First F-16 Block 70 Jet Makes Maiden Flight

F-16 Block 70
F-16 Block 70 first flight (Image credit: Lockheed Martin)

The new F-16 Block 70 is the world’s newest and most advanced production F-16.

On Jan. 24, 2023, at 09.17AM ET, the first F-16 Block 70 jet carried out its inaugural flight from the Lockheed Martin’s Greenville, South Carolina site. Piloted Lockheed Martin test pilots Dwayne “Pro” Opella and Monessa “Siren” Balzhiser, the aircraft remained airborne for about 50 minutes conducting various airworthiness checks, including engine, flight control and fuel system checks, as well as basic aircraft handling.

While the one from Greenville on Jan. 24 was the first flight of a brand new Block 70 jet (the first of 16 new Fighting Falcons to be delivered to Bahrain – for this reason it sports the Royal Bahraini Air Force color scheme), at least two fully upgraded F-16V Block 72 Viper fighter jets were delivered to the Hellenic Air Force beginning in September 2022. Those aircraft are the first of 83 being upgraded from the Block 52+ to the latest standard, with work being done locally by the Hellenic Aerospace Industries (HAI) at Tanagra, supported by Lockheed Martin.

F-16 Block 70 first flight. (Image credit: Lockheed Martin)

Overall, six countries have selected Block 70/72 aircraft. In addition to the current official backlog of 128 jets to-date to be built in Greenville, Jordan last year signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) for eight jets and last week signed an additional LOA for four more jets, according to LM. Lockheed Martin has received a contract to begin Jordan’s long-lead activities. Bulgaria has also signed an LOA for an additional eight jets for its fleet. Once these are finalized, the backlog will increase to 148.

The F-16 Block 70/72 are the most advanced production Vipers (as the F-16s are dubbed within the fighter pilot community) featuring the APG-83 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, a new Center Pedestal Display (CPD), the AN/APX-126 Advanced IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), Link 16 datalink, full NVIS (Night Vision Imaging System) and JHCMS II (Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System II) compatibility, a new Embedded GPS/INS (EGI), a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, a high-volume, high-speed data bus and the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS).

“Today’s successful flight is a testament of the hard work, dedication and commitment to our customers and their missions,” said OJ Sanchez, vice president, Integrated Fighter Group, which includes the F-16 program, in a LM statement. “This milestone demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s commitment to advancing this program and getting this much-needed aircraft and its advanced 21st Century Security capabilities to the warfighter.”

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.