A visitor takes a closer look inside the cockpit of a Lockheed F16D Fighting Falcon on display at the Singapore Airshow on Feb. 14. (Roslan Rahman / AFP via Getty Images)
SINGAPORE — Lockheed Martin is offering F-16 fighter customers a new variant dubbed the “Viper,” which is intended to better operate with fifth-generation fighters.
Although the F-16 is officially known as the “Fighting Falcon,” “Viper” is a common nickname used by F-16 pilots. Unveiled Feb. 15 at the 2012 Singapore Airshow, the new variant should not be confused with Lockheed’s F-16IN “Super Viper,” offered to India for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition and showcased at the 2009 Aero India Air Show.
The “Viper” program will offer customers options, including an active electronically scanning array (AESA) radar, upgraded mission computers and architecture, improvements to the cockpit, and conformal fuel tanks.
“We believe this F-16V will satisfy our customers’ emerging requirements and prepare them to better interoperate with the fifth-generation fighters, the F-35 and the F-22,” said George Standridge, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ vice president of business development.
Lockheed is calling the “Viper” the “next great leap in capability and commonality.” The F-16V roadmap includes the U.S. Air Force and international customers for AESA, fielded F-16A/Bs for midlife upgrades, new production F-16 Advanced Block 50/52s, and fielded F-16C/Ds for the U.S. Air Force’s Common Configuration Implementation Program. The “Viper” program does not include the F-16 Block 60.
“The new F-16V will become the new F-16 baseline,” Standridge said.
Lockheed’s Advanced Development Programs or “Skunk Works” is conducting research and development on a sixth-generation fighter, Standridge said. The next generation could be manned or unmanned, depending on the capabilities, he said. Technology advancements could include high Mach to hypersonic speed, multispectral stealth, self-healing structures and systems, and ubiquitous situational awareness.
“We always have Skunk Works looking into the future,” he said. “It should be a significant leap in capability.”