LOCKHEED HAS completed aerodynamic flight tests of the proposed extended-range F-16ES (enhanced strategic) configuration.

Modifications, including shapes representing upper-fuselage conformal fuel-tanks and nose-mounted infra-red sensor balls, have been removed from the F-16C testbed and the aircraft returned to the US Air Force.

The 21-flight test programme was completed in late January, with 17 flights, including eight high- angle-of-attack tests, to evaluate the effects of the conformal tanks on flying qualities; departure resistance and recovery; and drag.

Clean-aircraft flying and ride qualities were unchanged, while departure resistance and recovery changes were minimal with the conformal tanks fitted, Lockheed says.

The conformal tanks are now being eyed as alternatives to the standard underwing external tanks, which restrict the flight envelope when fitted.

Lockheed began work on the F-16ES to meet an Israeli air force requirement for a long-range strike aircraft. The aircraft sought was believed to be intended for the nuclear-strike mission.

The air force eventually chose the McDonnell Douglas F-15I, a variant of the F-15E two-seat strike aircraft. Lockheed continued to work on the F-16ES because it said that the programme had aroused the interest of other potential customers.

Source: Flight International