The entire fuselage, from the nose to the rear, with the two rear downward vertical tail fins, cockpit, (with side-mounted control stick), landing gears (main and nose) and wings heavily resemble the equivalent sections of the F-16C Fighting Falcon, with an almost identical air intake to the aforementioned aircraft, albeit split into two separate intakes similar to a Eurofighter Typhoon. It's forward swinging canopy (with zig zag canopy detonation cord), twin vertical stabilizers and horizontal stabilizers are from the F-35 Lightning II. The aircraft also features a subtle light grey camouflage painting similar to the two tone ghost grey scheme worn by most naval fighters. The Lazer is depicted as carrier-capable, whilst the F-16 was never designed for use on a carrier due to the fact its landing gears are still designed for ground operation, lacking catapult attachment point on the nose and they are not strengthened for the landing. It is operated by the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and possibly the United States Air Force.
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 (the F-16 has only one cannon, mounted on the port side). Similar to its GTA San Andreas predecessor, the Hydra, the Lazer also features automatic lock-on missiles, but lacks counter-measures. It mounts three missiles on each wing, one on each wingtip, two on the underside wing racks and also mounts long range fuel tanks on the innermost wing pylons.
Being a fighter jet, the P-996 is an extremely fast aircraft and has the second highest top speed of any vehicle in the game (after the Hydra) and with the second highest acceleration (after the Besra). In addition to that, it has excellent maneuverability, and is extremely responsive and able to quickly pitch, yaw and roll in 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 is an ideal aircraft for traveling around San Andreas quickly and efficiently with little threat from opposing players. However, P-996 has a severely low speed for a fighter jet. According to the airspeed indicator in the cockpit, it maxes out at 140 knots, or 160mph. By comparison, the F-16's max speed is 1,320 mph, and its takeoff speed is 184mph. The LAZER's low speed was likely due to the map's size or even due to the console's hardware, as the game needs to render the map at time and at that speed, the game wouldn't even render the ground.
However, the P-996 can be lethal to the inexperienced. The fighter jet is sensitive to minor inputs to the ailerons and, is very fragile which is untypical for a combat-ready aircraft. The jet can be quickly disabled using a Minigun or a Heavy Sniper. The jet is very nose-heavy, and if the engines are not on or idling the plane will quickly enter stall as the jet does not glide particularly well. It also frequently "wobbles" in flight due to turbulence and its small size, and thus requires minute corrections to its flight.
By exiting the fighter jet mid-air, the player is ejected out of the cockpit just as pilots would be ejected in real fighter jets. They will be flung upwards considerably, preventing them from hitting the fuselage, unless at low speeds. However, 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.
The P-996 is equipped with dual explosive cannons and lock-on missiles. The cannons are extremely powerful and effective, being able to easily finish off an enemy with a single well-aimed burst. The cannons can be continuously fired without need for reloading. The missiles are also useful, although they often miss locked-on targets, and can lock-on only on specific targets. The range is limited but even one explosive round can kill a player or destroy a vehicle. Destroying a tank usually requires at least two passes, however it is possible to destroy a tank in one pass with the landing gear deployed, as it dramatically slows the aircraft down allowing more time to properly aim the cannon. This isn't a recommended tactic as it requires the pilot to approach an angle where the tank can return fire. It is best to fly straight down to destroy tanks, due to the fact that the tanks turret cannot aim at more than a 70 degree angle.
The P-996 does not have any flares or other counter-measures against locked-on missiles that are fired at the jet, forcing the pilot to manually evade the missile.
There is an easy way to steal one without difficulty in the side mission Fair Game. Because of a glitch, after Cletus lets Trevor go off and kill an elk on his own, the player can enter Fort Zancudo without getting a wanted level. From here, it is possible to steal a jet and park it in the hangar in Sandy Shores Airfield. Then, the player can head back and finish the mission as normal. The jet will remain in Trevor's hangar. Notice that if the player were to kill anyone or cause an explosion, the mission will fail.
Outside of this, another relatively safe way to steal the Lazer is to parachute straight into Fort Zancudo from a high altitude, and into the hangar where the jet spawns. The player should try to land on the cockpit to quickly escape.
Escaping & Saving
If the player successfully steals a jet with or without cheats from Fort Zancudo and loses their wanted level, 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, or the player can switch to a different character then switch back after losing their wanted level. However, the jet will save when placed in a player's hangar, but will be lost completely upon switching hangar vehicles.
In GTA Online, the easiest way to steal a Lazer is to call Lester and have the "cops turn a blind eye" for $5000. Doing so will prevent the military to attack (as long as the player does not attack them) and let the player freely roam around the base and take the Lazer for themselves - no jet will pursue the player upon flying away.
Alternatively, the player can jump a vehicle over the perimeter fence in any of at least four locations with natural ramps on the outside perimeter. This is especially useful online, since the front checkpoints are gated.
Often when stealing a Lazer from Fort Zancudo players will be shot down by other Lazers in the air. There are three ways to avoid being shot down.
- The player can fly straight up. If they don't look back, the Lazers may de-spawn and the player can easily escape.
- The player can fly as close to the terrain as possible until well clear of Fort Zancudo, preferably over an uninhabited area such as up a mountain or over the sea to lose the four-star wanted level. This method is somewhat difficult, and should not be attempted by novice pilots.
- The player can try to dodge the missiles by doing stunts such as a flip and the missles may miss.
However, the player must also be careful to not fly close to Rhino tanks as the tanks are extremely accurate and can easily blast the jet.
- During Humane Raid - EMP in GTA Online, Lazers without missiles can be found inside the hangar, this makes the wings look much cleaner. They also have orange covers over the jets at the rear, and their cockpits are covered with a synthetic poly sheet.
- 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.
- One can be commonly encountered flying in Raton Canyon. Cannot be obtained. It passes through every in-game half-an-hour.
- The P-996 is carrier-capable as it is seen on board the USS Luxington ATT-16 on the flight deck and in the hangar.
- Two P-996 Lazers intercept Trevor in the mission Minor Turbulence and eventually shoot down his hijacked Cargo Plane.
- Also, the P-996 Lazer pilots realistically wear G-suits and flight helmets. This outfit is now available in the San Andreas Flight School Update.
- The A.I. controlled Lazer has the ability to fire cannons in any direction regardless of where the nose of the plane is aimed.
- If Agent 14's statement in Humane Labs Raid: EMP is taken literally, the P-996 entered service sometime in the 2000s, as the Hydra is stated to be 1960s technology and the Lazer is said to be 40 years newer.
- 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".
- Lazers can sometimes be seen flying on patrol runs around Mount Chilliad. They will engage on the target if they are 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. Ironically, all the vehicle's weapons are explosives.
- The Lazer still uses an RPG's rocket when selected, which doesn't match the rockets mounted on the wings which are much larger and more detailed.
- The missiles on the P-996 appears to be modeled after the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
- The P-996's jet turbine has the ability to project any nearby NPC/Player away, and even killing them. This can also be done with the Hydra.
- It is possible to take off the plane in backwards by going reverse fast, then tilting down the jet's nose making it doing a flip, and while airborne give it a thrust.
- After patch 1.16, players now have the option to choose homing missiles or lock on.
- If the player chooses to put aircraft helmets on, the player will equip a different targeting mode, which is more accurate, it also comes with a helmet-Inclinometer. This mirrors the real life Joint Helmet Mounted Cuing System (JHMCS) that is mounted on all F-16s, one of the planes the Lazer is modeled after. This system not only guides the fighter's AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles, but also display all the critical targeting and the plane's critical information system on the visor itself, vastly improving the targeting and the pilot's situation awareness. This is also present on armed helicopters as of the Heist Update, and the Hydra.
- This is because armed, especially helicopter gunships also carry their own HOD, Heads Out Display, which again, displays all the necessary targeting and the copter's vital information onto the helmet visor itself.
- As of Patch 1.17:
- Players flying a Lazer will be indicated on the minimap by a special aircraft icon.
- The cannon aim is reset to a small dot, though the player can change it to a complex aim.
- The handling has been slightly smoothed, making it easier to control.
- The difficult handling is somewhat realistic since the Lazer's cockpit is directly copied from the F-16. And the F-16 controls does not feature a "one to one" input, i.e., for most fighters, if the pilot moves the stick one degree, the plane moves one degree in the direction inputted. The F-16's stick, however, can be only moved 17 degrees in any direction. This means the stick is highly sensitive, especially to any fighter pilots who got used to the "one to one" input from other fighters.
- The Lazer's nose heavy stance mirrors the F-16 is which is one of the first "relaxed stability" fighters created. During the design phase, the fighter's designer purposely threw the wings some 10 feet to the rear in order to increase the plane's maneuverability. This means without its fly-by-wire computerized controls, the plane highly nose heavy design makes it very very hard for the pilot to control.
- Hydra, a VTOL military aircraft featured in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto Online as a part of the Heists Update
- Besra, a Military trainer jet featured in Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online as a part of the San Andreas Flight School Update
- Rustler, a WWII Fighter Plane featured in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas