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Thu, Feb 05, 2004

Happy 30th To The F-16!

Lockheed Martin Marks Aviation Milestone

Lockheed Martin marked a significant milestone in aviation history when it commemorated the 30th anniversary of the first flight of the F-16 jet fighter on Feb. 2.

The first F-16 prototype, YF-16 No. 1, completed its first official flight on Feb. 2, 1974, from the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base (CA).

"The YF-16 was a revolutionary technology demonstrator three decades ago," said John L. Bean, vice president of F-16 programs.

"The technologies it introduced -- like fly-by-wire flight control, relaxed static stability, wing- body blending, variable camber wing, high-g cockpit, highly integrated digital avionics using a MIL-STD-1553 multiplex data bus and modular construction -- have become common for fighters introduced since,"Bean added.

Phil Oestricher, retired General Dynamics test pilot for the first flight, recalls that historic flight: "A team of engineering disciplines came together in a marvelous fashion to produce an aircraft that was very powerful, agile, small, easy to handle and low cost. And it looked great! It was a real joy to fly. I am very proud to have been on the front end of this great fighter program."

In an unusual twist, Oestricher had inadvertently flown the aircraft two weeks earlier -- Flight "0" -- when he elected to take the aircraft airborne after experiencing major control anomalies during a high-speed taxi test. Oestricher pointed out that this was before the days of high-fidelity flight simulators that can predict complex effects of gain settings in flight control laws.

Bean said the F-16 has evolved into the most capable, most versatile, most affordable, most supportable and most popular multi-role fighter of its time.

"The F-16 has been an evolutionary aircraft since its prototype days and epitomized what we call today 'spiral development'," Bean said. "It has exceeded everyone's highest expectations. Considering all of the program metrics, it easily qualifies as the most successful fighter of the jet age."

Lockheed Martin has continued to make significant development advances for its worldwide F-16 customers, recently introducing the Advanced Block 50/52 and F-16E/F Block 60 versions. These will continue production through 2008, and with anticipated follow-on sales and potential new markets, Lockheed Martin believes the F-16 line could extend well beyond that timeframe.

Background Information

The F-16 is the choice of 24 countries. More than 4,000 aircraft have been delivered worldwide from assembly lines in five countries. The F-16 program recently marked 25 years of continuous production deliveries and has forged relationships leading to unprecedented international cooperation. Hundreds more aircraft are on order, and production is expected to continue beyond 2008. Major upgrades for all F-16 versions are being incorporated to keep the fleet modern and fully supportable over the aircraft's long service life.

Headquartered in Bethesda (MD), Lockheed Martin Corp. employs about 130,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced technology systems, products and services.

FMI:  www.lockheedmartin.com

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