F-16 software upgrades undergo ground, flight testing
By 1st Lt. Brooke Davis
Air Force Flight Test Center Public Affairs
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- 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
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 2000-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
2000-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 ten 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 2000-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
Block 40 F-16s are upgraded F-16C/D models that incorporate the latest
cockpit control and display technology.