November 1, 2007 (by Capt. Genieve David) - Hill Air Force Base rolled out the first of 11 configured F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to the world's premiere United States Air Force Thunderbirds Aerial Demonstration Team, Oct. 24.
USAF F-16C block 52 #92-3880 is the first of many new block 52 F-16s provided to the Thunderbird Aerial Demonstration Team. The 11 airframes are scheduled to receive Falcon STAR modifications and a smoke generating system modification. These newly converted aircraft are slated for delivery for the 2009 show season.
During a ceremonial hand over, attended by incoming 2008-2009 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds commander/leader Lt. Col. Greg Thomas, and a full house of media, military and civilian spectators, the Ogden Air Logistics Center provided the first converted jet back to the aerial demonstration team.
Each airframe will receive a block 52
upgrade, which includes the Falcon Structural Augmentation Roadmap program, also known as Falcon STAR. This program replaces or repairs the known life-limited structures to avoid the onset of widespread fatigue damage in order to maintain flight safety, enhance aircraft availability and extend the life of affected components.
Additionally, the 309th Maintenance Wing along with the 508th Aerospace Sustainment Wing, both under the Ogden ALC, are partnering to remove the weapons system from the aircraft and will replace it with a smoke generating system. Each aircraft gets a new red, white and blue paint job too.
"If these aircraft were needed in a combat situation, they can be reverted back to combat-ready in three days," said Lt. Elbert Mose, program manager of the 508th Aircraft Sustainment Group. "We have never had a situation where that has happened, but in 72 hours we could put the guns system back into a plane and they'd be completely ready."
Colonel Thomas said the delivery of the first air show-ready Thunderbird at Hill is significant to more than just would-be air show spectators.
"This is about more than just fancy maneuvers in the sky," he said. "It's exciting because you see the high level of dedication and commitment that Team Hill has put into the airplane, and you know it's the same product our warfighter Airmen are taking into combat."
The Air Force is already upgrading its F-16's through the common configuration implementation program. The Ogden ALC is slated to de-modify an older series of Thunderbirds to the block 32
version in order to make them combat ready, in addition to several other CCIP
modifications that occurred earlier this year.
These aircraft will eventually replace the current Thunderbirds and should be ready for the 2009 show season.