July 4, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Lockheed Martin delivered the first of six F-16Cs in the Fiscal Year 1997 contract to the U.S. Air Force on July 5. These aircraft have several enhancements, including improved computers and cockpit displays, plus an on-board oxygen generation system.
The new features incorporated in these aircraft (compared to previous USAF block 50
- Modular mission computer
- Raytheon Commercial color multifunction displays
- Honeywell Color programmable display generator
- Honeywell Color airborne video tape recorder
- Teac Color cockpit TV sensor
- Lockheed Martin Fairchild Systems On-board oxygen generating system Litton.
The modular mission computer (MMC) replaces three separate computers used in earlier F-16s to perform central processing, stores management and display generation for the head-up display. Compared to the combined capability of the processors it replaces, the MMC has more capacity (30 times the throughput/speed and memory, with growth volume to more than double this capability) at 40 percent less weight, volume and power. The MMC uses line-replaceable modules and provides true two-level maintenance, thus eliminating cumbersome intermediate-level test equipment. The new computer uses state-of-the-art software methodologies -- Ada language and object-oriented design -- which result in significantly easier and less costly software upgrades.
The color cockpit displays enhance the pilot's situation awareness by helping interpret complex tactical situations more quickly and accurately, a key to success in a dynamic combat environment. The color recording equipment helps in pilot training and combat intelligence debriefings.
The on-board oxygen generating system (OBOGS) replaces the standard liquid oxygen (LOX) system aboard the aircraft. Advantages include improved safety, reduced combat vulnerable area, reduced maintenance (elimination of frequent LOX servicing), elimination of LOX storage and servicing equipment, enhanced deployability, and lower operation and support costs.
The delivered aircraft is the first operational F-16 to incorporate OBOGS. Incorporation of these upgrades in production minimize retrofit costs. These production aircraft will also allow the new capabilities to be wrung out and refined by the operational test and tactics development communities without having to modify additional test aircraft. Although the MMC and color cockpit are new to USAF, these items were previously introduced on international F-16s. The baseline configuration for the block 20 versions delivered to Taiwan and the F-16A/B Mid-Life Update for five European F-16 users have these systems.
Several other international air forces have, or plan to incorporate, the color cockpit features. These features also will be included in USAF's Block 40/50 modification program (called the F-16 Common Configuration Implementation Program) now in development. The commonality in hardware and software provides significant benefits to the users in logistics, training and fleet upgrade costs. Also, interoperability among allies is enhanced.
A total of 19 F-16s are on order by USAF under FY 97/98/99/00 funding. Additional USAF F-16 purchases have been announced for future budget years.