Ogden center delivers first Falcon STAR F-16

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Maintainers here recently handed off to the Minnesota Air National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing the first F-16 Fighting Falcon to undergo a nearly $1 billion upgrade that promises to make the fleet operational beyond 2020.

The revamped F-16 was part of the Structural Augmentation Roadmap program, also known as Falcon STAR. Under the program, maintainers replace or repair known life-limited structures to avoid the onset of widespread fatigue damage. This is done to maintain flight safety, enhance aircraft availability and extend the life of affected components, said Maj. Mike Williams, Falcon STAR program manager.

Before Falcon STAR, some aircraft exhibited fatigue damage as early as 3,500 hours, he said. Once modified, the aircraft will meet its designed service life of 8,000 flight hours.

The major said the entire program involves modifying 13 different structural components, including wing fittings, and reworking skin areas. Falcon STAR modifications are applied to existing aircraft and added to all new F-16's to compensate for aircraft stress increased usage rates and heavier gross weights cause.

F-16 system program office experts at the Ogden Air Logistics Center here manage the Falcon STAR program. Major Williams said they have worked with Lockheed Martin to develop the necessary engineering and to procure installation kits for the first two years of the modification.

An added challenge for the Hill team was to make modifications that had never been done before, Major Williams said. The ALC's maintenance directorate completed the challenge although, in many cases, they had to integrate untested tools and materials into the repair process.

"Their support has been critical to the program's success," Major Williams said.

Major Williams said the F-16 hand-off was an important milestone for the entire F-16 community.

"With the modifications we (are making) under Falcon STAR, the F-16 will continue to serve a vital role in our nation's defense for many years to come," he said.

By program's end, more than 1,200 F-16s will have been modified including active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve aircraft.

Falcon STAR is a U.S. Air Force-managed structural modification program for the F-16 that addresses service-life deficiencies for the Air Force. The roughly $1 billion program is the result of more than four years of design and planning and ensures the F-16's original service life while allowing for an operational capability beyond the year 2020. (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)