Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

WORKMANSHIP problems with wire harnesses in five F-16A/B Mid-Life Update (MLU) flight-test aircraft modified by Lockheed Martin are seriously threatening plans to begin operational test and evaluation in Europe in May.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Lockheed Martin says that below-specification solder joints on some wire harnesses in the five trial-verification-installation (TVI) aircraft "...are not a safety-of-flight issue". The company is "...working to resolve the concerns" of the four European F-16 operators in the MLU programme, which, it says, have not yet decided whether to delay testing.

Four of the five TVI aircraft have been flown. A US Air Force F-16A and Royal Danish Air Force F-16B are being used for development testing at Edwards AFB, California. Three TVI aircraft - a Belgian A, a Netherlands B and a Norwegian A - are scheduled to begin operational tests at Leeuwarden AB in the Netherlands in early May.

Four lead-the-fleet (LTF) MLU kit installations are under way at four European depots, meanwhile, and these F-16s are scheduled to enter operational testing in August. Wiring harnesses on these aircraft meet the specification, Lockheed Martin says.

One of the TVI aircraft - the Belgian air force F-16A - has yet to be flown at Lockheed Martin, because of additional work occasioned by the Dassault Electronique Carapace electronic-warfare-system installation unique to Belgian F-16s. Lockheed Martin says that it had to mock-up the installation because Carapace hardware was not available.

Lockheed Martin is producing the MLU kits for installation by European depots and says that kit shipments for the LTF aircraft will be completed in April, with delivery of the Texas Instruments modular mission-computer and Hazeltine combined interrogator/transponder. These were behind the original schedule, but will be installed in time, for flight-testing.

A $363 million MLU development contract was awarded in July 1991, and Lockheed Martin is producing 314 kits to update European F-16s under a $721 million contract awarded in August 1993. Production deliveries will begin in October, with depot modification starting in January 1997.

Source: Flight International