US Air Force receives first upgraded F-16 for South Korean air defence mission
The USAF's South Korea-based 8th Fighter Wing (FW) received its first F-16 to be upgraded by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Post Block Integration Team on 4 April, the service has announced.
The PoBIT upgrade comprises 22 modifications, including installation of the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar with active electronically scanned array and fitting a new Center Display Unit.
'The F-16 is planned to continue service into the 2040s, so this upgrade is critical to making sure we are keeping pace with the evolving threat environment,' Col John D Caldwell, 8th FW vice-commander said.
'The main components that I interacted with today [the CDU and APG-83 SABR] are both critical pieces that work together to bring the F-16 closer to fifth-generation capabilities, which will keep the F-16 relevant to the fight.'
Other avionics upgrades include a programmable data generator, new-generation EW capability, a communications suite upgrade and a new mission computer.
'The avionics upgrades allow pilots to take full advantage of the jet's advanced weapons and sensors, it is capable of providing high-speed data and/or high-resolution video and ultimately aids the pilot in tactical decision-making,' Capt Michael C Durham, 8th Operations Support Squadron weapons tactics officer said.
'The upgraded radar, specifically, allows us to track a greater number of targets at longer ranges in both cooperative and non-permissive environments while also improving the F-16’s all-weather capabilities by adding synthetic aperture radar mapping for target nomination and engagement.'
PoBIT upgrades for the F-16 fleet are being conducted in various phases over a period of several years to provide the aircraft the necessary updates while ensuring operational requirements can still be met.
According to Shephard Defence Insight, in April 2020, the USAF announced that it was planning to upgrade more than 600 F-16 aircraft under the Operational Flight Program (OFP) M-series 7.2+ upgrade which includes both software and hardware improvements.
Older F-16 Block 40/42/50/52 jets are being retrofitted with 42 major capabilities, including the AN/APG-83, AGM-158B Joint Air-To-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range and AIM-120D AMRAAM for $455 million.
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