Belgian Air Force Grounds F-16 Fleet
Following the engine manufacturer’s advice and the aircraft manufacturer, it was decided to immediately take corrective action and ground the other aircraft to carry out checks as quickly as possible.
In the context of an air incident, the Defence Aviation Safety Directorate is conducting an in-flight safety investigation. During take-off, the F-16 from Florence was confronted with a nozzle burn. It is a phenomenon in which a break in material causes the high temperature, several parts to melt, which can come loose. The engine of the affected aircraft was dismantled and sent to the Patria BEC maintenance company.
During the investigation, investigators noticed a problem with the hinge pin. A thorough check of the entire fleet shows that a significant number of engines exhibit similar phenomena.
In parallel with the investigation, all the partners of the participating European air forces and the manufacturers were informed. Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the US Air Force have indicated, based on this information, that corrective action should be taken immediately on the affected engines.
Repair time is estimated at five working days per engine. There is, however, a shortage of spare parts on the market.
The “Quick Reaction Alert” system over Belgian and Dutch airspace will remain operational after the inspection. The defence is taking the necessary steps to provide the F-16s in operation with the necessary replacement engines. Whether other countries are experiencing the same problem is currently under investigation.
Belgian Air Force is one of the earliest users of the F-16 fleet. Belgium ordered a total of 160 F-16s in two batches. Although the entire inventory consists of F-16A and F-16B models, all 54 remaining operational aircraft have been upgraded to Mid_Life Upgrade (MLU) standard. The upgraded version is called F-16AM. F-16 Mid-Life Update (MLU) package was designed to upgrade the cockpit and avionics to the equivalent of that on the F-16C/D Block 50/52; add the ability to employ radar-guided air-to-air missiles; and to generally enhance the operational performance and improve the reliability, supportability and maintainability of the aircraft. The aircraft has Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan, rated at 14,670 lbf (64.9 kN) and 23,830 lbf (106.0 kN) afterburner.