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Thu, Nov 08, 2007

USAF Thunderbirds Receive First Upgraded F-16

Eleven Fighters To Receive Block 52 Upgrades, Smoke Systems Instead Of Guns

Officials at Hill Air Force Base in Utah rolled out the first of 11 specially-configured F-16 Fighting Falcons for the Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team.

During a ceremonial hand over October 24 -- attended by incoming 2008-2009 Thunderbirds commander and lead pilot Lt. Col. Greg Thomas, and a full house of media, military and civilian spectators -- Ogden Air Logistics Center officials presented the first converted jet to the aerial demonstration team.

Each aircraft will receive a Block 52 upgrade, which includes the Falcon Structural Augmentation Roadmap program, also known as Falcon STAR.  The program replaces or repairs the known life-limited structures. This avoids the onset of widespread fatigue damage in order to maintain flight safety, enhance aircraft availability and extend the life of affected components.

Additionally, the 309th Maintenance Wing along with the 508th Aerospace Sustainment Wing, both under the Ogden ALC, are partnering to remove the weapons system from each aircraft and replace it with a smoke-generating system. Each aircraft gets a new red, white and blue paint job too.

"If these aircraft were needed in a combat situation, they can be reverted back to combat-ready in three days," said 1st Lt. Elbert Mose, a program manager in the 508th Aircraft Sustainment Group. "We have never had a situation where that has happened, but in 72 hours we could put the gun system back into a plane and (it would) be completely ready."

Colonel Thomas said the delivery of the first air show-ready Thunderbird at Hill is significant to more than just would-be air show spectators.

"This is about more than just fancy maneuvers in the sky," he said. "It's exciting because you see the high level of dedication and commitment that Team Hill has put into the airplane, and you know it's the same product our warfighter Airmen are taking into combat."

Air Force officials already are upgrading F-16's through the Common Configuration Implementation Program. Ogden ALC workers are slated to de-modify an older series of Thunderbirds to the Block 32 version in order to make them combat ready, in addition to several other CCIP modifications that occurred earlier this year.

These aircraft eventually will replace the current Thunderbirds F-16s and should be ready for the 2009 show season.

(Aero-News Salutes Capt. Genieve David, 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs)

FMI: http://thunderbirds.airforce.com/

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