||The YF-16 was selected a finalist in the U.S. Air Force's program to demonstrate superior dogfighting capabilities in lightweight, low-cost fighter prototypes. This eventually led to production of the F-16. Since its relatively small beginning with an initial U.S. Air Force planned buy of 650 aircraft, the F-16 has become one of the largest and most successful military production programs in the history of aviation.
The U.S. Air Force selected the F-16 as its air combat fighter in 1975. Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway announced plans to buy F-16s a few months later, bringing the initial program to 998 aircraft. Before the first decade of production had passed, 17 air forces in 16 nations had ordered more than 3,000 F-16s.
Currently more than 4,200 aircraft are on order for 19 countries, including follow-on purchases by most countries. In addition, several countries have acquired used F-16s from U.S. Air Force storage.
The first production F-16 was delivered in 1978. The 1,000th was delivered in 1983, the 2,000th in early 1988, the 3,000th in late 1991, and the 4,000th in early 2000. The worldwide F-16 fleet surpassed one million flight hours in 1986, two million in 1988, three million in 1990, four million in 1992, five million in 1994, eight million in 1998, and nine million in 2000. U.S. Air Force flight hours alone topped the five million mark in 1997.
The F-16 has undergone extensive evolutionary changes over its long production life. The F-16 Multinational Staged Improvement Program resulted in delivery of the first advanced F-16C/D model in 1984, the first Block 30 version with a choice of engines in 1986, the first Block 40 version with night attack capabilities in 1988, and the first Block 50 aircraft with a more powerful engine and other improvements in 1991
New capabilities have been added to older aircraft through retrofit efforts such as the F-16A/B Operational Capabilities Upgrade and the F-16 Air Defense Fighter program. In 1991, the United States and four European nations began development of the F-16A/B Mid-Life Update to modernize the avionics suites of older aircraft with the latest technologies. Approximately 650 USAF F-16 C/Ds are scheduled to receive the F-16 Common Configuration Implementation Program Modification which includes new avionics, cockpit, and advanced weapons.