Viper Durability

With the F-16 fleet aging overall and some variants facing structural issues like bulkhead cracks and wing pylon corrosion, the Air Force intends to conduct a full-scale durability test on an F-16 in Fiscal 2011 to help establish the fleet’s maximum service life and more effectively manage its structural health. So said Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, military assistant to the Air Force acquisition executive, and Maj. Gen. Marke Gibson, director of operations on the Air Staff, in a joint written statement presented to the Senate Armed Services’ airland panel on Tuesday. No details of what this test will entail were given, but Shackelford and Gibson said it would be similar to the full-scale fatigue test that the Air Force intends to carry out on an F-15, also starting in 2011. (The Air Force doesn’t expect to know the full results of the F-15 test until around 2015.) Despite the structural issues facing the F-16, the F-16 is expected to be “a capable element of the fighter force” well into 2024, they said. Efforts are already underway to address the corrosion and bulkhead issues either with repairs or replacement initiatives, they noted. (For more on the F-16 bulkhead issue, read 341 Bulkhead.)