By S.L. Fuller | April 12, 2017
After Lockheed Martin’s F-16 underwent Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) structural modifications, the U.S. Air Force determined it could extend the aircraft’s service life to 4,000 more equivalent flight hours than expected, Lockheed Martin said.
Originally designed for a service life of 8,000 hours, Lockheed Martin said the Air Force could safely operate Block 40-52 aircraft to 2048 and beyond at 12,000 equivalent flight hours. The two entities also reduced projected service life costs for the block fleet.
"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, VP 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 fourth-generation option for the U.S. Air Force and international F-16 customers."
The F-16V, includes precision GPS navigation, a Link-16 theater data link and an automatic ground collision avoidance system.
The second phase of the F-16 SLEP airworthiness process involves submitting request for military type certificate, which is expected in the coming months. The second phase also aims to further extend the aircraft’s operational life based on final service life analysis from extended durability testing, Lockheed Martin said.