They will not end their flying days in glory, but they are still aircraft of some sort: the Boeing/Lockheed Martin QF-16. The multi-role fighter turned into full-scale aerial target is increasing in numbers, now that Boeing got a US Air Force order for another 30 QF-16s.
While Lockheed Martin still has high hopes for the newest V-version of the legendary Fighting Falcon once designed, developed and initially produced by General Dynamics in the 1970s, the older kids on the block are about to be shot out of the sky. Literately, as the whole purpose of a full-scale aerial target is to train modern fighter jocks in other aircraft in aerial combat.
QF-16 will get killed
Piloted remotely by a guy or girl with hands on the sticks on the ground, the QF-16 will get killed in mid-air by the cannon or missiles fired from other aircraft that hunt it down. QF-16s can still be operated like normal jets, with a real pilot in the cockpit, for training or test sorties.
American tax payers will spend more than 35 million on the fourth batch (Lot 4) of 30 QF-16s. Work will be done in St. Louis, Missouri, and the last of the aircraft now ordered will enter service of its probably short mission life in April 2018.
At Tyndell AFB
In March 2015 the US Air Force started to build up its fleet of tens of QF-16s with the first 13 aircraft (Lot 1), with the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron at Tyndall AFB, Florida. As you read on Airheadsfly.com the QF-16s are replacing the Vietnam War era QF-4 in that role. The first flight of the QF-16 was in September 2013, and we show you the cool video footage.
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.
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.
UPDATED | A Lockheed Martin (General Dynamics) F-16AM fighting Falcon of the Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) crashed in the North Sea near the Danish island of Rømø around 14:30 local time on Tuesday 27 October 2015. The pilot ejected OK and has been rescued by Danish military search-and-rescue helicopter.
The Danish Ministry of Defence says in a short statement they are currently collecting more information on the incident and officially do not know yet what caused the crash of the fighter jet from Skrydstrup Airbase. The male pilot is said to have ejected out of the aircraft in a “controlled” manner, after the pilot discovered a malfunction with the front landing gear. After circling around for an hour and in contact with air traffic control the fighter jock saw no other possibility than to ejectd. The pilot was fished out of the sea “immediately” by the SAR chopper and brought back to Skrydstrup Airbase.
The Danish Accident Investigation Board has already started its investigation in cooperation with the Danish armed forces.
Before today’s crash the RDAF had 17 F-16AM single-seaters and 13 F-16BM dual-seat multi-role fighters on strength. All operated out of Skrydstrup, which is the country’s only remaining combat air base.
Kleppe has been flying the F-16 for 22 years. “Even after so many flight hours in the sky, the job is still exciting,” the combat pilot says. He flew missions during several international operations, including over Kosovo in 1999-2000 (the first Norwegian combat deployment in a war zone since the Second World War), in Afghanistan in 2003 (the first time in modern history the RNoAF flew with air-to-ground weapons into combat) and over Libya in 2011.
Kleppe has even flown the Northrop F-5 from Rygge Air Base for then 336 Squadron, the year before he reached full fighter pilot status in 1993.
The US State Department released more details on 7 May 2015 on the planned upgrade of 60 F-16C/D/D+ Fighting Falcons of the Republic of Singapore Air Force, initially announced more than a year ago.
Several American companies will provide the requested hardware, of which more details are now know. Among the equipment that Singapore buys are 50 Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Interrogator/Transponders, 150 LAU-129 Missile Launchers, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs and a lot of associated hardware. The estimated cost is $130 million.
“The improved capability, survivability, and reliability of the newly upgraded F-16s will enhance the RSAF’s ability to defend its borders and contribute to coalition operations,” an official press release reads.
The following US companies will be involved in the deal: Lockheed Martin, BAE Advanced Systems, Boeing, ITT (incl. night vision stuff), L3 Communications, Northrop-Grumman and Raytheon.