South Dakota F-16s Show Mettle

South Dakota Air National Guard pilots last week flew their F-16 Block 40 fighters for the first time in a major exercise, dropping ordnance over the Smokey Hills ANG Range in Kansas, according to local press reports. The 114th Fighter Wing began trading out its older F-16 Block 30s in 2010, reaching full operational capability with the Block 40s in time for an operational readiness inspection at the wing’s base on Joe Foss Field last week, reported Sioux Falls’ Argus Leader on June 10. The sorties to Kansas were part of the activities conducted during the inspection. The wing’s Block 40 aircraft are equipped with features like the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System and more powerful engines, reported Sioux Falls’ WJTV news on June 8. The Air Force is upgrading a number of F-16 Block 40/50 aircraft with enhanced structural and computing abilities under a service life-extension program and “our Block 40s are in the group,” said 114th FW commander Col. Russ Walz in WJTV’s report.