Upgraded systems

Modular Mission Computer

The most important item of the Mid-Life Update package is the Texas Instruments Modular Mission Computer (MMC). Subcontractors are Terma, Nea Lindberg, and Signaal. This computer is based upon several MIPSCO R3000 64-bit Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) microprocessors. It runs the ADA high-order language with object oriented methodology for the OFP, resulting in easier and less costly software upgrades. It has 60 megabytes of memory and a throughput of 155 million operations per second.

The MMC is a derivative of the main computer used in the F-22, which provided a reduction in research and development costs. It forms the heart of the avionics system, with interfaces to most of the avionics sub-systems. Several 1553(B) multiplex buses were added to the original F-16A/B mux bus design. The MMC functions as primary mux bus controller for the A, B, C, D, and W buses.

[Image: Lockheed Martin]
Modular Mission Computer.

The MMC performs algorithmic tasks for weapon delivery, energy management, and navigation. It also performs avionics fault collection and reporting. It has built-in diagnostics fault detection up to Line Replaceable Module level.

The MMC is divided into 4 functional blocks:

  • Data Processing Set (DSP) : weapons control and mux bus control.
  • Avionics Display Set (ADS) : interface with Head-Up Display.
  • Avionics I/O Set (AIOS) : interface with avionics.
  • Power Set (PS) : MMC power supply and conditioner and HUD low voltage power supply.

Since the same MMC will be used in USAF Block-50 aircraft and the upgraded European MLU F-16s, hardware will be common to both types. However, the USAF MMC version will incorporate some unique software enhancements due to a wider range of weapons that are not in the European inventory.

The MMC uses line-replaceable modules and provides true two-level maintenance, eliminating Intermediate-level test equipment.

The MMC replaces three existing components: the Expanded Fire Control Computer (XFCC), the Head Up Display Electronics Unit (HUDEU), and the Stores Management System's Expanded Central Interface Unit (XCIU). It will take up 42% less volume in the aircraft, weights 55% less, and consumes 37% less electrical power. Of the 30 slots available in the computer, 9 will be used for future growth.

Fire Control Radar

The Northrop Grumman Electronic Sensors and Systems Division (ESSD, formerly Westinghouse) AN/APG-66(V)2A Fire Control Radar (FCR) is an improved APG-66. It is equipped with an improved processor, faster phase shifters, increased bulk memory, and a more powerful transmitter.

New features are a ten-target track-while-scan possibility as well as a six-shot AMRAAM mode, which allows six targets to be fired at simultaneously and a two-target Situational Awareness Mode. Other features include 25% improved detection and tracking range (compared to Block-10 and -15), enhanced 64:1 Doppler Beam Sharpening mode (DBS), enhanced air-ground and ground mapping modes, improved ECCM, improved false alarm rate, color display compatibility, and mux bus OFP loading. The radar system is operated by 1553 mux bus control — the current control panel has disappeared. All APG-68(V)5 modes have been incorporated.

APG-66 Fire Control Radar
[Image: Lockheed Martin]
APG-66 Fire Control Radar of F-16A/B.

The F-16A/B Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Radar Computer (RC) of the original APG-66 radar system have been replaced by a single Signal Data Processor with 6 times more processing power, resulting in 18% less weight, 16% less volume, 14% less dissipated power, and 19% less cooling air. The number of circuit boards has been reduced from 45 to 14. Both the Low Power Radio Frequency (LPRF) unit and the transmitter units have been modified.

Taiwanese F-16A/Bs will be equipped with a different version of the improved FCR: the APG-66(V)3. Their F-16A/Bs will carry the less-capable AIM-7 Sparrow missile.

The RNLAF acquired two Northrop Grumman ESSD SUREtest 7111 test benches which enable testing of a complete radar system with antenna, transmitter, LPRF, and SDP.

[Note: In March 1996, Northrop Grumman acquired Westinghouse Electric Corporation.]

Advanced IFF

The AN/APX-113(v) Advanced Identification Friend or Foe system (A-IFF), manufactured by GEC-Marconi Hazeltine (formerly Hazeltine Corporation), is a development of the APX-111 in service on USAF F-16A Air Defense Fighters and Kuwaiti F-18s.

[Image: GEC]

It consists of a Beam Forming Network and a combined Interrogator/Transponder unit and operates via four (rather striking) Forward Fuselage Antennas mounted on the upper forward fuselage in front of the canopy. These "bird slicers" are probably the most noticeable exterior changes for the F-16A/B after completion of the Mid-Life Update. AIFF provides Mk. XV or Mk. XII interrogation and response.

Benefits include interrogator/transponder capability (previously transponder only), the support of BVR weapons (e.g. AIM-120) delivery in excess of radar limits, increased range of 100 nm, relative position of friendlies, and reduced chance of fratricide (friendly fire).

The AN/APX-113 was also selected for Greek F-16C/Ds and the Japanese FSX.

[Note: GEC-Marconi acquired Hazeltine Corporation in May 1996.]

Air Inlet

The F-16's center hardpoint is station number 5. Block-15 aircraft have two hardpoints added to the chin of the air intake, designated stations 5L and 5R. The air inlet structure of the Block-10 aircraft was modified, due to the fact that the original inlet of the Block-10 aircraft did not allow for the implementation of hard points to carry equipment such as the Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) pod. Along with adding hardpoints, the stores station 5 matrix will be modified.

Modification of the inlet structure was necessary for the 9 Dutch and 24 Norwegian Block-10 aircraft selected to receive the MLU modifications.

Cockpit Displays And Indicators

Wide-Angle Conventional Head-Up Display

The new Wide-Angle Conventional refractive optics Head-Up Display (WAC HUD) manufactured by GEC-Marconi Hazeltine offers increased readability and pilot comfort. It has a wider field of view (14x21 deg instantaneous, 25 deg circular) than the original F-16A/B Head Up Display's Pilot Display Unit for various radar modes and weapons delivery, and support for night operations. It features raster video and stroke-written video.

The WAC HUD consists of a Pilot Display Unit, Rate Sensor Unit, and remote control panel. It replaces the former Pilot Display Unit (the HUD) and the Fire Control & Navigation Panel keypad.

The HUD Remote Control Panel provide typically controls the type of information shown (vertical velocity, velocity, altitude, attitude, heading, etc). With the previous HUD PDU this panel was physically a part of the PDU itself.

Multi-Function Display

The Multi-Function Display (MFD) set, manufactured by Honeywell, includes two 10cm x 10cm (4in x 4in) color active-matrix liquid-crystal Multi-Function Displays, which replace the current single monochrome Radar Electro/Optical Indicator Unit (REO-IU) and the Stores Control Panel (SCP - i.e. the Stores Management System display). The color displays provide the main pilot-aircraft interface between all of the aircraft weapons and sensors. It increases the pilot's Situational Awareness drastically and will therefore contribute to increased flight safety.

The AMLCDs are predicted (1995/96) to be more reliable than the monochrome cathode ray tube (CRT) displays currently in use. They weigh less, use less power, and are easier to see in bright daylight than CRTs.

Using color to differentiate types of information displayed on the screen also makes it easier to make decisions quickly about the aircraft's environment. For instance, color enables the pilot to more easily distinguish between friendly or unfriendly aircraft in a dense tactical situation.

The first F-16s that were equipped with the color MFDs were the EPAF F-16s and the new F-16s for Taiwan. The color displays were also included by the USAF in its Fighter Configuration Plan (FICOP) to upgrade in-service F-16C/Ds, since the USAF at a certain point identified a requirement for a large, centrally mounted color LCD tactical situation display. The displays were evaluated in an F-16 FICOP cockpit simulator at Lockheed Martin (August 1995). In September 1997, more than 300 displays were already delivered by Honeywell.

[In June 1997, Honeywell acquired AlliedSignal]

Enhanced Upgraded Programmable Display Generator

An Enhanced Upgraded Programmable Display Generator (EUPDG), manufactured by Honeywell and Nea Lindberg in Denmark, supports the two color MFD's in the forward and aft crew stations, allowing the pilot to program up to twelve display programs. One of them includes a color Horizontal Situation Display that — according to a Royal Netherlands Air Force spokesman — was described as "God's eye view of the tactical situation".

The generator overlays fixed and moving alpha-numeric characters and symbols on the selected video signal. Dual video recorder outputs are provided to allow the pilot to record the display scenes presented.

Audio / Video Recorder

Also introduced with the MLU was the Cockpit Television System (CTVS) manufactured by Telemetrics. The previous black/white Airborne Video Tape Recorder (AVTR) was replaced by a 3 deck TEAC color audio visual tape recorder. Both the images from the Head-Up Display as well as the images from the Multi-Function Displays can be selected for recording, which is great for debriefing.

Helmet-Mounted Display

Originally there were plans in both The Netherlands as well as Norway, to procure a Helmet-Mounted Display, but these plans were postponed. According to the Royal Netherlands Air Force this display still has high priority. EPAF and USAF are to pursue (1997) a five-nation HMD program, related to the introduction of the ASRAAM, the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile, somewhere in the next century. Software and hardware modifications are already being studied by a cockpit review team and both space and wiring is already being accounted for in the current MLU.

At Eglin Air Force Base, Honeywell and GEC-Marconi Hazeltine experiment with a Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (HMCS), combined with Raytheon's Box-Office agile missile. Honeywell and GEC-Marconi will start with the development and promotion of a Look-And-Shoot Helmet-Mounted Cueing System for the F-16. In 1996, flight tests took place in one of Lockheed Martin's F-16B duals. A HMD/RF control panel was added on the left console.

All instrumentation is night-vision goggle compatible, which includes elimination of sources of red light. The Master Caution Light filter was changed from orange to yellow, and the HUD control panel provides blue/green backlighting and NVG auto-cutoff transmitter.

Tests with a Helmet Mounted Cueing System were conducted on the RNLAF Lead-The-fleet aircraft J-650 between August 1997 and January 1998. The system was built in at the RNLAF's DMVS depot at Woensdrecht AB and was later removed. An HMD interface unit is built in with MLU.

Up-Front Controls: Integrated Control Panel

The Up-Front Controls (UFC) act as the main point for data entry, data display, and control of communication, navigation, and identification equipment. It provides data entry, display, and control for mission planning and fire control functions such as steer point location, time over steer point, system time, altitude low, bingo fuel, ballistics data, visual initial point data, and visual reference point data.

The integrated keyboard panel (IKP) is physically attached to the Head-Up Display/Pilot Display Unit. The IKP is physically positioned as close as possible to the new Data Entry Display — on the right hand side under the glare shield.

Normal operation of the UHF radio is via the UFC and the UHF control panel (and the audio panels). These panels are fully functional and are used to operate the UHF radio in event of a UFC failure. However, the VHF control panel has been removed. Operation is via the UFC only.

Up-Front Controls: Data Entry Display

The Data Entry Display (DED) is a head-up display, located on the right hand side under the glare shield. This is the primary display of data for the Up-Front Controls. This display is also present in the rear cockpit of the F-16B.

Data Entry / Cockpit Interface Set

Together with the Integrated Control Panel and the Data Entry Display, the Mux Loadable Data Entry Electronics Unit (MLDEEU) forms the Data Entry/Cockpit Interface Set. It controls the data flow for communication, navigation and identification systems. It interfaces between the radios and dedicated control panels and ICP keyboard, and controls mux bus data flow to avionics sub-systems. It features non volatile RAM for OFP storage.

F-16A/MLU cockpit
[Photo: Based on Lockheed Martin graphic]
Cockpit layout of a post-MLU F-16A with full color displays
Instruments & Control Panels

Several control panels and units have been added or changed in the crew station. The Vertical Velocity Indicator has been replaced by a moving-pointer type indicator.

Among the control panels or instruments that have changed are the following: Interior Lighting panel, Fuel Flow Indicator, Nuclear Consent panel, Fuel Quantity Select panel, IFF control panel, Miscellaneous panel (AVTR select switch), HMD/RF panel.

Among the control panels or instruments that have been introduced: Avionics Power panel (all power switches combined on a single panel), Sensor Power panel, Video Select (F-16B, aft), Hydraulics Press panel (F-16B, aft), EWMS control panels, HUD remote control panel.

The Voice Message Unit is updated with new wiring for additional voice message lines.

Interior Lighting

The interior lighting has been enhanced for Night Vision operation. A blackout function is controlled via a paddle switch on the throttle grip. Alpha numeric lighting is controlled via the lighting control panel and controls intensity for the Data Entry Display (right hand side of HUD/PDU).

An individual Display Dimmer Control (IDDC) has been introduced so that for each instrument control panel the brightness level can be set.

An additional utility light has been added.

Side Stick Controller And Throttle Grip

The side stick controller (manufactured by Lear Astronics Corporation) and throttle grip are Block-50 unit models and will replace the current Block-10/-15 stick grips. Both throttle and stick will be equipped with various controls, for an increased variety of functions, including VHF and UHF communications, IFF interrogation, Improved Data Modem operation, secondary flight controls (speed brakes), HOBO paddle switch, Night Vision cockpit blackout selection and bore sighting as well as slaving of missiles (now only selectable via the cues of the Stores Control Panel — requiring hands-off-throttle, head-down operation.

Other new stick grip functions include functions to control symbology on the Multi-Function Displays, acquiring targets, change radar mode and more.

Improved Data Modem

[Image: Symetrics]

The Improved Data Modem (IDM) is a datalink communications computer developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory and built by Symetrics Inc. The IDM interfaces with (existing) onboard radios and is used to exchange data of various systems and targets with other aircraft equipped with the IDM (e.g. F-16, A-10, AH-64 or E-8 JSTARS) or with a ground station at rates of 8,000 - 16,000 bps. It uses mux bus, UHF/VHF voice and secure voice. Provisions have been made for the Link 16 Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS). First flight on MLU aircraft took place in April 1995.

Data exchange between the F-16 and the AH-64 is being hindered by the fact that both types use different software protocols.

Digital Terrain System

The Digital Terrain System — manufactured by Orbital-Fairchild Defense with software written by British Aerospace Systems & Equipment — and the associated Mega Digital Terrain Cartridge with Processor (MDTC/P) manufactured by Fairchild consists of a digitized terrain and obstruction database.

In 1992, the system was ordered for integration with USAF Reserve F-16s. In 1994, a contract was signed with the USAF and the EPAF air forces and Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems to include the system in the Mid-Life Update.

The system is a software based product, a suite of algorithms. The system is based on the principle of Terrain Profile Matching (TERPROM), using a Kalman filter-based model of the navigation system to examine the database and predict the next radalt reading. It uses stored digital terrain elevation data, together with inputs from the aircraft's inertial navigation system to predict aircraft height above the ground. This prediction, measured against true radar altimeter height enables the Kalman filter to provide a precise, drift-free terrain referenced navigation (TRN) capability.

The system is as accurate as the accuracy of the digitized terrain and obstruction database, so this requires extremely accurate maps of the areas of interest. The US National Imagery and Mapping Agency will produce a near-global Digital Terrain Elevation Data set, using data of an 11-day radar topography mission of NASA's Space Shuttle planned for the year 2000.

It will aid in terrain referenced navigation, database terrain following, obstacle warning and cueing (OWC), and passive CCIP. Navigational accuracy is said to be less than 30 m Circular Error Probability horizontally (typically 40 m) and 4 m RMS vertically below 5,000 ft. It also offers the enhanced manual Predictive Ground Collision Avoidance System (PGCAS) -- effective at all altitudes — which will reduce the possibility of Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT). It also offers precise fire control ranging without actually transmitting.

The 40 Megabyte Mega Data Transfer Cartridge with Processor (MDTC/P) requires no modification to the existing cockpit Data Transfer Unit (DTU) and is compatible with existing ground equipment and mission planning systems. The TERPROM algorithms can be run while performing original DTC functions of mission data loading and in-flight data recording. The embedded processor accesses the terrain database directly without the need of bulk transfers over the 1553 mux bus.

DTS does not offer the capability of automatic terrain following. After the Mid-Life Update the (former Block-10/-15) F-16A/B will still have an analog Flight Control Computer (FLCC), unlike the F-16C/D from Block-40B and on, which has a Digital Flight Control Computer (DFLCC). Hence, the DTS equipment cannot be linked directly to the Flight Control System. In Database Terrain Following mode, the pilot will follow DTS advice manually by flying the Flight Path Marker to a correlated steer point in the Head Up Display.

The USAF has plans to upgrade its F-16s with DTS. The system has also been selected for the UK's Jaguars GR.1B and has also been tested for the Mirage 2000. A derivative will be used for the RAF's Harrier GR.7 and T.10.

Electronic Warfare System

The Danish electronic warfare system is developed by Per Udsen. It consists of a Northrop Grumman ALQ-162 jammer and a Tracor ALE-50 dispenser installed in the weapons pylon and a Terma Elektronik Electronic Warfare Management System. The latter consists of an Electronic Warfare Control Unit and indicator panel for coordinated operation of most if not all on-board EW functions, such as Radar Warning Receiver, Pylon Integrated Dispenser System (PIDS) for flares with enhanced sequence programs, ECM and Missile Warning System. The control panel has a menu driven set up for modes and programs.

EW cockpit controls EW cockpit controls
[Photo: Based on Terma pictures]
EW Cockpit controls

The EWMS and the Per Udsen PIDS have been offered for USAF Reserve and Air National Guard F-16A/Bs.

[Note: Tracor was acquired by GEC. Later, Marconi Electronic Systems and British Aerospace merged to become BAE Systems.]

Navigation / Targeting Pod Interface

MLU clears the way for the introduction of forward looking infrared systems (FLIR) for navigation by night, as well as laser target designator systems. In Air-Ground mode navigation fixes and marks can be established, tracking of stationary and moving targets, and designating ground targets by laser. Air-Air mode is available to track airborne targets outside radar gimbal limits up until 160 degrees to the rear. The targeting pod is slaved to the radar for off-boresight ACM acquisition. Air-Air mode also allows for target identification.

The designator pods will most probably be operated in the "buddy-lasing" concept, where up to 3 F-16s armed with laser-guided bombs will be led by a single designator equipped F-16. Although the designator pods are originally meant for use on single-seat F-16s, two-seaters will be used when requirements emerges.

On September 25, 1997 the RNLAF signed a contract for 10 Lockheed Martin Enhanced LANTIRN targeting pods and 60 GEC-Marconi Hazeltine Atlantic FLIR pods. The Atlantic FLIR pods could enter service in 1999. The Enhanced LANTIRN pods could enter service in 2001.

The LANTIRN targeting pod — as distinct from the Lockheed Martin Sharpshooter targeting pod — is equipped with a Missile Boresight Correlator (MBC), which compares the images of the targeting pod and AGM-65 Maverick missile and hands over the target to the AGM-65 missile if both match. The Enhanced LANTIRN tagering pod is also equipped with a TV sensor.

Automatic Targeting Hand-Off System

The Rockwell-Collins Automatic Targeting Hand-off System (ATHS) provides two-way datalink communication with a ground station, intended mainly for Close Air Support (CAS) missions with a Forward Air Controller (FAC). With this system, the F-16 is capable of transmitting an On Station message to a ground station (with transmission time kept to a minimum), which contains number of aircraft in group, ordnance, time to play and abort codes. Transmissions are performed at 75-1200 bps audio FSK and 16 kbps digital data. It is also possible to receive FAC messages with IP/TGT data, laser codes, and location of own troops. Information is received and stored in the Modular Mission Computer and can be displayed on the Head Up Display unit — all with full HOTAS control.

In a formation, the flight leader assigns and hands-off targets to the flight members, where any member can function as lead. Target data has to be updated manually to avoid unnecessary transmissions.

Benefits include receiving of ground target information, four-ship intraflight target hand-off, and increased situational awareness.

Maverick Missile Launch Envelope Implementation

Maverick Missile Launch Envelope (MLE) presentation is available on the Head Up Display as well as the Weapon page of the Multi-Function Display. Indication is like Air-Air mode with Dynamic Launch Zone information. For AMRAAM missiles, Loft launching is supported.

Other MLU Features

MAGR, a passive, jam-resistant Miniaturized Airborne GPS Receiver built by Rockwell Collins Avionics & Communications Division, operating via an E-Systems antenna.

Provisions for recce pods.

Provisions for the Microwave Landing System.

Simplified OFP loading via single point Operational Flight Program loading — a single point for loading all software for all avionics subsystems as opposed to removing, loading and re-installing all appropriate avionics Line Replaceable Units separately.

Added mux bus capabilities.

Added DC Converter.

Forward AC Power Panel.

Nacelle AC/DC Power Panel

Right Strake Power Panels for AC and DC.

Overcurrent protection Panel #2 (as a replacement for the Block-10 ECM Power Panel).

Landing and Taxi Light (relocated to the nose gear door). Two square halogen units replaced the single disk-shaped light. The system has replaceable light bulbs (in contrast with the old system in which the entire sealed unit had to be replaced).

MLU-Related Modifications

Fatigue Analysis & Combat Evaluation System

After completion of the Mid-Life Update, several precautions will be taken to avoid unnecessary loads of the wing root. Underwing pylon tanks will be used less frequently and if used — as is often the case during missions flown from Goose Bay — reduced g-limits will apply until the tanks are empty. Fuel from the underwing mounted external tanks will be used prior to the center line tank or internal tanks. The aircraft's Flight Control System will not be limited, however.

[Image: RADA]
The FACE system

The Rada (Israel) manufactured Fatigue Analysis & Combat Evaluation (FACE) system is designed to monitor airframe loads. It continuously measures in-flight airframe fatigue and is also used as a debriefing aid for air combat maneuvering training missions flown on the North Sea situated ACMI range. The system was designated ACE (Autonomous Combat maneuvers Evaluation System), but has been extended with fatigue analysis for the RNLAF.

The fatigue analysis system consists of a Flight Monitoring Unit (FMU), serving as a solid state interface for aircraft data. Recording of data is performed by the Data Recording Equipment (DRE) with up to 32 MB storage capacity. The training and mission analysis system offers on-board autonomous Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI). It uses a GPS based positioning system, eliminating the use of a ground tracking range.

Each squadron will be equipped with its own Operational Debriefing Station (ODS) for 3-dimensional graphical presentation of mission data (including multi-ship missions). Mission analysis includes missile simulation and kill assessment.

The contract for 138 systems (US$ 14 million) was signed in Israel on September 5, 1995. Delivery of the kits was completed by the end of 1997.

Recce Pod

The current Delft Orpheus pods — in use with the RNLAF since the F-104G Starfighter — will be replaced by a different system. In 1994, a new modular reconnaissance pod of the Danish manufacturer Per Udsen design was under construction by SABCA, Belgium. Mounted on the centerline station, the 544 kg pod accepts EO and wet-film systems from a variety of manufacturers.


The RNLAF's Northrop-Grumman ALQ-131 pods have been upgraded from Block-1 to Block-2 standard (with wider frequency range) in a separate modification program. Estimated cost for this modification is DFL 88 million and covers 102 ALQ-131 pods.

Also new signal processors were purchased, allowing the ALQ-131 to discern different airborne and ground based radar systems. During actions in former Yugoslavia, ALQ-131s without signal processors unintentionally jammed own ATC and artillery-tracking radar systems. These signal processors are in use with the USAF; Belgium intends to purchase the processors as well. All 102 ALQ-131 systems are equipped with these signal processors. Estimated cost for this modification is DFL 38 million.

Missile Approach Warning System

A Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) will be acquired in a later stadium.

The RNLAF indicated systems will be aquired for the 108 aircraft to be offered to NATO. Costs are estimated to be HFL 52 million.


The existing Litton AN/ALR-69 threat warning system has been modified by the RNLAF Electronic Matériel Depot. With the new Class IV capability upgrade it is possible to detect agile radar systems using higher Pulse Repetition Frequencies (PRFs).

Modifications were performed on the Receiver Controller and Programmable Signal Processor. These included incorporation of EEPROMs (electronically erasable), faster microprocessors, expanded memory, and increased reliability and maintainability.

Digital Imagery

The capability to transmit reconnaissance imagery directly into the cockpit is under construction.