Repairs have been made to 30 of the 32 F-16Ds assigned to Luke AFB, Ariz., that were among the 82 overall two-seaters grounded in August after structural cracks were discovered along the canopy sill longeron between the front and rear pilot seats, according to a Dec. 24 base release. “The remaining two aircraft are currently awaiting engineering assessments with repair completion expected by early January,” states the release. Luke’s first Fighting Falcon returned to flight in November. Depot maintenance crews have been working 12-hour days, six days a week to repair the longeron cracks, which Col. Rick Ainsworth, 56th Maintenance Group commander, called “one of the most challenging F-16 fleet issues we’ve seen in years.” The Air Force grounded the fleet in August after cracks were found in one aircraft during a routine post-flight check. After an immediate action inspection of all 157 D models, 75 were found to have no cracks and were restored to flight status. “The grounding of the F-16D has had a big effect on the pilot training mission,” said MSgt. Thomas Hartley, the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group section chief. SMSgt. Ronald Tann, the 56th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant superintendent, said the F-16Ds are “vital to the success of our mission to train and develop combat-ready pilots.”
These are the complete remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Dec. 3, 2022, in Simi Valley, Calif.