The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, multirole fighter
aircraft. It is highly maneuverable and has proven itself in
air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. It provides a
relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the
air forces of the United States and allied nations.
In an air combat role, the F-16's maneuverability and
combat radius (distance it can fly to enter air combat,
stay, fight and return) exceed that of all potential threat
fighter aircraft. It can locate targets in all weather
conditions and detect low flying aircraft in radar ground
clutter. In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 can fly more
than 500 miles (860 kilometers), deliver its weapons with
superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft,
and return to its starting point. An all-weather capability
allows it to accurately deliver ordnance during non-visual
COMBATSIM.COM® had a chance to speak with Pete "BOOMER"
Bonanni, F-16 BFM instructor and flight instructor for the
Air National Guard as well as consultant for FALCON 4, the
greatly anticipated simulation from MicroProse. BOOMER
talks to Dan Crenshaw about real BFM and FALCON 4.
(CSIM) Please give me a bit of background on your career.
(PB) I am a second generation fighter pilot who grew up on
various fighter bases around the world. My father flew the
F-94C, F-101, F105 and the F-4. After graduating from the
Air Force Academy and pilot training I started my career
fighters in the F-4 Phantom. In fact while I was at Clark
Air Base in the Philippines I actually flew some of the
same tail numbers that my father flew in Vietnam.
In the 90th I flew F-4Es and Gs. While I was at Clark the
90th converted from an Air-to-Air role to the Wild Weasel
mission. I didn't go back and train in the "G" model but I
flew G models occasionally because we had an equal number
of Es and Gs in the squadron. From Clark I got assigned to
497th Fighter Squadron in Taegu, South Korea and flew the
F-4D. The "D" model was a "hard wing" F-4 which meant that
it didn't have the E model's leading edge slats.
Without those slats the jet flew VERY different at high AOA
and I experienced a few wild rides and some pissed off
back-seaters before I got used to slow speed fighting in
the jet. At slow speed you could not use the ailerons at
all. Just think about that. Here you were in a flat
scissors with an F-5 and you needed to roll and pull to the
left. If you actually moved the stick to the left several
things would happen - none of them good.
First the back-seater would scream like he'd been kicked in
a place that really hurts. Next the nose of the jet would
slice violently in the opposite direction. The only way to
regain control of the jet was to unload and by the time you
got the Rhino flying straight again some ass hole in an F-5
was gunning you. I never really got a feel for the F-4D
because after only 4 months at Taegu, I was selected to fly
the greatest fighter ever built -- the F-16.
In August of 1981 the F-16 was more than just a new
fighter. It was a concept - an idea about air combat that
was fashioned into a machine. The first time I stood next
to the jet I was transfixed. I had been around fighters all
my life but this jet was different. Finally they built a
fighter that not only was the right size (small) but also
had the correct number of engines. They say beauty is in
the eye of the beholder but no fighter pilot can see the
lines of the F-16 without feeling deep admiration for the
men and women who designed and built it.
The F-16 was even better from inside the cockpit. To put it
simply the jet just felt right. It's hard to put it any
other way. When you strap in and place your hands on the
stick and throttle for the first time it's just hard to
describe. It just felt so natural. My first thought was "so
this is how a fighter cockpit is supposed to be".
Anyway, sorry for the nostalgia but it was truly a great
feeling to be a part of the early days of the F-16. I spent
the next 5 years in the F-16, first in the 35th Fighter
Squadron in Kunsan, South Korea and then in the 63rd
Fighter Squadron in MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. In
route to being an Instructor Pilot at MacDill, I was
selected to attended the F-16 Fighter Weapons School class
at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The Fighter Weapons
School was an experience that had a lot in common with
Basic Cadet Training at the Air Force Academy. The F-16
Fighter Weapons School was my most arduous Air Force
experience to date and very hard to describe in just a few
Photo Courtesy of 349 Squadron
I finally left the F-16 when I got out of the active Air
Force and entered the Air National Guard. I went home to
Virginia and transitioned to a different jet - the A-7D
Corsair in the 149th Fighter Squadron. I really didn't need
an F-16 appreciation experience but got one nonetheless. I
spent the next 5 years flying the old A-7 and pining for 10
thousand pounds more thrust. It was not that the A-7 was
that bad, it was just that it was no F-16.
Finally in 1991 the 149th Fighter Squadron received "C"
model F-16s. All my previous time had been in the "A" model
so I was a little skeptical of the C due to it's increased
weight. When I first flew the jet in transition rides I
could tell that the nose was a lot heavier but when I
actually did BFM in the jet I was pleasantly surprised. The
nose was heavier but with the new GE engine the jet had
more thrust which made up for the increased weight - kind
of. Nothing maneuvers like an "A" model F-16 in my opinion
but in a fight against your clone - A versus C, it would
probably be a push.
While in the F-4 I flew the D, E and G models over a two
year period and then was lucky enough to transition into
the F-16A in 1981. I flew the F-16A for just over a year
and then attended the USAF Fighter Weapons School in
January of 1983. After graduating from the Fighter Weapons
School I flew as an Instructor Pilot for the next three
years and then left the active duty Air Force for the Air
National Guard. In the Air Guard I flew the A-7D for 5
years before finally getting back to the F-16 in 1991. I've
flown the F-16C Block 30 since 91 and I expect to be in the
jet for the rest of my career.
(CSIM) What is the closest you ever came to actual combat?
(PB) When my father went back to Vietnam in 1969 he told
me, "every generation of fighter pilot has their war."
Since becoming a fighter pilot I've waited for my war but
so far the closest I have come is enforcing the No Fly
Zones over Iraq and Bosnia. My father faced SAMs, AAA and
MiGs over North Vietnam while so far all I have faced is a
sore ass and leaky piddle packs.
(CSIM) How do you rate the F-16 as an overall fighter? What
do you think are it's strengths and weaknesses?
(PB) The F-16 is the greatest fighter ever built. I know we
can get into a "News Group" type debate over energy curves,
payload, avionics, range and other various fighter
characteristics. In my opinion however, the F-16 is still
the best fighter in the world at what it was originally
designed to do -- dogfight. In addition to dogfighting, the
F-16 is also the best jet in the world at killing SAMs.
When you add AMRAAM and LGBs to the jet you have a great
all around fighter that is only a "stores jettison button"
away from being the best maneuvering jet in the world.
(CSIM) How does the A/B differ from the C/D models? Include
how it responds to the pilot and it's interface.
(PB) The A model F-16 is lighter. More specifically it has
a lighter nose which means you can rate or move the nose
better in an A model. The C model generally has more thrust
than the A model which for the most part compensates for
the greater weight of the C. I personally believe that an A
model F-16 is a better dogfighter than a C model.
The exception to this statement would be the Block 50/52 C
model. This Block has considerably more thrust than the
Block 30 or Block 40 C models and may have a sustained turn
advantage over an A model. The other difference between the
A and C model is of course the cockpit. The C model has a
completely different cockpit layout and a new radar which
improves the combat capability of the jet. (CSIM) What is
the closest match for the F16 in the Soviet fleet?
(PB) The Soviet fighter most comparable to the F-16 is the
MiG-29. The MiG-29 matches up favorably to the F-16 in
maneuverability but is inferior in avionics and weapons.
The exception to this is the AA-11 Archer heat seeking
missile. This missile provides the MiG-29 an excellent
"close in" weapon.
(CSIM)If you had a chance to fly a Soviet fighter, what
would it be and why?
(PB) The MiG-29 because that is the fighter that I would
most likely face in combat and a chance to fly it would be
(CSIM) You are obviously most notable in the flight sim
community due to your connection with FALCON 3.0 and the
Art of the Kill book and video included with that game. How
did you get hooked up with Spectrum Holobyte for this
(PB) Most people don't realize that Falcon 3.0 started as a
low cost F-16 simulator for the Air National Guard. I
worked with Gilman Louie, the current Chairman of
MicroProse and the creator of the Falcon series, on a
proposal to build an F-16 trainer. Spectrum-Holobyte was
teamed with General Dynamics and another company called
Perceptronics on the project and fortunately we lost the
I say fortunately because after losing the contract, Gilman
took our design and some of the User Interface work that
was complete and turned it into Falcon 3.0. So my input to
Falcon 3.0 was in aiding Gilman Louie in the design of the
F-16 trainer that later turned into Falcon 3.0. In the
Falcon series there has been very few constants between
each development effort. The exception to this of course is
the involvement of Gilman Louie who is again providing the
key vision for Falcon 4.0.
(CSIM) The Art of the Kill, was this your idea? How close
does it follow your actual lessons for real pilots?
(PB) Art of the Kill was an idea pushed through by Gilman.
The concept was first proposed to him by a young guy named
Pat Gost. Pat helped work on the video while I wrote the
content to include the script for the video and the manual.
The Art of the Kill courseware is essentially identical to
the course content taught in the F-16 training squadrons.
(CSIM) What are the most common maneuvering mistakes
beginner fighter pilots make?
(PB) The most common BFM mistake made by new fighter pilots
(in Falcon or the jet) is pointing at the target before you
are ready to shoot. A pure pursuit path (pointing at the
target) will almost always generate an overshoot. It is
very hard to get most new fighter pilots to think in terms
of driving the aircraft to another point in the sky besides
directly at the bandit.
Everybody has a natural tendency to put the bandit in the
HUD and in most cases unless you are shooting, this is the
wrong thing to do. The other common mistake is trying to
turn the jet at too high an airspeed or at other end of the
spectrum -- getting too slow. These two mistakes can be
lumped into the category of not managing your energy.
(CSIM) What is the toughest air combat maneuver to learn?
(PB) The toughest air combat maneuver to learn is
controlling your lift vector when you are slow and tight.
These situations occur when you are scissoring or in high
low stacks. It is very hard to recreate various situations
where mistakes are made so the learning curve for this type
of fighting tends to be flat.
(CSIM) You are working with MicroProse on FALCON 4.0,
probably the most anticipated flight sim sequel ever. What
areas of the sim have you been asked to participate in?
(PB) I have provided fighter pilot input on a number of
areas of Falcon 4.0 to include the flight model, avionics,
bandit AI, sounds and the campaign. I have worked on most
areas of Falcon 4.0 but I'm only a voice and not the hands
that are actually building Falcon. The heavy lifting on
this project is of course being done by the guys and gals
writing code and drawing pictures.
(CSIM) I have read some posts from Leon Rosenshein and
yourself on the flight model in FALCON 4.0. As a BETA
tester, I have seen great strides in the handling of the
aircraft. How close is the flight model to the real F-16C?
(Altitude effects, feel, turning etc.)
(PB) The flight model is very accurate. I have talked about
this before but in Falcon 4.0 you can pull the power back
to idle and fly the altitude and airspeed flameout numbers
right out of the F-16 Dash 1 flight manual and land the
jet. Leon Rosenshein worked on the F-16 Unit Training
Device (UTD) which is the simulator in all F-16 squadrons
and Falcon 4.0 flies at least as good as the UTD.
Falcon 4.0. Click for larger.
(CSIM) Is the blackout in FALCON 4 set to a realistic
level? Does it have a reasonable on set?
(PB) The black out model we used is based on centrifuge
data. Leon Rosenshein used a data set created by the USAF
to model this very thing in Air Force simulators. I know
there will be plenty of debate over blackout models but I
feel that if you are going to have one, ours is as accurate
as you can make it. By the way, even though I know its
based on accurate data, it still pisses me off too when I'm
about to gun someone and my screen starts to go black. I
guess its only natural.
(CSIM) The avionics package is very complex. How close to
the real thing is it? How close to being able to actually
being used for air force training is it? Is this the
complete package or are there features that can not be
modeled due to security issues?
(PB) Falcon 4.0 Avionics fall in a range that goes from
very easy to the real jet. On the very easy side your radar
displays all of the targets from a bird's eye perspective
and it is easy to engage and shoot down the bandits. On the
F-16 side of the scale you have a radar beam sweeping,
range bins, radar cross section, probability of detection,
in other words a highly detailed simulation of the radar
On the easy levels the bandits are essentially just
stoogeing around out there waiting to get poked by your
missiles. On the realistic levels the bandits are "spike
aware" at BVR ranges and will flat out ruin your day if
your shit is not all in one sock. When you gaze into your
tube (radar scope) you will have to detect Brackets, Post
Holes, Drags, Beams and other standard bad guy intercept
It can be done but you will definitely not be able to crank
Falcon 4.0 up to the limit and wail on the enemy while you
simultaneously play grab ass with sweet Marie. If you can,
hell I'm fighting some Eagles next week and may need your
( CSIM-Have you called BUBBA yet? ;-D )
The radar fight is one thing but don't forget that the
Block 50 F-16 lives to kill SAMs. Falcon 4.0 has a very
good HTS (Harm Targeting System) simulation to help you
duke it out with the SAMs. Keep in mind however that some
of them are mobile and at the higher levels of the game,
the Integrated Air Defense System will demonstrate
connectivity and cooperative tactics to include blinking,
ambush and buddy launches to defeat the HTS. Of course I
have not even mentioned the Targeting Pod, Maverick and a
host of other weapons and avionic modes. Falcon 4.0 is very
detailed and provides a lot of accurate information about
the F-16 in combat.
As far as security issues are concerned, Falcon 4.0
provides realism by placing the fighter pilot in the most
realistic combat simulation ever built. The avionics are
realistic because they provide the information needed to
survive and win in this environment. (CSIM) When involved
in dogfights, how easy is it to become disoriented and do
you feel the aids in any particular flight sim model the
situation awareness in a dogfight particularly well?
(PB) In a real dogfight you seldom get disoriented. Getting
disoriented in a real dogfight will probably result in you
double-dribbling yourself off the ground. The same thing
happens in flight sims too - lose control of the horizon
and lose your life. It is much easier to lose control of
the horizon in flight sims however.
Notice how I keep talking about the horizon rather than the
bandit. It is usually easier to track the bandit in a
flight sim than it is in the real jet but it's keeping
track of the horizon that is the most critical. You may not
believe this but just think about it. If you are near the
mach and get pointed straight down how fast will you be
losing altitude? How about 1,000 feet per second. You
simply cannot lose track of the big ball or you will wind
up a smoking hole.
So in flight sims and in the real jet you must keep track
of the earth. The new Falcon 4.0 padlock view and the
modified Hawkeye view both work well in a dogfight to help
you keep your nose in control of the horizon.
(CSIM) There is a rumor that you have a desire to model the
Soviet formations that aid in hiding the actual number of
aircraft the RADAR picks up. How does this work and do you
think will FALCON 4 see this feature?
(PB) Yes - of course bandits will use anti-sort tactics in
Falcon 4.0. How could you model modern air combat if they
(CSIM) Could you give us some detail on how this works?
(PB) Sure. The high tech fighters such as the Su-27 and
Mig-29 may mask their numbers on occasion but for the most
part they will go lance to lance with you and the hombre
with the biggest stick and fattest clue bag will fly home
to the hacienda. The low tech fighters like MiG19/21/23 on
the other hand may try to mask their numbers by being in
resolution cell or with a post hole formation. Resolution
cell just means that they will fly close together so you
can only see a single target until you are very close.
A post hole is a formation where you fly directly above or
below your wingman. Again this looks like a single target
on radar and hides your numbers. Keep in mind again that
bandit awareness and response to the tactical environment
is scalable by setting the difficulty level. Making bandits
smart Beyond Visual Range has been a challenge (not for me
of course because I just talk about it to the engineers). I
think that you can learn a lot about the nature air combat
in the F-16 by fighting the "codehead pilots" in Falcon
(CSIM) What part of flying an F-16 in a combat situation do
you think FALCON 4 models most effectively and how does it
differ from the real thing?
(PB) To answer your question directly I would say that we
model the air war or what I call the "tactical environment"
better than most other flight sims. In other words, Falcon
4.0 effectively recreates the shock and lethality of modern
air combat from the perspective of the F-16 pilot. Falcon
3.0 and Falcon 4.0 are about the same thing - immersing the
player into a realistic air war where knowledge of your
jet, the enemy and your own capabilities are the key to
(CSIM)Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.
I am sure I speak for the entire flight sim community when
I say we all look forward to seeing FALCON 4 and appreciate
the input you have given to make it what it will be.
NOTE: There will be 2 new products in this area produced by
COMBATSIM® covering BFM and ACM. Look for more
information soon in our Magazine and on our Web Site.