The U.S. Air Force authorized aerospace contractor Lockheed Martin to extend the service life of its F-16 fighter fleet.
The move boosts the service life for the jets from 8,000 Equivalent Flight Hours to 12,000, and aims to allow the service to continue operating the planes through 2048. Lockheed Martin says the decision benefits the Air Force as well as its foreign military customers.
“This accomplishment is the result of more than seven years of test, development, design, analysis and partnership between the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin,” Lockheed Martin F-16 vice president Susan Ouzts said in a press release. “Combined with F-16 avionics modernization programs like the F-16V, SLEP modifications demonstrate that the Fighting Falcon remains a highly capable and affordable 4th Generation option for the U.S. Air Force and international F-16 customers.”
The service life extension affects the flight hour limit for up to 300 F-16 C/D Block 40-52 aircraft. Lockheed Martin adds the effort will supplement U.S. and allied forces while they recapitalize with new F-35 Lightning II aircraft.
The F-16 is one of the fighter variants intended to be replaced by the F-35, a program marked by years of cost overruns and delays. President Donald Trump criticized Lockheed Martin for the setbacks ahead of assuming office, suggesting his administration was considering cuts.
Trump and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson signaled they were close to an agreement in February when the company announced they agreed on procurement terms for the next 90 planes. The contractor maintains the deal represents $728 million in savings as well as an 8 percent drop in price.