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Deliberate Guard F-16s modified for Night Vision Goggles

January 21, 1998 (by Lieven Dewitte) - block 40 F-16s at Aviano Air Base, Italy, are being modified to be compatible with night vision goggles. These cockpit changes are part of a total lighting modification to provide Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS) compatible lighting to the F-16.
The aircraft is one of 43 F-16s being modified at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy as part of a Quick Response Capability (QRC) Program.

F-16s from Aviano routinely fly Deliberate Guard peacekeeping missions over Bosnia. The NVIS modification is a comprehensive approach to night vision goggle compatibility for the F-16. The modification is divided into two basic parts -- cockpit lighting and external lighting. The cockpit portion of the modification replaces white cockpit lighting with an "NVIS green" lighting and replaces a couple of switches on the lighting control panels. Faceplates, and bezels for multifunction displays, are replaced with similar units that contain NVIS-compatible backlights.

The external lighting modification involves replacing existing position and formation lights on the wingtips, intake sides, underside, tail and upper fuselage with lights compatible with NVGs. The tail floodlight is changed as well. The standard strobe light is replaced with a programmable strobe. The external lighting system operates in two basic modes: normal and covert.

Most of the external light units have two or more small windows that contain diodes that emit infrared light for the covert mode. The infrared light is completely invisible to a non-NVG-aided eye. The unique strobe rates of the programmable strobe makes it easier for pilots to distinguish a wingman's aircraft from other light sources. The NVIS modification adds another tool to a highly developed night capability for the F-16. Both F-16 squadrons at Aviano have been flying with NVGs since August 1996 using less extensive provisions to make the cockpit NVG compatible. They have been flying with LANTIRN pods for longer than that.

NVIS is being installed at Aviano by a team of Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems employees working with USAF maintenance personnel from the510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons, both part of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano. The modifications began in late September 1997 and are scheduled to finish in March 1998. The Air Force has plans to modify all C and D modelF-16s with NVIS lighting.