An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

F-16s restored after years in storage

  • Published
  • By Lois Walsh
  • Air Armament Center Public Affairs
Pilots here will be flying training, photo-chase and test-support missions, and instructing pilots using brand new old F-16s Fighting Falcons -- four of them resurrected and regenerated from more than a decade of storage.

The aircraft were originally part of a deal U.S. officials brokered with the Pakistani prime minister to sell 28 F-16s to that government. The agreement broke down after Pakistan ignored the nuclear non-proliferation policy of the U.S. government and its allies, canceling military foreign sales to that country.

That left the aircraft in limbo, and in storage, at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Air Force officials will take ownership of 14 aircraft while the Navy will get 14 to be used as aggressor aircraft for training. Eglin's 40th Flight Test Squadron will retire three of their older F-16s next year after receiving the four regenerated aircraft.

The first regenerated F-16 landed here Dec. 4 after several years of negotiations, modifications and rebuilding.

According to Eglin's F-16 flight commander, Maj. Mike Jansen, the additional "iron on the ramp" is most welcome. Even though the planes are the older A or B models, versus the C and D models pilots routinely fly today, these are late-model A and Bs, built in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They are not a representative A and B model because they were built later and have an airframe closer to a C or D model.

"The real crux," he said, "is that the avionics are still A and B model versus the current C and D model in the Air Force inventory, and there is a very large difference between the two."

Jansen said the planes will be used for training, photo chase, test-mission support and new pilot instruction. Members of the 40th FTS are getting three two-seaters and one single-seat aircraft.

"The airframe and avionics differences between the models are really too great to do any other testing with them," he said.

Jansen said Eglin officials pushed to get these aircraft because the current fleet here, with the old engines and technology, are some of the oldest F-16s still flying, and they are toward the end of their service life.

"The new aircraft will have more current engines which will greatly simplify our operations," Jansen said.

He said the most difficult part of the program, logistically, was upgrading more than 10 years worth of modifications. In the last three years, under the direction of Air Force Materiel Command logistics group experts, the aircraft were literally taken apart piece by piece and put back together again. Experts at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., completely overhauled the engines.

Master Sgt. Joe Tangherlini, AFMC's fighter aircraft superintendent, said F-16 system program office officials identified the aircraft as surplus, and it took a four-year process to get approval and regenerate the aircraft.

"The biggest challenge was taking these essentially new aircraft, which sat in the desert for eight years, and make them run like they're new again," Tangherlini said. "First the planes were temporarily stored, and then were eventually put into permanent storage and maintained in a semi-serviceable condition."

Tangherlini said his team made several trips to Arizona's desert during the restoration process. To see the progress from static aircraft with flat tires to being mission capable was a huge triumph.

"To bring these aircraft up to the standard to be safe to fly in accordance with all the new directives and technical orders today is an accomplishment," Tangherlini said.

"What we have now smells and looks like a new car," Jansen said.

Although Jensen admits these are not the newest aircraft, he acknowledges they will give pilots a much better capability and reliability.

"These planes will completely remove us from flying the older engine," Jensen said. "Operational procedures for each engine is completely different; now we'll get rid of one of them, and we can concentrate on the newer versions." (Courtesy AFMC News Service)