The US Air Force and European Partner Air Forces (EPAF) have postponed integration of the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder and BGT IRIS-T air-to-air missiles with the Lockheed Martin F-16 until 2004-05, when the M4 avionics software upgrade will be introduced.

The forces have started to field M3 software, allowing integration of global positioning system (GPS) satellite-guided weaponry, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) and Link 16 datalink. The high off-boresight-capable AIM-9X and IRIS-T integration had been part of the USAF M3plus for the F-16C/D Block 50/52 and European M3 software for the F-16A/B mid-life update (MLU) - operated by Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal - due for integration over the next two years. The missile work has slipped by two years because of funding issues, says Bill Lake, Lockheed Martin director integrated product team USAF/EPAF.

M3plus includes a Sniper advanced targeting-pod capability and software to integrate the updated mission computer and colour displays of the USAF's later Block 40/ 42 and Block 50/52 fighters.

The EPAF nations have omitted the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 JASSM from M3, but the MLU aircraft are receiving a 1760 databus to handle the GPS-guided Boeing GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition, Lockheed Martin Wind Corrected Munition Dispenser and Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Stand-off Weapon.

M4/M4plus is in development. The software will enter service with the USAF in 2004 and Europe in early 2005. M4 will also integrate the 227kg (500lb) Mk82 JDAM variant, inertially aided munition upgrades, enhanced advanced identification friend or foe, upgraded Link 16 and JHMCS, and beyond- visual-range missile/pylon integrated dispenser system capabilities.

Source: Flight International