The Air Force Materiel Command plays an important task in testing new weapon systems on USAF aircraft, including the F-16.
Due to its versatility the F-16 is often selected as test platform for a variety of test programs. AFMC units received F-16s for testing purposes from the moment it entered service with the US Air Force. Units are based at three airbases (Edwards, Eglin and Hill)
The different units have a wide variety of F-16s in service. Most of the aircraft fleet consists of older A/B models which perform the photo-chase missions at Edwards AFB. The other units are mostly equipped with more modern C/D models which perform weapons integration and verification trials. A number of block 40 and 50 aircraft are in service for this task.
The 46th TW at Eglin AFB is mainly tasked with weapon integration tests. Verification trials for newly developed weapons are performed here, as well as advanced release tests. Part of this wing is the Ogden Logistics Center based at Hill AFB. This unit has less trial verification tests to perform, but performs recovery work on damaged aircraft which were selected for repair. Secondly, the Ogden ALC also performs complete overhauls of stored aircraft. Second-hand USAF aircraft, which have been stored at the AMARC facility, will be refurbished by the Ogden center before they are delivered to their new owners. F-16s of Portugal, Jordan and Thailand have passed through the Ogden overhaul chain. Not only does the ALC provide overhaul facilities, but it also performs complete updates on existing aircraft - mainly for foreign customers who bought second-hand F-16s. Another subordinate unit of the 46th TW, the 412th TW, is based at Edwards AFB in California. This unit performs weapons verification trials. Besides this task, the unit is responsible for photo-chase of other test programs. For this purpose the aircraft are painted with high visibility markings. Recently the Edwards units received 14 ex-Pakistani F-16A/B models to replace their older aircraft.
USAF F-16D block 40 #90836
from the 46th Test Wing at Aglin AFB, armed with an AGM-142 standoff weapon [USAF photo]
Modifications & Armament
Wiring for weapons trials
All the F-16s which perform weapons trials are wired as test birds. For each test, the aircraft can be altered to carry the new weapon system. The aircraft are constantly modified to match the current test sequences. The result is that these aircraft can no longer be identified as a particular block model. For advanced flight testing, the VISTA F-16 aircraft is regularly used to provide an expanded flight envelope.
USAF F-16B, #78080
, in the typical Edwards high-viz testing livery [USAF photo]
Please refer to the F-16 Units
section for an overview of units.