May 20, 2005 (by 1st Lt. Brooke Davis) - Testers at the 416th Flight Test Squadron are in the midst of testing M4.1+ avionics hardware and software upgrades to block 40 F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, verifying new capabilities provided by the software through flight and ground testing.
The software provides new capabilities to the aircraft including Link-16 Data Link and the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, said Capt. Brian Griffin, 416th FLTS flight test engineer.
"While all F-16s are multi-role fighters, the primary focus of block 40
F-16s has been the air-to-ground mission. Whether releasing laser-guided, GPS
guided, or legacy 'unguided' bombs, the F-16 is a workhorse for attacking surface targets," said Capt. Alan Wigdahl, 416th FLTS test pilot. "Through the Common Configuration Implementation Program, Block 40 F-16s are being upgraded with new fire-control computers, color multifunction displays, the helmet-mounted cueing system, and Link-16. The M4.1+ software that we are testing allows these new capabilities to be effectively utilized."
The primary purpose of this phase of integration testing is to ensure that the Block 40 hardware and software are ready to graduate from developmental testing and move on to dedicated operational testing and fielding, Captain Griffin said.
Recent testing has included the release of two 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions on April 26 using the Litening AT pod to generate the target coordinates. A test on May 3 included the release of two 2,000-pound laser-guided weapons at a China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center range, Calif., using the Sniper targeting pod to cue the weapons.
The test team also shot the M-61A1 20-mm multibarrel cannon during a gunnery event, targeting 10 40-foot-by-40-foot panels on the Precision Impact Range Area. This test, on May 4th, verified the cannon worked correctly with the upgraded Heads Up Display and Modular Mission Computer, said Kris Peterson, 416th Flight Test Squadron engineer.
The successful air-to-ground gunnery test opened the door for an air-to-air gunnery test in June. The test will utilize the Aerial Gunnery Target System, or AGTS, Mr. Peterson said. During AGTS testing, an F-16 from the 445th Flight Test Squadron flies with an AGTS pod deployed on a 2,000-foot tow cable while the test aircraft performs gunnery attacks on the AGTS. The AGTS pod uses a radar scoring device which detects and records the pattern of the 20-mm bullets, providing real-time results with each firing pass.
In upcoming operationally representative Integrated System Evaluations, testers plan to evaluate the aircraft as a total package instead of looking at individual systems, Captain Griffin said. In a sense, the Integrated System Evaluations will be graduation exercises for the software as they will test the aircraft’s ability to complete combat-representative missions using the legacy and upgraded capabilities.
Block 40 F-16s are upgraded F-16 C/D models that incorporate the latest cockpit control and display technology.