The US Air Force has authorised extending the service life of the F-16 to 12,000 Equivalent Flight Hours — far beyond the aircraft’s original design service life of 8,000 hours.
Following the F-16 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) structural modifications, the US Air Force will operate Block 40-52 aircraft to 2048 and beyond. The US Air Force and Lockheed Martin claim that they have 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 programme. “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.”
According to a press release:
“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 US 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, which will be submitted to the US 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.