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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

F-16C Finishes Stress Tests, Could Offer Extended Durability

Juliet Van Wagenen

F-16C Block 50 aircraft under construction
F-16C Block 50 aircraft under construction. Photo: Lockheed Martin

[Avionics Today 11-03-2015] Lockheed Martin has completed more than 27,000 hours of simulated flight time on an F-16C Block 50 aircraft. The company is now analyzing the data to determine the durability of the aircraft beyond its original design service life of 8,000 hours.

The F-16C Block 50 was tested to 27,713 Equivalent Flight Hours (EFH) during 32 rounds of comprehensive stress tests at Lockheed Martin’s Full Scale Durability Test (FSDT) facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The airframe was then subjected to several maximum-load conditions to demonstrate it still had sufficient strength to operate within its full operational flight envelope.

The aircraft is now in the teardown inspection and fractography phase of the test program. Test data, collected over nearly two years, will be used to identify an extended, definitive flight hour limit for the venerable F-16 Fighting Falcon and demonstrate its safety and durability well beyond its original design service life. The durability test results will be used to help design and verify Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) structural modifications for post-Block 40 F-16s and to support F-16 service life certification to at least 12,000 EFH. The SLEP aims to extend the service life of up to 300 F-16C/D Block 40-52 aircraft. The SLEP and related avionics upgrades to the Air Force’s F-16C/D fleet aim to augment the current fighter force structure as U.S. and allied combat air fleets recapitalize with F-35 Lightning IIs.

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