Using a clever deployment of the plane’s jet engines, engineers made it capable of taking off and landing just like a helicopter, a sight that is as weird as it is effective when operating from the likes of aircraft carriers.
Since the first Harrier, other VTOL military machines came to be, with the most recent being the F-35B Lightning II.
Old as it is, the F-16 Fighting Falcon was never capable of operating in such a manner, but that isn’t stopping our eyes from playing tricks on us, if the conditions are right. And they seem perfect in this image here, taken by a USAF tech sergeant on the very first day of the year.
What you’re looking at is a Fighting Falcon deployed with the USAF, captured in action on January 1 over the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, which includes countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Somalia, among others.
The plane is seen mid-flight, probably traveling at a considerable speed, yet the mostly featureless background of white clouds and the closeness of the photo kind of make it look like it's hovering mid-air. The single Pratt & Whitney (or General Electric, depending on version) engine of the plane may not be capable of having it do that, but it is more than enough to push it to a top speed of Mach 2.
The F-16 is one of the most widespread aircraft of its kind in the world. When it last reported the numbers, in September last year, USAF revealed it flies 1,017 such beasts, but many others are being used by the Air Forces of allied nations.