How The U.S. Air Force Will Keep Its F-16s Flying Into The 2040s | Aviation

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A U.S. Air Force F-16CM Block 40 from the 555th FS at Aviano Air Base, among the ones that will receive PoBIT upgrades. (Photo: Stefano D’Urso/The Aviationist)

The U.S. F-16 fleet is undergoing the largest modification work in history with the Post Block Integration Team.

Now that the F-16 is 50, it is fitting to talk about its future and how it will stay up to date with the capabilities required to face current and future threats. In fact, although the U.S. Air Force is retiring the older aircraft, the newer Block 40 and Block 50 aircraft are expected to fly well into the 2040s and, to do that, they will need to be upgraded.

A total of 608 Block 40 and Block 50 aircraft, the so-called “Post Block” F-16s, will be upgraded through the Post Block Integration Team (PoBIT) project managed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate. The project includes up to 22 modifications designed to improve lethality and ensure the fourth-generation fighter remains effective in meeting current and future threats.

“Providing this capability on an already time- and combat-proven aircraft adds another layer to U.S. Air Force capabilities in an ever-evolving electronic warfare environment,” said the then Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. “I know this upgrade will make us even more effective in our day-to-day combat operations, and I look forward to bringing the F-16 even further into the future of air superiority.”

Launched in 2022, the PoBIT upgrades are being performed in conjunction with the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) which will extend the airframes’ fatigue life from 8,000 to 12,000 hours. The SLEP will replace structural bulkheads and longerons, modify wing and wing-box assemblies, install new structural brackets and beam supports and reskin the upper fuselage. The depot work for the entire process takes up to nine months for each Viper and is being performed at multiple locations both in…

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