NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has a history of testing exotic aircraft. The F-16s versatility and adaptability made it an ideal platform for some of NASA's test programs.
Consequently, NASA operates some of the most exotic F-16s around, including both F-16XL aircraft and the AFTI/F-16 technology demonstrator.
Besides F-16 test platforms, NASA also operates a number of regular F-16s as chase planes. All experimental F-16s have been placed in storage at Edwards AFB, and only the chase F-16s remain in operational service with NASA.
F-16XL ship no. 1 (#849
) in black/white color scheme over the Mojave desert [NASA photo]
Both F-16XL aircraft were transferred to NASA in 1989, after their operational test careers within the USAF ended. They were assigned a new NASA serial number: F-16XL/A received #849 and F-16XL/B received #848.
Both F-16XL aircraft are currently stored in the NASA hangar at Edwards. For in-depth information on the F-16XL, please refer to F-16.net's F-16XL article.
AFTI F-16 - Advanced Fighter Technology Integration
The AFTI F-16 was used to evaluate a variety of new sensors and control systems to enhance the combat capability of future tactical aircraft. NASA provided hangar space and maintenance services for this Air Force program.
The AFTI/F-16 is flight-worthy, but is not currently flown at Dryden and was held in 'flyable storage' up to the spring of 2004, when it was transferred to the Wright-Patterson AFB Museum. For in-depth information on the AFTI/F-16, please refer to F-16.net's AFTI F-16 article.
Part of NASA's F-16 test fleet, from left to right an F-16C, F-16XL (Ship #1
), and the AFTI testbed, at the NASA Dreyden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, Ca. [NASA photo]
Over the years, NASA has used a number of 'regular' F-16s - none of which we have the exact references. One known aircraft is F-16A block 15 #82976, which was primarily used by NASA as a chase aircraft for the two XL ships. Its serial number is #N516NA, making it the only F-16 with a civil registration number. NASA also operated at least one F-16C.
F-16A #N516NA was transferred to Dryden from Langley, and was primarily used in engine tests and for spare parts generation. The airframe has been taken out of service and is currently preserved, placed beside a road near Edwards AFB.
Please refer to the F-16 Units
section for an overview of units.