An F-16 Fighting Falcon receives upgrades at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Jan. 27, 2012. Upgrades to the F-16s include an Onboard Oxygen Generation Systems, Beyond Line of Sight Communications, and Embedded Global Positioning and Inertial Navigation Systems. These systems will improve the lethality of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins)
Mike Venson, Lockheed Martin avionics technician, checks systems on an F-16 Fighting Falcon after it received upgrades at Misawa Air Base, Japan Jan. 27, 2012. Misawa's F-16s are undergoing several upgrades that will improve their lethality. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins)
Lockheed Martin employees install upgrades to an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Jan. 27, 2012. Upgrades to the Misawa fleet started September 2011 and are scheduled to be finished by October 2012. These systems will improve the lethality of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins)
by Airman 1st Class Kia Atkins
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
2/7/2012 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Since September 2011, Misawa Air Base's F-16s have been going through a series of upgrades that improve the aircraft's technology, making them more efficient in a war-time environment.
Upgrades include Onboard Oxygen Generation Systems, Beyond Line of Sight Communications, and Embedded Global Positioning and Inertial Navigation Systems.
Installation of the OBOGS is part of a Time Compliance Technical Order modification that replaces the conventional oxygen system with equipment that will enable the aircraft to generate its own oxygen.
Prior to this upgrade, it took up to four maintainers to service the aircraft with the needed liquid oxygen. The new system is self-sufficient, allowing maintainers to focus on other duties and eliminating the need for liquid oxygen for the aircraft.
"During Temporary Duty assignments, there is a lot of equipment that's sent away to service oxygen," said Tony Montes, Lockheed Martin aircraft maintenance supervisor. "If an aircraft diverts somewhere, we don't have to worry about setting up and sending liquid oxygen to them."
The TCTO modification that will be upgrading the current communications system to the BLOS uses satellite communication technology to give F-16s the capability to communicate over large distances and in rugged terrain. Before this upgrade, ground troops could not communicate with pilots unless they were in the line of sight.
The BLOS upgrade allows F-16s to deploy to different areas of the world where satellite communications are necessary.
Modifications like the EGI will combine the F-16's current Global Positioning and Inertial Navigation Systems. The EGI requires less equipment making the aircraft lighter, while improving the navigation system.
"All the upgrades that we are getting expand the capabilities of our aircraft," said Master Sgt. Andrew Kauffman, 35th Maintenance Group wing avionics manager. "In my opinion, these upgrades increase our mission readiness by giving us top of the line systems. So the next time we deploy, we'll have the best avionics systems out there."
Upgrades to each of the F-16s take approximately 15 duty days to complete. The scheduled completion date for all upgraded F-16s is October 2012.
"As with any technologically advanced aircraft, it's only as good as the technology of the day," said Montes. "So as technology improves, you also have to improve the aircraft. Instead of building a new aircraft and spending that much money, you just make the one that you have better."
2/7/2012 11:47:32 PM ET Amazing reporting and AWESOME photos