While idly scanning through the archives over at Foxtrot Alpha, I came across an excellent interview with a retired USAF pilot who's flown F-5's, F-15's, F-16's and the Soviet-era MiG-29. He describes each aircraft from an air combat perspective, and has several very interesting things to say about modern 'stealth' combat aircraft. Here's a brief excerpt from a very long feature.
The Viper is, in my opinion, what a fighter should be. It is small, nimble, accelerates like a bullet and is a pure joy to fly. Instead of loading it down with bombs, the radar should have been improved to give it Eagle-like capabilities and the jet should have taken more of an air-to-air role. While I said that the F-15 is like a Mercedes, the F-16 is like a Formula One race car. The cockpit is tight and it gives you more of the sensation that you're actually wearing the jet than actually sitting in it. The side-stick controller takes about as much time to get used to as it takes to read this sentence.
I've flown all the C/D versions – Blocks 25, 30, 32, 40, 42, 50, 52. The Pratt-powered Blocks 25, 32 and 42 are good performers, but not great. The GE-powered Blocks 30, 40 and 50, plus the Pratt-powered Block 52 are absolute beasts. The GE-powered fleet is flown by the active-duty F-16 squadrons while Air National Guard and Reserve squadrons operate a mixed bag of GE-powered and Pratt-powered Vipers. I've never flown a jet that will out accelerate the GE-powered F-16. At low altitude, GE Vipers will step out to its airspeed of 810 knots indicated airspeed like nobody's business. The limit is based on the polycarbonate canopy and not the engine. At higher speeds the canopy starts to get warm due to air friction. At some point the canopy will start to deform if the jet gets much faster. At high altitude, I've had the jet out to Mach 2.05. This limit is due to the fixed air inlet and opposed the F-15's variable geometry inlet.
In his book, Sierra Hotel: Flying Air Force Fighters in the Decade After Vietnam, Col C.R. Anderegg, USAF (ret), former F-15 pilot and F-4 Fighter Weapons School graduate, wrote this about the F-16: "The pure joy of the F-16, though, was in the furball (complex dogfight with many aircraft), where the aircraft had the edge over the F-15 and a significant edge over everything else. With the F-16's incredible agility and power, the pilot could get close and stay close. He was less a viper than a python gradually squeezing the fight closer while beating down his victim's energy and resistance until the time came for a mortal blow. Chaff might spoof a radar missile or flares might decoy a heat-seeker, but as one pilot said, 'The gun is stupid. You can't jam it and you can't fool it.' The F-16 was a superb gunfighter, and in the furball it was the top cat."
There's much more at the link. Entertaining and informative reading for all air warfare aficionados.