The U.S. Air Force authorized extending the service life of the F-16 to from 8,000 to 12,000 Equivalent Flight Hours, producer Lockheed Martin [LMT] said Wednesday.

This authorization came after the company and Air Force completed the F-16 Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) structural modifications that allow the Air Force to safely operate block 40-52 aircraft past 2048. Lockheed Martin highlighted it and the Air Force also were able to reduce service life costs for this fleet.

The Air Force's F-16D fighter jet. Photo: Lockheed Martin.
The Air Force’s F-16D fighter jet. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

The flight hour limit validation is part of the larger SLEP goal of extending the service life of upwards of 300 F-16C/D Block 40-52 aircraft.

Part II of the F-16 SLEP airworthiness process is still continuing while the company requests a Military Type Certificate which will then be submitted to the Air Force’s Technical Airworthiness Authority within the next several months, Lockheed Martin said.

Part II seeks to validate further extending the F-16’s operational life based on a final service life analysis from extended durability testing.

“This accomplishment is the result of more than seven years of test, development, design, analysis and partnership between the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin,” Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 program, said in a statement.

“Combined with F-16 avionics modernization programs like the F-16V, SLEP modifications demonstrate that the Fighting Falcon remains a highly capable and affordable 4th Generation option for the U.S. Air Force and international F-16 customers,” she added.