F-16 fighters

The US Air Force (USAF) is planning to conduct developmental testing for the Block 40 and 50 model F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft’s operational flight programme (OFP) at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida, US, in 2014.

Scheduled to be conducted by pilots from 40th Flight Test Squadron (40th FTS) and 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron (85 TES), the testing will be the first time an OFP’s developmental and operational testing is being carried out at the same base.

OFP is the aircraft’s software that controls its avionics and also enables integration with external weapons, and is currently undergoing a design-try-out (DTO) phase, with the aim to help designers in further development.

40th FTS F-16 M7 OFP project specialist Beau Booth said the DTO phase covers validation of the software’s early versions, along with limited subsets of the planned new capabilities, to help software engineers make necessary modification prior to advancing in coding process.

For the first time, the OFP has been developed by the 309th Software Maintenance Group (SMXG) from Hill AFB, whereas the previous F-16 OFP updates were created by Lockheed Martin.

The programme is expected to bring significant cost savings, and eliminate associated extra test requirements and field delays, as the testing is completely taking place at Eglin AFB, enabling both the OT and DT pilots to participate in each mission.

85th TES commander lieutenant colonel Thomas Seymour said: ”This allows us to share aircraft, infrastructure, aircrew and ideas, which results in more effective and efficient test and a better end product for the warfighter."

41 test sorties have been conducted to date by the combined test team for the software, which is scheduled to be integrated into all active-duty F-16s and many reserve aircraft.

Image: Two USAF F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight during a new OFP design-try-out mission over Emerald Coast in Florida, US. Photo: Courtesy photo.