The most tired F-16 of all: 27,000 hours

In what’s could be called ‘testing done the right way’, Lockheed Martin has completed over 27,000 hours of simulated flight time on an F-16C Block 50 aircraft, it reported on Tuesday 3 November. 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-16 in question – an aircraft that was delivered to the US Air Force in 1994 but was grounded several years ago – was tested to the equivalent of 27,713 flight hours during 32 rounds of comprehensive stress tests at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth. The airframe was then subjected to several maximum-load conditions to demonstrate that the airframe still had sufficient strength to operate within its full operational flight envelope.

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 test 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 ‘Viper’. The type first flew in 1974 and should decades more of service, for example in its latest F-16V incarnation.

Source: Lockheed Martin, with additional reporting by editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Stressed to the limit. (Image © Lockheed Martin)