The United States is scheduled to begin upgrading 90 F-16 Block fighters with an estimated amount of $ 6.8 billion. The development marks the largest modification and upgrade of the fighter plane by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate.
The move is aimed at significantly improving the air worthiness and ensure combat effectiveness of the US fighter plane for current and future threats, as well as for combat missions.
There is a lot of work ahead for the F-16 fighter jet program. While some of the modifications have already commence, there are some major hurdles that will need to be crossed for the team making the improvements. In addition, it will require serious planning and coordination so as to not affect the combat readiness of fighters that are currently on combat duty around the world.
“This is a pretty massive effort, a collision of mods as we call it,” said Oryan Joseph, program manager with the directorate’s F-16 Program Office. “We had to quickly look at all of the mods that are going on the aircraft and not only understand the timing of when the mods are going to deliver, but also when the aircraft will be available from the units. There are a lot of variables, a give and take tug of war that we deal with every day on bringing down aircraft [for modifications] at the right time.”
Details of modifications
One of the challenges ahead is to install an electronically scanned array [AESA] radar into the US Navy’s F-16 Block 40 and Block 50 fighters; in recent years, AESA radars have been effectively used in the F-15, F-18, F-22, and F-35 fighter jets.
The upgrade program will also see the F-16s receive NATO’s battlefield communication standard, Link 16, which identifies friend from foe. All combat aircraft of NATO member states, have a common communication system that share the same identification information in conscientious international missions.
Furthermore, the upgrades will also see the F-16s receive a high-speed data network, an upgraded cockpit, upgraded computer system, and electronic warfare systems.
All of these major modifications are part of the upgrade process for 608 4th generation fighter planes.
Last but not the least, the central displays of the aircraft, data generator, and other hardware components will also be upgraded.
The entire upgradation process is expected to last at least several years and will involve numerous companies and contracts.