USAF to keep Vipers into 2048?
Lockheed Martin announced yesterday that the U.S. Air Force authorized extending the service life of the F-16 airframe from 8,000 Equivalent Flight Hours to 12,000. This means that, following F-16 Service Life Extension Program structural modifications, the typical late model F-16 in big blue’s inventory could operate for another 30 years (putting some distance between the need and the want in fielding combat ready F-35 units).
I mean, between them Japan, ROK, Greece, and Turkey are still flying hundreds of F-4 Phantoms in a combat role and the last of those left the assembly line in 1981– so it’s possible.
From LM: (bold mine) 🙂
Following F-16 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) structural modifications, the U.S. Air Force could safely operate Block 40-52 aircraft to 2048 and beyond. The Air Force and Lockheed Martin also reduced projected service life costs for the Block 40-52 fleet, paving the way for safe, cost-effective F-16 flight operations decades into the future.
“This accomplishment is the result of more than seven years of test, development, design, analysis and partnership between the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin,” said Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 program. “Combined with F-16 avionics modernization programs like the F-16V, SLEP modifications demonstrate that the Fighting Falcon remains a highly capable and affordable 4th Generation option for the U.S. Air Force and international F-16 customers.”
Validation of the extended flight hour limit directly supports the SLEP goal of extending the service life of up to 300 F-16C/D Block 40-52 aircraft. SLEP and related avionics upgrades to the Air Force’s F-16C/D fleet can safely and effectively augment the current fighter force structure as U.S. and allied combat air fleets recapitalize with F-35 Lightning IIs.
A second phase, or Part II, of the F-16 SLEP airworthiness process continues with the request for Military Type Certificate (MTC), which will be submitted to the Air Force’s Technical Airworthiness Authority in the coming months. Part II seeks to validate further extending the F-16’s operational life based on final service life analysis from extended durability testing.