US extends the life of F-16 Block 40/50 until at least 2050

WASHINGTON — According to an Air Force Magazine publication, the U.S. Air Force is in no rush to find a replacement for the F-16 but is emphasizing continuous renewal of the aircraft and keeping it in service until around 2050.

Syria tried to take down Turkish F-16 with Russian-made S-200
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The two main US Air Force programs related to the F-16 are SLEP [Service Life Extension Program] and PoBIT [Post Block Integration Team]. The SLEP program started in 2017 and concerns the extension of the operational life until 2048 of about 300 F-16 Block 40/42 and Block 50/52.

The SLEP program includes structural changes to the aircraft that allows the service life to be extended from 8,000 to 12,000+ flight hours.

The PoBIT program is broader and concerns the modernization of 608 F-16 Block 40/42 and Block 50/52 aircraft for $6.3 billion. Aircraft will be upgraded/modified in 22 locations, with an emphasis on lethality and situational awareness, so that they remain combat-ready and combat-ready.

The main upgrade refers to the integration of AESA [Active Electronically Scanned Array] technology radar, Link-16 data link system, improved cockpit, new mission computer, new generation electronic warfare system, new communication systems, new central multi-indicator display, etc.

Anti-AAM laser weapon

Lockheed Martin has delivered the LANCE-directed energy weapon planned for use on the F-16 to the US Air Force Research Laboratory, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, citing open sources.

US company Lockheed Martin has delivered the lowest power and lightest high-energy laser weapon system it has ever produced to the US Air Force. The system developed under the LANCE project will be integrated into air platforms, especially the F-16, in the form of a capsule.

US F-16 gets an anti-AAM laser weapon, first firings are coming
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

As part of the US Air Force High Energy Laser Display [SHiELD] self-defense program, Lockheed Martin was awarded the first contract to design, develop and manufacture LANCE in November 2017.

LANCE is small in size to fit in a capsule form and consumes low power to be used in the F-16. The laser weapon is designed to be used especially against air-to-air missiles. It is not yet known when the LANCE system will begin test firings by F-16s.

If the system is successful, a Hard-Kill defense system will be developed that will be effective against RF seekers after the DIRCM systems that are effective against IR/IIR seekers.

However, before the first aerial firings of the laser weapon can take place, the US Air Force must integrate the laser weapon onto the F-16 airframe and connect the weapon itself to the thermal system that controls LANCE’s heating and cooling.

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