January 27, 2005 (by Will Daniel) - Defense Supply Center Richmond officials are working on a billion-dollar, multiyear project that will extend the service life of the Air Force's F-16 Fighting Falcons.
The F-16 Structure Augmentation Roadmap, or "Falcon STAR," program uses parts kits to strengthen the aircraft's structure, officials said. The kits contain everything necessary to accomplish a maintenance task.
Officials said using the kits reduces maintenance turnaround time, ultimately increasing readiness.
Center officials develop support strategies and initiate kit contracts.
Without the modification, the F-16 will not be able to attain its projected 8,000-hour service life under current operational usage, said Pat Livingston, the center's F-16 weapon system support manager. Falcon STAR will allow the aircraft to remain in service through 2025, she said.
"(The Air Force's) aircraft structural integrity program continues to identify areas that will not meet the service life of 8,000 flight hours," Ms. Livingston said. "The (goal is) to modify the aircraft structure before the onset of widespread fatigue damage and aircraft grounding.
"This is a 'tip-to-tail' modification -- 13 structural modifications including replacing bulkheads and wing-attachment fittings," she said.
Falcon STAR contains the list of structural parts necessary to address the areas identified by the aircraft structural integrity program, she said. There are more than 79,000 parts under 428 national stock numbers, all of which are managed by Defense Logistics Agency officials.
Parts for each kit are purchased by officials here and shipped to Defense Distribution Depot Red River, Texas, for assembly. The assembled kit is then shipped to Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, where the aircraft modifications are performed.
The modifications are scheduled to run through 2014, said Dave Graves, weapons system support branch chief here.
"Starting in 2006, we'll modify F-16s for European countries as well," Mr. Graves said.
Officials here are working with the prime contractor on configuration of the kits. The contractor configured the initial 13 kits, and officials have configured 13 additional kits.
"Weï¿½ve been working configuration control issues," Mr. Graves said.
Somewhere between 40 and 100 iterations of the kit are expected, Ms. Livingston said.
The kit configuration is constantly changing because of the different aircraft configurations, said Greg Sprouse, chief of the centerï¿½s kit section.
"So far it's going well," he said. "What we're doing is challenging because of the different configurations. It is a variable kit -- it changes all the time."
More than 2,000 aircraft will be modified by 2014, Ms. Livingston said. Participants in the program include the Air Force and air forces in Belgium
, the Netherlands
On average, it takes 175 days to modify an aircraft with the Falcon STAR kit, officials said. The first modification was completed 14 days ahead of schedule, said Arnie Leighton of the aircraft division at Ogden Air Logistics Center.
Ten F-16s a month are expected to undergo the modification at Hill in 2005.