America's premier multirole fighter is “slipping”
into some tougher armor that promises to extend the aircraft's life
by about eight years. The F-16 Service Life Improvement Program
modifications, better known as SLIP, are "all about extending these
aircraft -- putting them back up to get more life out of them,"
said Gary Grivet, F-16 Fighting Falcon branch module chief.
SLIP began five years ago to repair cracks in high-stress,
fracture-critical and potential-crack areas, Grivet said. These
areas developed over time as stress on the airframe transferred to
other areas after an earlier structural modification program,
Falcon-Up, was started.
"’SLIP mod’ is the modification of the upper
fuselage area, which beefs up the exterior of the aircraft where
cracks have or may occur from years of wear and tear," said
The modification replaces the old bulkheads with
new composite metal bulkheads, the entire engine mount, fuel-tank
panels and fasteners, as well as other structural components. From
the time the aircraft arrives here, Grivet said it takes experts
only 94 days to modify each aircraft, depending on what other
modifications need to be done. .
When the aircraft comes in, Grivet said its fuel and engine have
already been removed. It is then jacked up and stripped.
After structural mechanics accomplish their modifications,
Grivet said F-16 branch technicians rebuild everything, putting it
all back the way it was when the plane arrived.
"We reassemble it and then run it back through the fuel
facility, where aircraft parts are checked for proper operation and
any leaks," he said. "From there the Falcons are taken to flight
test where the engine's put back in."
A lot of repairs F-16 branch experts do depend on what is found
by both the aircraft's home unit and the team here. Some aircraft
have more wear and tear because of number hours their units fly and
the environment at the aircrafts' home base, such as humidity or
salt in the air.
"The more high-tech you go the more complex a modification
gets," Grivet said. "We have good mechanics, a lot of talented
people, with a lot of experience on this airplane, which makes the
job go really well and keeps us on schedule. [ANN Thanks 1st. Lt.
Garrett Grochowski, Ogden Air Logistics Center Public Affairs]