various of
According to this table, =0.5,



and for various planform shapes and aspect ratio

for the F-16

D. Estimation of the Wing-body lift

We cannot just add the lift coefficient of the wing to the lift coefficient of the body separately without taking
into account interference effects between both components of the plane which produce more lift. We can
approximate the linear lift curve slope of the wing-body with this relation:
is the wing-body lift curve slope and is referenced to the total wing planform area .

Fig 5 Description of wing planform parameters

The factor F can be divided into the interference due to the body
and the interference due to the wing
as to obtain:


There is an exact method to find

but requires the exact outline of the F-16s wing and body. The
NACA 64A204 data corresponding to the actual airfoil of the F-16 has not been published yet and thats why
this method will not be developed in this research project. We will use an approximate result because the
following graphic does not give the exact wing-body interference factor for the F-16 but for some planes which
can seem to be an F-16. We will interpolate these two curves to be as close as possible as the actual F-16 design.

For the F-16,

Fig 6 Lift and side-force ratios for several wing-body combinations

=0,4 so F=0,9 according to this graphic. Thus, we can draw the lift coefficient versus the angle

of attack for the different velocity stream.

E. Wing Body drag
As for the lift, the combination of the wing and the body creates some interference for the drag. According to
Leland M. Nicolai, the results indicate that the effect of the interaction between all the components is
which can be neglected. Thus, we will assume that wing-body drag coefficient
is equal to wing
because the drag due to the lift is primarily due to the wings.
Thus, considering that the drag of an aircraft is divided like this:
is the zero lift drag coefficient due to miscellaneous protuberances and
due to lift
is calculated like with:

is the drag coefficient

There is a parabolic behavior of the function

versus . The term
is the inviscid drag due to
lift. It is the result of the vortices trailing of a finite
wing. The term
is the viscious drag due to lift
from the flow separation and increased skin.
the lift coefficient for the minimum drag coefficient
(for a cambered airfoils,
) . So,
we will use the previous study of the
versus to
We will use some experimental data for
, using
the following chart.
Fig 8 The minimum drag coefficient for plane wings 3
percent thick and having different types and planform

This equation is only true below the break denoted

. Above
, the drag coefficient ceases to be
parabolic with
thats why we will not go through this high .We can calculate
using the wing efficiency
e. This wing efficiency depends on the correction of the finite wing, taper ratio and sweep.

According to the next table, the factor of Weissinger is equaled to 0.99. So, after computation, the wing
efficiency is equal at 0,8316.
This leads to
The K depends on the leading edge radius and taper ratio and can be find with the following table.
We know that the leading edge radius of the F-16 is 0.5 inches (1.27 cm). Furthermore, the average wings chord
of the F-16 falcon is 2.8 m. So, according to this
graph, we can determinate that k=0.034

Fig 9 Viscous drag due to lift factor, K

Fig 10 Weissinger wing planform efficiency factor

for the fuselage and then the
for the wings assuming that the F-16 has a delta
Now, we will find the
wing to facilitate the computation.
The zero lift drag coefficient of the wings is primarily due to skin friction at subsonic speeds and can be
calculated with :

Where L denotes the airfoil thickness

location parameter and
the maximum
thickness ratio of the airfoil, L=1.2 for
located at x 0.3c and L=2.0 for
located at x 0.3c. As said above, the
airfoil of the F-16 is NACA 64A204. This
means that this airfoil has a maximum
thickness of 4% of the chord. So, L equals
We know that for supersonics aircraft, a

typical wing

is around 6% or 9%. 3

is the wetted area of the wing (2 )

R is the lifting surface correlation factor
obtained from the following table and
leading to R=1,0.
is the turbulent flat plate skin friction
coefficient. The velocity of the air stream
allows us to assume that we are in a laminar
fluid leading to the following relation:

The turbulent flat plate

is obtained by
using the smaller between the cutoff Reynold
number and the flight Reynold number.

Fig 12 Lifting surface correlation factor for wing subsonic

The effect of surface roughness on the skin friction values is
determined using the cutoff Reynolds number. The type of
surface of the F-16 is a camouflage paint, so the roughness height
value is 1.20
With the ratio /k ( in inches) and the previous table, we can
find the cutoff Reynolds number
Now, we have to compare the cutoff Reynolds number with the
flight Reynold numbers. First, we will calculate the Reynolds
number at sea level and at 140 mph :
, then
at Mach 0.8 :
Thus, we use the cutoff Reynolds number in the two cases to
which is equaled at 5.42

Fig 14 Averaged skin friction coefficient versus Reynolds number

The zero lift drag coefficient of the body is primarily due to skin-friction at subsonic speeds and can be
calculated like this:
These coefficients are referenced to the maximum cross-section area
is given by:



To compute



we use the

Fig 15 Body terminology

Finally, we find that
The external stores, the canopy and other protuberances create
an additional drag
. The following table gives us the
experiment drag of those items.
We can see the effect of such protuberances on the drag. These
. We dont take
data must be corrected for the appropriate
into account these drag in this project.
To complete our drag estimation, we finally take into account
the drag due to the tail. However, as not enough information is
available, we will assume that the tail surfaces are scaled wings.
So, their similar aerodynamics lead to:

Thus, we find that

III. Design of the experiment

A. Dependent and independent variables
In this experiment, the independent variables are the angle of attack
of the 1/48 scaled model of the F-16
and the Reynolds number Re. The dependent variables are the Lift coefficient and the Drag coefficient
B. Methods for measuring each variable
The force at each location is measured by using a pressure transducer system. The acquisition device then
analyzes the voltage difference in the transducer and displays the normal and axial forces. The free stream
velocity and the Reynolds number are also displayed on the wind tunnel computer screen. Measurement of the
angle of attack is done by using a protractor mounted to the bottom of the 1/48 scaled model of the F-16..
C. Equipment and instrumentation
This experiment is done by the use of a 1/48 scaled model of the F-16 Falcon built by General Dynamics for
the US Air Force. Its dimensions are a 20.3 centimeters wing span, 29.8 centimeters max length. It is mounted in
the wind tunnel by fastening it to the sting balance which is designed to be a perch for the F-16 model. The
model positioning system is a series of parallel arms mounted to a gearbox, itself mounted to the yaw table. Both
yaw and pitching angle can be adjusted manually. The model positioning system allows for pitch adjustment
from +20 to -20 and yaw adjustment from +30 to -30.
The wind tunnel is provided with electronic instruments consisting of two solid-state differential pressure
transducers and a three-component sting balance. In order to take measurements, the instruments are provided
with a data acquisition system.
The axial and normal forces were found using an AeroLab Wind Tunnel. This wind tunnel is of the Open
Circuit type with a test 12 x 12 x 24 test section. There are four major components. First, the contraction has
a contraction ratio of 9.5:1 (the volume of air coming in is compressed 9.5 times). The contraction has a low
turbulence level of 0.12% and ensures high performance. Second, the test section is where the model is hanging
to a sting carried by two vertical arms. Third, the diffuser is crucial to improve the test section flow quality. This
shallow angle diffuser helps to eliminate diffuser effects. Finally, the fan housing is a double-walled structure.

The inner wall is made of perforated steel and the outer wall is made of structural fiberglass. Between these two
walls is a layer of sound-absorbing fiberglass batons. The computer built into the wind tunnel will be reading all
of our data, and capturing it when instructed.
Being an open-circuit design, the wind tunnel draws air from the surrounding environment. This entering air
first passes through a matrix of parallel passages. Because the passages are hexagonal in shape, this matrix is
referred as honeycomb. The honeycomb is 10,16 cm long and serve to straighten the flow to eliminate most
flow angularity. Because the honeycomb does a little to eliminate small eddies, the tunnel is equipped with two
turbulence-reducing screens immediately downstream of the honeycomb. They are made of 0.009 inch (0.23mm)
stainless steel wire spaced at 20 wires per inch (2.54cm). Small eddies in the air are broken into yet smaller
eddies by the screens. Comparatively speaking, smaller eddies dissipate faster than larger eddies. Eddies passing
through the test section are termed turbulence. The screens also serve to reduce axial velocity variation.
Together, the honeycomb and screens smooth the air before it enters the contraction.
The speed of the airstream is sensed through holes drilled into the walls of the test section static pressure is
sensed through holes drilled into the walls of the test section entrance ( one pressure orifice in the middle of each
surface ). These holes are then plumbed together to form a manifold termed a static pressure ring. This ring
provides the average static pressure of the disturbed flow. For numerical applications, we will assume that the
atmospheric pressure is the wind tunnel total pressure.
D. Range for each variable
The angle of attack will be varied from -20 to 20, with a 5 increment. We take 5 different measurements of a
single configuration. The tests consider only 5 airstream velocity values at 75,100,125 and 140 mph. For each
experiment, we will then get 8 data points.
IV. Results
A. Theoretical results
This curve shape seems to be in ad equation
with common drag-polar. Nevertheless, we do
not know the value of the break
thats why we cannot be sure of the curve
shape for high .
The two curves of this graph are nearly similar
despite the difference of the airstream speeds.
According to this result, we will assume that, in
a subsonic airstream flow, the airstream
velocity does not have a significant influence
on the F-16s drag polar

Fig 17 B. Experimental results at different speeds

The acquisition device of the Aerolab wind tunnel gives both the normal and the axial forces in pound-force
(lbf) for every angle of attack.
The lift and drag forces come from a projection on the aero axis with the following formulas:

We used the regular conditions of

pressure and temperature to determine the
lift and drag coefficients, both relevant
values in the lab at the moments of the

As the streamlines inside the wind tunnel

are affected by the presence of walls, we
used a correction given by the constructor.

Fig 18 Experimental drag polars

We can then pretend that the model is flying in a limitless volume of air - as in free flight conditions and is
not limited by the section of the wind tunnel. With such corrections, we obtain the previous drag polar at several
C. Published data
The single data we found concerning the drag polar of the F-16 Falcon comes from the book Fundamentals of
Aircraft and Airship Design by L.M. Nicolai.
for fighter aircrafts in subsonic flow is around 0.02.
According to these results, the
D. Comparison
Finally, we can compare
both the theoretical and
experimental drags polar
to the published data.
theoretical results show
that the drag polar of the
F-16 are almost not
affected by the different
Reynold numbers when
we stay in a subsonic
airstream. Indeed, all
calculated curves have the
same shape and values are
nearly the same. For
Fig 19 Comparison of the results
instance, we note on the previous theoretical curves that
Furthermore, we note that our theory succeeded to foresee our experimental results. Indeed, airspeed velocity
is not a key factor. All our curves from 75 mph to 140 mph have the same shape and values are nearly the same
too. According to our theoretical and experimental results, we will assume that the drag polar at 140 mph is
representative of the drag polar at Mach 0.8.
Finally, we can compare our three curves representing the drag polar at Mach 0.8 and draw some conclusions.



We figured out a flight at Mach 0.8 to compare our theory and experiences at the previous published data.
Finally, we have some coherent results.
First of all, the hypothesis that we figured out in our theory are quite relevant as our experimental data are
close to previous published data. Also, we can make express some remarks. Our theoretical curve has the same
shape as both the previous published data curve and our experiment curve but we did not find the same . We
can guess that our approximations and the lack of accuracy of our theoretical method are the reason of this

This leads us to doubt about the relevancy of our theoretical study. Thats why, we should have more published
data and be more accurate to validate this theory and our hypothesis. Our project could be extended in two
different ways. The first one could be to study the stability of the F-16 falcon. The second one could be to
analyze the drag and lift with several side slip angles.
Nevertheless, both the theory and the experiment gave us a Drag polar of the aircraft quite close to the published
data. The problem we had at the beginning is due to the limiting speed of the wind tunnel which has been
partially solved as our data are relevant for a higher velocity.

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