January 31, 2005 (by Senior Airman Susan Penning) - The CJ model of the F-16 Fighting Falcon offers cutting-edge war-time fighting capabilities. Three new upgrades have helped the aircraft here transform from suppressing enemy air defenses to destroying enemy air defenses (DEAD).
A USAF F-16CJ viper waiting for the boom. Note the two AGM-88 HARM missiles and the HARM Targetting System [USAF photo]
"With the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, the targeting pod and the Link 16, we can find something faster, share the information quicker (and) more accurately, and destroy it more unequivocally," said Lt. Col. John Montgomery, 55th Fighter Squadron commander.
The cueing system upgrade on a helmet shows heads-up display data on the helmet visor and allows the pilot to select a target without changing the jet's direction. The system enables the pilot to visually identify, lock the weapons system on and engage an air or ground target without looking through the heads-up display on the aircraft itself.
When seconds count in combat encounters, the system gives the F-16 pilot an exceptional edge, said Col. Philip Ruhlman, 20th Fighter Wing commander.
The targeting pod is another upgrade incorporated on the aircraft. It has a forward-looking infrared sensor which displays an infrared image of the target for the pilot. The pod helps with precise delivery of laser-guided munitions by using a laser to determine range to a target and to the ground, said Maj. Anthony Roberson, 20th Operations Support Squadron weapons and training flight commander.
In the future, pilots will have even greater capability with an advanced targeting pod known as the Sniper XR.
"The Sniper will give us a 5-fold increase over our current targeting capability. Because of our use of the (current pod) and our focus on training, Shaw's pilots are already prepared for Sniper delivery," Maj. Roberson said.
The third upgrade for the aircraft is the Link 16. The Link 16 allows aircraft to share cockpit data and lets pilots merge into one display what all the airplanes are seeing. The data link helps pilots quickly gain situational awareness, and it gives them a combat edge in having complete knowledge of the battle space around them.
Although each upgrade has helped in developing the dominance of F-16s, it is the combination of the three that has given the aircraft tactical superiority.
"The technical transformation of the F-16CJ
has enabled evolutionary changes beyond its counter-air mission," Colonel Ruhlman said. "Current capabilities now allow for a natural progression to fully incorporate counter-land roles of close air support and precision interdiction in addition to a foundation of SEAD (and) DEAD excellence.
"This provides the combatant commander an exceptional range of capability from which to execute key roles and missions, all the while force multiplying limited assets across a wide spectrum of threats and employment challenges," he said.