F-16 Viper FAQ - stuff you wanted to know about the F-16C/D

This will cover US versions of F-16s and the modeling section will relate to the Hasegawa 1/72 and Tamiya 1/48 kits, but it’s all useful regardless of what kit you are using. The Revell 1/72 is generally regarded to be a fantastic kit, mostly because its can be made into various blocks out of the box. The Hasegawa 1/48 block 50 kits also have that advantage, though they are missing a few details. For this guy’s $$$ you can’t beat the Tamiya vipers. This thread is a work in progress, so read it all….there are some amazing levels of knowledge gathered on this site and in this thread, and its ALL for your benefit. Also, this is designed to be a quick guide to some frequently asked viper questions, but not the be-all/end-all, and by no means come close to the excellent reference materials out there, the best of which for this sort of thing is Reid Air’s Modern Viper Guide. 


A small primer in F-16C/D blocks

F-16Cs are Block 25, 30 and 32. F-16CGs are Block 40/42s. F-16CJs are Block 50/52s. Recently, the use of the unofficial term CM designates a Block 40/42 or 50/52 with CCIP mod which essentially levels the field between them and renders the CG/CJ designations obsolete. You will occasionally see F-16C+ in various places, which is fairly convoluted, and has to do with various upgrades to the series such as CUPID but the essential math on that is a C+ is a jet that is able to use targeting pods and GPS guided weapons. 

Block designations: F-16s were built with Pratt & Whitney engines from day 1. The C models used the F-100-PW-220 in the first production Block, the Block 25. Up until that point, F-16A/B Block #s had been 1, 5, 10, 15 and 20. The 25 was a continuation of that Block designator system. The Block 30 was slated to merely be the same progression, except….and this is purposefully vague….in there "they" decided that General Electric produced a great fighter engine, the F-110-GE-100, and since Pratt had the F-15C/E contract locked, it was unfair that GE was frozen out of the F-16 production. The original intent was to have the engines be interchangeable between airframes…..this is how it was sold, but as we know, the road to hell is paved with what? 

So, since we now have a different engine available to the series, they changed the Block designations to reflect which motor was installed in the Block 30 series. A Block with 0 is a GE, so the Block 30s are GE powered. A 2 designates a Pratt powered jet, so the Block 32s are Pratts. The Blocks are the same otherwise……same jet, different engines. 

Now, here's where it gets fun. "They" decided that the GEs performed better with more air, so the intake was enlarged to swallow more air, which as it turned out, didn't help the Pratts at all. The original F-16 intake is called NSI (Normal Shock Inlet) or "small mouth" and is installed on every Pratt jet. After #173 block 30, the new intake, called the MCID (Modular Common Inlet Duct) was installed. So, the first 173 F-16C Block 30s have the small NSI intake…….how do you tell? Well, the tail #s is a good start….all FY (Fiscal Year) '85 block 30 jets are GE/NSI. A jets FY is painted in its serial number on the tail, either in the standard style for line jets with AF above the FY in from of the last 3 digits of the serial number, or smaller elsewhere on the tail….usually the case with a wing or squadron flagship. In this case the FY is the first 2 digits after AF.

In FY '86 there were a further 35 Block 30 Cs with GE/NSI, ending with 86-0261. 86-0262 is a GE/MCID and all Block 30 Cs after there, though be careful, there were Ds produced with tail #s from further back that were GE/MCID. The first Block 30 jet with this combo was a D model, 86-0044. All F-16Ns were GE/NSI. All subsequent Blocks followed the GE/MCID – Pratt/NSI rule. 

Now, to convolute things further, "they" decided to make the F-16 TRULY multi-role and decided to add some capability in the ground attack mode with the introduction of the LANTIRN navigation/targeting system. This allowed the F-16 to do low-level, night and bad weather interdiction using terrain following radar and the use of laser guided weapons with the LANTIRN pod. This capability was introduced in the Block 40 series…..which is the Block 40 and 42….40s are GE/MCID, 42s are Pratt/NSI. 

There are some physical changes between the Block 30 series and the Block 40 series. The aircraft needed to carry more weight between bombs and various stuff hanging off of it, so the landing gear was made "beefier", the wheels are larger, which made it necessary to put a bulge in the main gear doors to accommodate the larger wheels and the gear door actuators were beefed up and the drag links made smaller to avoid interfering with the larger wheel. Additionally, the LANTIRN pod interfered with the landing light position on the R main gear, so that was moved to the front of the nose gear door, and all that cool new LANTIRN and nav pod symbology needed someplace to be displayed, so the HUD was enlarged….called the WAR HUD (Wide Angle Raster) as opposed to the original WAC HUD (Wide Angle Conventional).


WAR HUD (image courtesy of Habu2's website)

Next up was the Block 50 series, which are essentially externally the same, except until recently, they didn't carry targeting pods and returned to the normal sized WAC HUD…..the heavyweight gear, big wheels and landing light position stayed the same. 


F-16 blocks and Hasegawa kits

Hasegawa have produced a large number of F-16C kits which enable you to make all C model Blocks. These include the "original" F-16C (Block 25/32) kit, the CG (Block 40/42) and the CJ (Block 50/52) kit. The original kit contained the NSI intake and xxx engine nozzle, whilst all of the later kits contain both types of intakes and both types of engine nozzles. A "special" kit which is worth obtaining is the F-16N as this contains the intake cheek pods needed to build an Nellis or Eilson Aggressor - note that these are also included with the later F-16C kits.  Separate kits are also available for the F-16D (25/32), DG (40/42) and DJ (50/52).

The Hasegawa kits are starting to show their age a little, and do not contain the level of detail seen in the Academy and Revell Germany kits.  As the real jets age, they have been fitted with external stiffening panels to combat fatigue and stress cracks and also some external RAM panels.. There is no clear delineation as to when a particular airframe received the mods…that's going to be for you to figure out using pictures. These strengthening panels are not included within any of the Hasegawa kits; however Orion and Crossdelta make a terrific set of external upgrades and Eduard does as well. This applies to the Thunderbirds as well, except for the RAM panels. The “Team” now flies Block 52s, which have no external stiffener plates. 

This is a diagram of the features of the Blocks 25 and 32. Pay attention to the chaff/flare buckets, the lack of fuselage vents and the various strengthening plates. The fuselage vents are part of a planned upgrade called ASPJ, which was never put into use, although the associated vents were retained on all subsequent viper Blocks. These began to be built into the jets during Block 30 production, save for the very first Block 30As which lack them. Also, the Block 25/30/32 series is receiving the AN/APX-113 antennas (bird slicers) as a part of CUPID, but not all of them; so again, check your refs for the specific jet you want to do from a certain timeframe. Another area to watch is the wing leading edge RHAW antennas, or "Beer Cans"....these were not originally built into the Block 25 or early Block 30/32 jets, but were retrofitted later, so again, watch your refs. This diagram shows them in place. The Block 25s also have just the 2 bottom fuselage chaff/flare buckets. This was increased with 2 extra buckets on FY ’87 and later Block 30s and 32s. 



This is a diagram of the Block 30. Pay attention to the vents on the fuselage, the chaff/flare buckets and the strengthening plates.

Again, as the airframes aged, they required fuselage stiffening plates, which are diagramed here. If the jet you are portraying is from the early 90s, look closely to see if it has the fuselage stiffeners present. These began to appear in ‘95ish – ’96. Again, Crossdelta is your friend in 1/72. They also use the same wheels as the Block 50 for a while now, though early in their service lives they used a different wheel. Check your refs.  A Block 42 requires the exact same mods.


Block 50/52….. Block 50 kit OTB.  Block 50/52 aircraft do not as of yet require any external stiffening plates. Be aware the Block 52s and a lot of 42s are now equipped with the up rated F-100-229 motors that have the carbon fiber exhaust petals. Check refs again. This does NOT apply to the Block 25s or 32s.





Obviously, the most expedient solution to the Block question is to use the all-in one kit (i.e. the later CG or CJ releases).



You hear a lot about CCIP, which stands for Common Configuration Implementation Program.

CCIP was three (four) phases, Phase I & II were Block 50/52, Phase III was Block 40/42.


  • Phase IA started in August 2001 (MMC, CMFDS) - most kits went on hold till the rest of the CIP Cards came in from the a certain vendor
  • Phase IB started in September 2002 (AIFF, SniperXR)
  • Phase II started in July 2003 (LINK-16, JHMCS, EHSI)
  • Phase III started in 2005

 The first Edwards CCIP jets were also modded in 00- 01, though MMC had been in Flight test for over a year at that time. 

This is what allows the Block 50/52s to drop all the cool ordnance nowadays and is an avionics and software program to upgrade the Block 40/42 – 50/52 fleet. On Block 50/52s, the external difference are the AN/APX-113 antennas…"bird slicers" in front of the canopy and the JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cuing Sensor) on the inside L side of the canopy. All Block 50/52s are now CCIP, and most of the Block 40/42s are, though the Block 40 series doesn't have the IFF blades in front of the canopy, just the JHMCS being the only clue the jet is CCIP. In short order it can just be assumed that a Block 40/42 is CCIP equipped, though externally it’s tough to tell. 








The Block 40 series was developed for low level precision strike, using the new LANTIRN nav/targeting system. As such, they became the more or less dedicated bombers. The Block 50 series was developed to be more of a “jack of all trades” but were primarily tasked with SEAD/DEAD….the “wild weasels” and their units didn’t carry the LANTIRN system. In the recent past however, with the implementation of CCIP, the Block 50 series units began to take on the role of bombers and started to carry the targeting pods used by the Block 40 series units and dropping ordnance in Iraq, beginning with the 35th FW in 2006. As of today, all regular AF Block 50 wings have rotated through Balad AB/Joint Base Balad and dropped warheads on foreheads. Whereas before it was unknown for a Block 50 to haul bombs other than CBUs and WCMDs, today it’s common to see them loaded with a targeting pod and some JDAMs and GBUs. 

CUPID is one of the various “upgrade” programs applied to the viper fleet as it ages. “Falcon Up” and “Falcon Star” are airframe structural upgrades to extend airframe life, CUPID is a software and avionics upgrade….which varies from unit to unit in terms of capability, but basically is what allows the older F-16s in the Block 25/30/32 range to use the targeting pods and drop GPS guided weapons. (Recall the C+ designation from earlier?) 


F-16 Colors

All U.S. combat F-16Cs left Ft. Worth painted in 3 shades of gray; FS 36270 and FS 36375 overall, with FS 36118 on the top. Paint demarcations varied somewhat, but not much. Missile rails, racks and fuel tanks were 36375.  This is the last viper built for the USAF, a block 50, shown on its delivery day to Shaw AFB in 3-tone factory paint:-




It has been assumed that when the jets went to first repaint, they were all changed to a 2 gray scheme, consisting of FS 36270 overall and FS 36118 on top. However, the depot level use of the 2-tone scheme didn’t begin until the early 90s…..’93-‘94, so all the FY 84-87ish Block 25s, 30s and 32s would have gotten at least 1 depot level repaint in 3-tone, so again, watch your pics. While I’ve never seen a shot of a depot level repaint of a Block 40/42 in 3-tone, I’m not prepared to totally rule it out. The Block 40s from Ramstein during Deny Flight in ’94 all appear to carry some sort of paint barn logo, which would indicate depot level repaint. Some of those jets carried the 3-tone paint after their transfer to Aviano into ’96-’97. Today, all repaints are 2-tone, and have been since the early 90s. There are a very few 3-tone jets left now, all at 20th FW assigned and were among the last F-16 s delivered. Camouflage demarcation lines varied wildly, even within wings and squadrons. Check your references carefully for which scheme you are doing from what time period. The Tamiya painting instructions in both the 1/48 and 1/32 block 50 kits are incorrect, as all jets portrayed carried the 2-tone paint. Missile rails, racks and fuel tanks vary in color to this day.


This is one of the variations in camouflage demarcation, carried by the 8th FW in Korea, but several wings have used “non-standard” demarcation lines over the years, notably the 20th FW from Shaw. 



Also, there is no reason to get hung up on the specific “shade” of these colors. They vary wildly with age….its best just to find a shot of a jet you want to do, and eyeball it…..there just isn’t a way to be “wrong”. 



Radome Color

Gray…..plain ol’ gray. Seriously. If you live in the UK, it’s Grey. The radomes on F-16s are coated, not painted, and this coating picks up dirt and grime and darkens with age and use and a myriad of other factors. They range in shade from fuselage color to almost black. No 2 F-16s have the same color radome, and you’ll find pics of them with either different domes at various times or one that’s aged a bit. 


These are 2 examples where the crew chiefs have scrubbed the grime off the radome….one as “art” and one as a recognition feature so he’d know when “his” jet was taxiing back in. Again, find a shot of the jet you want to do, and eyeball it.



Canopy Tinting

The canopies on F-16s sometimes wear a layer of tinted film, gold-ish in color. This is part of a larger project to reduce the RCS of the jets called “Have Glass”, which incorporates several different mods. The essential math here is there is no rhyme or reason to it. Some jets have the front canopy tinted, the rear not. Some have the whole thing tinted, some have no tinting. Some have just the rear part tinted, and some have variations of both during different times. Depending on the shot and the lighting, the tint looks deep yellow, and sometimes it just looks darker with a yellow tinge. Sometimes it just looks tinted period, without the yellow tinge.It varies among blocks, wings and squadrons. You literally just have to find a jet you like and look and see what it has, if you care. Fortunately, both Hasegawa and Tamiya provide you with both types, but people still tint their own using various methods. That’s up to you.


Scab Plates

As mentioned earlier, the viper fleet has received structural enhancements through its career to combat fatigue and increase lifespan of the airframe. The Block 25/30/32/40 and 42s have received external structural reinforcing plates, or “scab plates”. As of yet, the Block 50/52s do not, as their structures are internally reinforced. The Block 40/42s carry 10 “scab plates” on the fuselage….2 at the base of the tail and 8 on the top of the fuselage. The Block 25/30/32s have varied more. Initially they carried just the 2 by the tail, but today as the fleet ages, you find them with scabs on the fuselage in various places as well as the wing roots. Again, you just have to go by pics, and trying to pin it down by timeframe is frustrating. 



The areas just in front of the exhausts are different between Pratts and GEs. I see them painted all sorts of different things from time to time. On a GE, that area is black-ish carbon fiber universally. On a Pratt its metal. The cool bluish staining on it is present, but it’s actually not that prevalent. Usually that area is just dark-ish, dirty metal color, but sometimes it does have the bluish staining in varying amounts. These are some extreme examples. The petals themselves don’t vary in color much. Occasionally, you’ll see them polished up, like on a T-birds jet, and that’s pretty much just the Pratts, though I’ve seen GEs done that way. I’ve heard from engine shop guys that the practice is frowned upon, but I’ve seen it on flagships….I guess if the boss wants shiny exhaust petals, he gets shiny exhaust petals. Remember, on the -229 Pratts, the petals are black carbon fiber, not metal. This applies to Block 42s and 52s only. Check your pics for timeframes, as they are all retrofits. 




Pratt & Whitney


-229 Carbon Fiber exhaust petals



Regular exhaust petals



On the boss' jet

"HAVE GLASS” paint

As part of the RCS reduction program for F-16s, certain airframes have received a special coating that alters the appearance of the paint visually. It is very rough to the touch, and contains shiny flakes in it, almost like metal flake paint. It collects dirt and grime easily, and when viewed from a distance, takes on a very weathered and faded appearance. On some examples, it almost appears as the jet is a single color gray. The coating is used on certain Block 50 airframes at Shaw, Spangdahlem and Eglin in the OT unit. There is no existing open source definitive list of airframes using it, but it’s easy to tell which ones have it and which ones don’t by appearance. I’ve never seen it on other Block at other bases. It began to appear early after the turn of the century, so again, watches your reference pics. As far as replicating it, there are various methods, but the one I like involves suspending a silver paint in some clear and misting it at the model after weathering the snot out of it normally. It’s really not very pretty at all, and almost impossible to over weather. 






Refueling Door

As you can see, the receptacle area is bordered exactly by the position markings for the boomer. The Tamiya and Hasegawa doors are vastly different in size and shape. Decals designed to fit Hasegawa won’t fit Tamiya and vice versa. The door itself that covers the refueling point is metallic in color, and just beaten to death, as is a lot of surrounding area. 


GPS dome


NPRV fuselage panel

One more block difference - the L shaped panel on the starboard side of the upper fuselage - I forgot (again) what is its function, something with fuel cells...  Up to block 40/42 this panel looks like a letter L with a small oval panel inside it (in upper right corner) and in block 50/52 it looks like F without a horizontal line in the middle and also with a small oval panel inside (in lower right corner this time). That's the NPRV panel. On nearly all F-16s, except block 50 and above, this panel is clocked with the NPRV in the up position.  The NPRV panel is clocked down for all FMS jets fitted with the spine, including Block 30. The NPRV panel was later clocked down periminantly during the Block 50 production line.

Blocks 1 - 40/42


Block 50/52


This article is provided courtesy of Scott from Afterburner Decals via the Zone-Five Forum