The Air Force still has time to decide whether to extend the service life of its older F-16s, senior service officials told House lawmakers last week. Those so-called “pre-block” aircraft (Block 23, Block 30, Block 32) reside in many of the Air National Guard units that protect the nation’s airspace. Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, Air Staff requirements lead, said the service intends to sustain the pre-blocks out “to the 8,000-hour limit” of their airframes. This means they should be flying until 2018 to 2021, said Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, military deputy to USAF’s acquisition executive. Meanwhile, the Air Force will go ahead and extend the service life of its F-16 Block 40 and Block 50 aircraft, which are newer and more capable than the pre-blocks. As F-35 strike fighters enter the inventory, the service will shift some of the upgraded F-16s to Air Guard units to replace their pre-blocks, said Carlisle. Accordingly, “We still have time . . . if we need to go back to those pre-blocks, to further modify them, to pick that up,” said Shackelford. He added, “It’s too early to be putting that into the budget right now.” (See also Shackelford-Carlisle prepared testimony)
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.