The 309th Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base initiated an F-16 Fighting Falcon “block swap” with the 49th Wing at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, on Jul. 10, 2023, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
According to the article 309th FS begins F-16 block swap with Holloman by Senior Airman Dominic Tyler, 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, totaling 935 aircraft, the F-16 fleet compromises 50% of the US Air Force fighter inventory. A “block swap” entails an exchange of aircraft that with differences in upgrades and capabilities.
“The F-16 has been the primary fighter aircraft of the US Air Force for more than 20 years,” said Brig. Gen. Jason M. Rueschhoff, 56th Fighter Wing commander. “But as the Air Force strives for innovation and next-generation technologies, Luke aims to be fully transitioned to the F-35 in the next few years.”
In exchange for the Block 42 aircraft, the 309th FS will be receiving Block 40 aircraft from Holloman AFB. As of today, Holloman AFB has received 18 Block 42 F-16s, with three being Luke heritage jets with custom paint schemes.
The unique paint schemes honor significant events from the squadron’s history. The 309th FS has been an active squadron at Luke AFB since April 1, 1994.
“Our heritage jets have the same purpose as every other jet; to be flown for training,” said Maj. Saul Sharafinski, 309th FS F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot. “This block swap allows flexibility and standardization of the 49th Wing’s training jets.”
The 49th Wing trains F-16 pilots as well as MQ-9 Reaper pilots and sensor operators, providing combat-ready Airmen and Guardians to the US Air Force.
Up to this point, Luke has received 18 Block 40 F-16s. After the last iteration of the F-16 B-course the aircraft will be sent to several bases, the first being, Fort Wayne at Indiana Air National Guard Base, Indiana.
This is part of the Air Force’s larger initiative of accelerating change and investing in the development of its fighter force structure by transforming and modernizing efforts to ensure air and space superiority.
Unofficially designated F-16CG/DG the Block 40/42 was also known as the “Night Falcon” because of its enhanced night/all-weather capabilities.
In terms of the technical differences between the Block 40 and Block 42 F-16s, the engines are a significant factor. The configured engine bay of the Block 40/42 has options for either the General Electric F110-GE-100 (Block 40) or the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 (Block 42), although the two engines are not routinely interchangeable. The Block 40 F-16 has a larger air intake than that of the Block 42 because of the greater airflow requirements of the F110 engine.
According to F-16.net, production of the block 40/42 totals 615 airframes. Manufacturing started in 1989 as a successor of the block 30/32 airframe. It ended in the late nineties with a follow-on order from Egypt. Block 40 aircraft were delivered to the USAF, Turkey, Bahrain, Israel and Egypt. Block 42 aircraft were only delivered to the USAF.
Photo credit: Senior Airman Dominic Tyler / U.S. Air Force