Uprated engine and new flight-control computer, radar and targeting system will be put through paces early next year

Lockheed Martin is preparing to begin flight testing the uprated engine, new flight-control computer and other elements of the advanced Block 60 F-16 under development for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). An F-16C leased from the US Air Force is being fitted with the 32,500lb-thrust (145kN) General Electric F110-132 engine, new computer and air-data system, with flight testing to begin early next year, says Lockheed Martin.

Northrop Grumman will begin flying the Block 60's APG-80 active-array radar and AAQ-32 integrated forward-looking infrared and targeting system early next year on its BAC One-Eleven testbed. This will allow flight testing to get under way before Lockheed Martin completes the first production Block 60 F-16, which will be used for flight testing in the USA.

The first production Block 60 is on schedule to fly in December next year, says Lockheed Martin. The first in-country delivery, with the initial Standard 1 operational capability, is planned for late 2004. All 80 aircraft on order are scheduled to be in country and to full Standard 3 operational capability by mid-2007. "We have completed the last of the PVI [pilot-vehicle interface] design reviews for the third stage, and the customer seems pleased," says an official.

Development of the advanced F-16's new core avionics is also progressing. The first software loads have been generated and are in laboratory testing. The Block 60 introduces a commercial PowerPC-based advanced mission computer with the same type of architecture used in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The baseline F-16 software written in Ada has been autotranslated to C++, then built on to add capability.

Lockheed Martin says it is experiencing "the usual speed bumps" in developing the avionics: "The radar and EW are the most challenging, but are basically on track." Northrop Grumman took a third-quarter charge of $65 million to cover its fixed-price Block 60 combat avionics programme, citing the complexity of the integrated EW system. "The cost came in keeping to schedule," says the official. "We are a little squeezed on flight tests, but holding to schedule."

Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, has completed flight testing the conformal fuel tanks used to extend the F-16's strike range. The first production shipsets have just been delivered, and came in a little under on weight and a little over on fuel capacity, and handling is as expected, says Lockheed Martin. All new-build F-16s, including Block 50s and Block 60s, are to be delivered with provisions for the overfuselage tanks, which increase fuel capacity by 1,360kg (3,000lb).


Source: Flight International