Belgian Air Force test flying first F-16 Mid-Life Update M6.1

 

Although it still is wearing the commemorative markings of the 20th anniversary of the Operational Conversion Unit in 2007, F-16BM FB-18 is the most modern aircraft of the Lockheed Martin F-16 fleet of the Belgian Air Force. The Mid-Life Update tape M6.1 software was uploaded to the aircraft’s computer at Florennes Air Base in the morning of 18 April 2011. As Belgian MLU M6.1 Lead-The-Fleet aircraft, FB-18 made its maiden flight in the new configuration in the late afternoon of that same day.

The present software upgrade fits in with the F-16 Multinational Fighter Program (MNFP), the foreign military sales cooperative programme initiated in 1975 to jointly produce 998 F-16 aircraft, 650 for the USAF and 348 for the air forces of Belgium, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. Portugal joined the F-16 MNFP in 2000 and thus became the programme’s fifth European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) member. The programme aims at standardising the F-16 fleets of the participating air forces as much as possible in order to optimise the type’s interoperability during multinational operations and does so at the lowest price by sharing the fixed costs.

The new software not only corrects some minor flaws in previous upgrades, but also introduces a number of new features. Improvements to the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system allow an even better distinction between friendly and enemy aircraft. Tape M6.1 also introduces the integration of a number of new weapon systems, like the AIM-120D Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile with its two-way data link, improved navigation and High-Angle Off-Boresight capabilities, and a doubled range. In the air-to-ground segment, new introductions are the 500 lbs GBU-54 LJDAM, a laser guided variant of the combat-proven GPS/INS guided Joint Direct Attack Munition, and the 250 lbs GPS guided GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, which is aimed at further reducing the risk of collateral damage with its small explosive charge and its circular error probability of only 5 to 8 metres. Otherwise, changes are made to the Link 16 data exchange system to improve its network centric capability and to the Universal Armament Interface to improve communications between the aircraft and its weapon systems.

After the Early Operational Assessment (EOA) and the subsequent Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E), the M6.1 standard will be rolled out on all Belgian F-16s, which should be completed by 2014.

A pictorial overview:

Lockheed Martin F-16BM FB-18 MLU 6.1

Lockheed Martin F-16BM FB-18 MLU 6.1

Lockheed Martin F-16BM FB-18 MLU 6.1

Lockheed Martin F-16BM FB-18 MLU 6.1





 

 

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 © Jos Schoofs  (April 2011)

 

 

Last updated 23/12/11 14:47   Daniel Brackx

daniel.brackx@telenet.be