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With the first of its 631 later-model Lockheed Martin F-16s now being fitted with an automatic ground collision avoidance system (Auto GCAS), the U.S. Air Force is studying an upgrade path to add the safety device to more than 300 earlier build, non-digital fighters operated by the Air National Guard.
Developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Lockheed and NASA, the Auto-GCAS is designed to reduce controlled-flight-into-terrain-type accidents by 90%. The system, which completed research and development under Air Combat Command’s (ACC) Fighter Risk Reduction Program in 2010, began to transition to the Block 40/50 F-16 fleet in September as part of the latest M6.2+ Operational Flight Program (OFP) software update.
The safety initiative comes as the Air Force takes another step toward implementing a service life-extension program (SLEP) for nearly 300 Block 40, 42, 50 and 52 aircraft which could add up to 4,000 additional flight hours—nearly a decade of longer life. The move will help mitigate the oft-delayed build-up of the Air Force’s F-35A fleet, and comes on top of more recent efforts by Lockheed Martin to address a long-term fix for a longeron cracking issue that led to the temporary grounding of 81 F-16Ds last summer.
300 will undergo a Service Life Extension Plan,