The F-16 Falcon will live to fight another day, or at least another 4,000 hours, according to the US Air Force and Lockheed Martin.
The USAF authorized extending the F-16’s service life from its original 8,000 flight hours to 12,000 flight hours, a 12 April Lockheed release states. After performing SLEP modifications, the service will be able to operate the Block 40 through 52 aircraft beyond 2048, according to Lockheed. The authorization marks a milestone within the USAF’s seven-year SLEP, according to Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin's F-16 programme.
"Combined with F-16 avionics modernization programmes like the F-16V, SLEP modifications demonstrate that the Fighting Falcon remains a highly capable and affordable fourth-generation option for the US Air Force and international F-16 customers.”
Lockheed unveiled its F-16V modernization plan at the 2016 Farnborough air show. The upgrade to existing Falcons leverages technology from Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, such as Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar. The programme could also integrate additional capabilities down the road, including auto ground collision avoidance and a joint helmet-mounted cueing system.
Three international customers are participating in the F-16V upgrade, including Taiwan, which had plans to participate in a joint upgrade effort with the US known as combat avionics programmed extension suite (CAPES). In 2015, the USAF abandoned CAPES, but kept funding for mission and display computer replacements.
Lockheed plans to extend the service life of 300 F-16C/D Block 40 through 52 aircraft. Meanwhile, the company is pursuing a part two of the SLEP that would allow further life extension based on final service life analysis from extended durability testing, Lockheed states.