The F-16Cs coming from the Alabama ANG are Block 30 Vipers thus being upgrade from the older F-16Cs the squadron has today.
Given that the first F-35 stealth fighters will be delivered to Alabama Air National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing this year, the unit’s F-16C aircraft are being transferred to Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska.
Actually, Eielson AFB received the first two F-16s (still wearing their “Alabama” tail flashes) on Jan. 12. The aircraft will sport a new “wraith” black paint scheme as adversary aircraft with the 18th Aggressor Squadron within months.
Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Albert Roper told Air & Space Forces Magazine the two Vipers are the first of 19 “new-ish” aircraft the squadron will get this year.
“They’re fully combat-capable, combat-mission-ready aircraft,” Roper said in a phone interview. “So we’ll just bring them up here to Alaska. … they’ll go to the paint barn, we’ll do a new paint job on them. But we flew up here last week, so they’re flyable aircraft. […] We’ll start flying and put them on the line and put them up in the air and flying those aircraft as soon as the next couple of weeks.”
According to Roper the F-16Cs coming from the Alabama ANG are Block 30 Vipers thus being upgrade from the older F-16Cs the squadron has today.
“There’s about a decade gap in the software upgrade and hardware upgrades,” Roper said. “So I look at it as the airframe and the engine, it’s still a Block 30 F-16. But [they] kind of ripped out things like the coaxial cables, speed transmitters, and the processors and replaced it with kind of like ethernet and then increased the processing capability of the computers.”
Roper explained that other upgrades are: Improved center display units provide greater clarity for pilots and the avionics suite supports the Hybrid Optical-based Inertial Tracker (HObIT), which attaches to a pilot’s helmet and provides targeting data and more. That means the 18th Aggressors can be more effective training assets, “to increase what we’re able to replicate and present to the combat Air Force,” Roper said.
That means replicating more advanced threats in everyday training and at biggest training exercises every year, including Northern Edge and Red Flag-Alaska events.
Noteworthy most Viper Drivers agree the F-16 “big mouth” Block 30 has the best BFM performance. The “big mouth” refers to the larger intake that allows the GE engine to gulp more air, thus giving more thrust. Lieutenant Colonel Philippe “Rico” Malebranche in fact told to John M. Dibbs and Lt. Col. Robert “Cricket” Renner for their book Viper Force 56th Fighter Wing-To Fly and Fight the F-16, the Block 30 is the “best BFM’ing Viper… because it didn’t have all the avionics, so its nose is lighter and I can get it tracking across the horizon easily.”
The remaining ANG F-16s will arrive before Sep. 30. In the meantime (except for two twin-seat F-16Ds that will be retained for orientation flights) all of the 18th Aggressor Squadron’s legacy F-16s will head to the Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ricardo Sandoval