The forward fuselage and wings heavily resemble the equivalent sections of the F-16C Fighting Falcon, with an almost identical air intake to the aforementioned aircraft. Its rear fuselage and twin stabilizers are very similar to the F-35 Lightning II. The aircraft also features a considerably subtle light grey camouflage painting.
In terms of armament, the P-996 is equipped with dual cannons in its nose firing explosive rounds, which are reminiscent of the F-20 Tigershark. Similar to it's San Andreas ancestor, the Lazer also features automatic lock-on missiles.
Being a fighter jet, the P-996 is an extremely fast aircraft, with acceleration faster than any other vehicle in the game, possibly hinting towards this plane being meant for aircraft carrier usage. In addition to that, it has excellent maneuverability, and is extremely responsive and able to quickly steer into any direction. Add to that a short take-off and landing distance (capable of taking off in the space of the hangars at Fort Zancudo) and the P-996, in the hands of an experienced pilot, is the perfect aircraft for travelling around San Andreas.
However, the P-996 can be lethal to the inexperienced. The fighter jet is extremely sensitive to minor inputs to the ailerons, and for a military aircraft, it is unusually fragile. The engine must be turned on or idling at minimum as the jet is very nose-heavy, and does not glide particularly well.
By exiting the fighter jet midair, the player is ejected out of the cockpit, much like in real fighter jets. They will be flung upwards a little, preventing them from hitting the fuselage, unless at low speeds. However, despite this, the seat won't launch off the plane, and the player won't automatically earn a parachute unless he has one already, or the mission Predator has been completed.
As mentioned before, the P-996 is equipped with with dual explosive cannons and lock-on missiles. The cannons are extremely powerful and have a somewhat great range, being able to easily finish off an enemy with a single well-aimed burst. This is particularly useful in dogfights, giving a strong advantage to experienced pilots. The missiles are also useful, yet they can sometimes miss their target even when locked on, whereas the explosive cannons can be extremely useful as there is little guarantee players will miss their shot. However, the Lazer is still a relatively poor choice for Anti-Ground duties since the missiles are prone to missing and the Lazer itself moves too fast to use the cannons effectively.
Incidentally, the P-996 does not have flares that are usable to the player, so any incoming missiles must be evaded. A good way is to flip the aircraft upside down and pull up. This puts the jet into a nosedive, and the missiles will not be able to turn fast enough to make contact.
How to Safely Steal One
(NOTICE: This only works if you play the side mission Fair Game as part of the campaign. This WILL NOT work if you replay the mission.)
There is an easy way to steal one without diffculty in the side mission Fair Game. After Cletus lets you go off and kill a buck on your own, you can enter Fort Zancudo without getting a wanted level. From here, you can steal a jet and park it in your hangar in Sandy Shores Airfield. Then, head back and finish the mission as normal. The jet will remain in your hangar.
- Multiple parked in Fort Zancudo (large hangar, two small hangars, outside some closed large hangars, next to the runway etc.)
- Sometimes on the runway in Fort Zancudo.
- Sometimes flying around Fort Zancudo.
- Sometimes taxiing around Fort Zancudo.
- Found all across Fort Zancudo.
- Used by the Hunters in Top Fun 1, 2 and 3. However, they cannot be obtained.
- The P-996 seemed to have a different appearance in the first trailers, being much more similar to an F-35 Lightning II with some elements based on a AV-8B Harrier II. This could have also been a beta version for the Hydra.
- The beta P-996 had a resemblence to an F-22 Raptor.
- Stealing a Lazer from Fort Zancudo requires 3-5 seconds, depending on the player's luck. The player needs to jump on top of the jet, see if the hatch is open, and usually, if it's locked, then the player has to kick it open. This makes stealing a Lazer difficult as the time required to open the jet will give nearby military patrol-and maybe even a Rhino-a chance to get to the player and intercept them before take-off.
- Often when stealing a Lazer from Fort Zancudo players will be shot down by other Lazers in the air. There are two ways to avoid being shot down: fly straight up - if the player doesn't look behind them, the tailing Lazer will eventually de-spawn; dodge the missiles - just before a missile hits, climb and then descend rapidly, the missile will climb after you, but when you descend again it will not change course fast enough, and should go right over the player's head). Players should also be mindful towards the multiple Rhino tanks patrolling the base, as they are very accurate and can destroy a Lazer in a single shot.
- If the player successfully steals this jet from Fort Zancudo, they must place it in a hangar as soon as possible, as the plane is likely to be shot up bad enough that the engines would be smoking. If it does, the player has a few minutes before the engine fails and the plane is essentially lost. (This can be avoided by Quick Saving and reloading the game; the plane will be completely repaired).
- The jet will save when placed in a player's hangar but will be lost completely upon switching hangar vehicles.
- In Online, A-I controlled Lazers can make use of the explosive cannon, so it is advised to take extreme caution when exiting Fort Zancudo in any aircraft, especially the P-996.
- Two P-996 Lazers intercept Trevor in the mission Minor Turbulence and eventually shoot down his hijacked cargo plane.
- AI-controlled P-996 Lazers can use flares, making it harder for them be shot down with heat-seeking missiles.
- As of the 1.02 patch, the P-996 Lazer, when using missiles, has a realistic lock-on target square on screen.
- The P- prefix of the plane is possibly a reference to the the older combat aircraft designation system of USAF where P- means "Pursuit", which was eventually replaced by today's F- for "Fighter".
- The Lazer requires a very minimal area to take-off. Take-off is possible within the space of 5 Lazers.
- Many GTA fans thought that the P-996 Lazer was the Fighter that got removed from GTA IV or the Hydra from GTA San Andreas, but it is in fact a separate aircraft.
- The explosive cannon rounds can make short work of any type of vehicle, but the major downside is that it has significantly low range, going as far as seven Lazer lengths. The best technique to use the cannon is to approach the target fairly low, with the gear down (to reduce speed), then fire the cannon, dive quickly and spray the area in front/around the target, then quickly pull up.
- Lazers can sometimes be seen flying on patrol runs around Mount Chilliad. They are passive but will engage the player if attacked.
- If a blacklight is shined over Fort Zancudo on the Collectors Edition map of the game, it mentions the P-996 Lazer along with the Titan and the Buzzard.
- 996 is the in-game police codename for an explosion.
- If placed correctly, you can save it in your hangar, but changing the saved vehicle will remove it.