The US Air Force is to upgrade some of its Lockheed Martin F-16Cs, to provide the aircraft with a more-capable targeting and strike capability.

Aircraft based at Aviano in Italy, with the 31st Fighter Wing, are to be modified to allow the F-16's improved data modem (IDM) to receive and transmit video and forward-looking infra-red-pod-generated imagery in a project named Gold Strike.

The project is aimed at improving the F-16C's capability in the so-called Forward Air Control-Airborne (FAC-A) role. Capt Bryan Bearden, a USAF project officer on the programme, says: "Gold Strike significantly enhances the time to acquire the target and reduces the possibility of collateral damage or fratricide."

Bearden says that the modifications will allow F-16C pilots to pass the targeting-pod imagery to other aircraft equipped with the IDM, or to ground FAC centres. The Gold Strike modifications will begin this year.

The 31st Fighter Wing was the USAF's first designated F-16 FAC-A unit. It was tasked with this role at the end of 1995 when project Sure Strike saw its F-16s fitted with the IDM. Following its success in operations over Bosnia, the USAF has also assigned this role to other F-16 units.


Source: Flight International