For the first time in years: The Flight Test Squadron is qualified to perform LOC-I (Loss of Control In-Flight) tests on F-16 fighter jets. This qualification will allow the IAF to develop new advanced capabilities and will maximize flight safety in operational squadrons
After a decade in which these tests were not performed, now, the Flight Test Squadron can perform LOC-I tests on F-16 jets. The squadron performed a series of preparation exercises for the soon to be executed tests.
“Losing control of a fighter jet in operational activity is extremely high risk”, stated Lt. Col. Shlomi, Commander of the Flight Test Squadron. “LOC-I can happen to a pilot while trying to dodge SAM (Surface-Air Missiles) being launched at him, in the midst of a ‘Dog-Fight’ or any other action which entails sharp maneuvers. In LOC-I, the jet drops directly down like a rock falling through the air. In this situation, it cannot perform any action – attack nor defense”.
Photography: Mor Tzidon
Data provided by the Safety and Quality Control Department indicates that cases of LOC-I in the 80’s and 90’s occurred mostly during Air-Air combat, which was the main threat at the time. Conversely, the majority of these cases in the late 90’s and 00’s occurred during training sorties and instructions. Since 2010 a number of these incidents have occurred, the last in a “Baz” F-15 jet.
“The consequence of LOC-I in training is damaging the exercise, but if it would happen in real-time in enemy territory, it would be grave”, said Lt. Col. Shlomi. “The jet wouldn’t be able to protect itself from the threats around it and might get hit and it also wouldn’t be able to perform its mission”.
The Tests: A Response to an Operational Need
LOC-I tests open many new flight configurations for the IAF that are realized in the jet’s carrying abilities. In the past years, the need for new F-16 Air-Air flight configurations has risen in the IAF. “There is an operational need for a new configuration for the ‘Barak'( F-16C/D)”, shared Lt. Col. Shlomi. “The tests will allow us to examine this configuration and develop more in the future”.
“We examine a few things in LOC-I tests: does the configuration we want cause the aircraft to lose its natural sturdiness? is the aircraft inclined to regain control by itself? and how to regain control easily?”, described Lt. Col. Uri, the Flight Test Squadron’s Head Test Engineer.
The Flight Test Squadron’s “Barak” test jet underwent a number of modifications for the sake of the test, such as a spin recovery parachute installed on its back side in order to keep the pilot and flight engineer safe. “Besides instructing the squadron personnel, we also implemented a long process of re-qualifying the LOC-I equipment”, shared Lt. Col. Uri.
After many months of preparation, the first test which will examine a new configuration will be performed soon. “We are advancing slowly and surely”, explained the Squadron Commander. “We begin with something controllable supervised and then perform more complex flights. If we identify weak points we stop and examine them and if we arrive at the conclusion that the test cannot be continued – we stop. However, if we see that the test is progressing properly and that we succeed in controlling the aircraft, we continue advancing to the extent of our abilities and finally approve the configuration”.
Photography: Mor Tzidon