(Pic credits to owner)
USAF has decided to award contract to Lockheed Martin to keep the F16s in flying order for decades longer, officials announced Wednesday.
The modification program is supposed to increase the flight hours of the plane from 8,000 to 12,000, Lockheed said in a press release.
“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 release said.
The program would extend the flight hour limit of up to 300 F-16C/D Block 40-52 aircraft, and would supplement both U.S. and allied combat air fleets as they integrate with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the announcement said.
“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,” said Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 program.
Considering the imminent phasing out of F15 Eagles, F16s are supposed to take over and this program is much needed to keep a mainstray 4th Gen operational in USAF inventory, even though the plane is meant for primary Air dominance role of the Eagles.
“Because they’re talking about retiring aircraft that are in the Guard, those are primarily the ones that would be doing the air sovereignty mission, the U.S. air defense,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told.
As of Sept. 30, the US Air Force had 949 F16 Fighting Falcons.