Building an F-16 MLU Print
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Sunday, 14 January 2007 14:01

F-16 Mid-Life Update

Denmark has about 70 F-16 A and B models and most of these are more than 20 years old. The airframe is still aerodynamically good but the technological part is not completely up to date.

In 1991 it was decided that
Denmark should participate in an update programme (along with the USAF, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway
). The programme was named Mid-Life Update (MLU). USAF backed out later in the programme due to major cutbacks in the F-16 fleet resulting in the withdrawal of most A and B models.

MLU was divided into two phases, the development phase (1991-95) and the production phase which has now been finished. The modifications were made locally, and all Danish F-16s are now up to MLU standard.

The improvements are as follows:
 - Cockpit.Updated to F-16C/D block 50/52 standard. New and relocated instruments as well as new Head-Up Display (HUD).
- Navigation. The aircraft were fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS).
- Radar. Increased effective range.
- Computer. Increased capacity and speed.
- Electronic warfare. The only non-American system (Danish).

Most of the improvements made to the aircraft are internal and therefore they do not have any relevance for modellers. Nonetheless you will have a different F-16 when finished!

The best F-16 models are:

1/32nd scale

- Tamiya F-16C (Thunderbirds kit with A model fin).
- Hasegawa F-16A.

1/48th scale

- Hasegawa F-16A with C model instrument panel or F-16C with A model tail fin.
- Hasegawa F-16B with D model instrument panels or F-16D with A model tail fin.
- Tamiya F-16 with A model tail (a forthcoming kit so details are unknown at the moment).

1/72nd scale

- Revell F-16A MLU.
- Revell F-16B (MLU).
- Revell F-16C Block 50/52.
- Hasegawa F-16A.
- Hasegawa F-16B.

As can be seen there are several different ways to make the MLU aircraft. The easiest way depends on how many F-16 models you have. I have used the Hasegawa 1/48th scale C model with a spare Hasegawa A model tail fin. The Hasegawa F-16A NATO models contain two types of A model tail fin. An alternative way could be to get hold of an aftermarket instrument panel for the C model. No matter what you have to make the rear instrument panel for the F-16D yourself as the Hasegawa F-16D rear panel is wrong for the MLU and F-16D block 52.

My first F-16A MLU is in the 1/48th scale. I do not have the Hasegawa 1/32nd scale model myself and cannot comment on it. However, I do have the 1/72nd scale models on the shelf…

This article has been written with the 1/48th scale model in mind.

The external changes are:

- 4 IFF antennas in front of the cockpit (called bird slicers).
- New instrument panel, camera arrangements near the HUD, and new HUD.
- New and rearranged landing/taxi lights.
- Modified wing pylons on stations 3 and 7 (the middle pylons under the wings).
- Replacing of antennas.

Building the model

1. The ejection seat is built as per instructions or replaced with an aftermarket item. The Hasegawa seat needs to have some handles and harness added. Some Danish seats have black lamb wool on either the seat pad or both seat and back pads.

Replace the instrument panel with a C type panel. The box immediately below the HUD needs to be deeper (extend to the edge of the glare shield). When that has been done add a triangular plate on either side of the area below the extended piece.

The throttle needs to be reshaped and buttons need to be added to both the throttle and the side stick. The cockpit sides should be improved by adding some correctly shaped sheet plastic. While in the area you might as well add the arm and wrist supports. Note that the improved cockpit is black with dark gull grey (FS 36231) floor and rear wall.

2. Before gluing the fuselage top and bottom together make and add the four IFF antennas in front of the cockpit. I believe these antennas are available in photo-etched metal from Eduard but I cannot really see how to obtain the correct shape with metal parts. Instead I made the antenna bases from very thin sheet plastic and glued in place. When dry, gently sand the edges of the bases. The antennas themselves are made of thick sheet plastic cut and sanded to the right shape and size. Add the antennas to their bases and make sure that the heights of the antennas are the same.

Drill out the hole for the EPU exhaust (located in the round panel on the starboard side of the air intake. If you are building a block 10 aircraft you also have to change location and size of several different panels around the airframe. Do not forget the hole for the ID light on the port side of the front fuselage (F-16A only). After assembling the fuselage the GPS antenna is added.

3. The after burner assembly is made as per instructions. Use the Pratt & Whitney engine (Hasegawa parts A1, D34, and
K2
).

4. Wings are assembled as per instructions. Drill out the hole for the fuel tank outlet (fig. 4). If you want to mount AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles you have to replace the AIM-9 Sidewinder launchers with the new LAU-128 universal launchers. The universal launchers are included in the kit but they need to be corrected or taken from the later F-16C block 50 kit. Note that the block 10 aircraft are not capable of carrying AMRAAMs on the wing tip launchers, nor on stations 2 and 8.

5. Wings, tail fin (A model), stabilisers, and after burner can now be glued to the fuselage as per instructions. Be careful with the wings as they tend to sag a little – the wings on an F-16 are straight! If you are going to build a block 10 aircraft you will have to reduce the chord and the span of the stabilisers – or simply buy a set of aftermarket block 10 stabilisers. Also, remove the tail fin flood light from the leading edge of the block 10 tail fin.

6. Glue the air intake together. An alternative could be the one-piece intake from e.g. Seamless Suckers. That way you can avoid trying to sand the difficult to reach bad fit areas inside the intake (a cheaper alternative would be to make an intake cover).

7. The intake is glued onto the fuselage. After drying, sand off the oval antenna on the intake. Remember to put a little nose weight inside the radome before gluing it to the fuselage. Do not add the smaller parts (D6, D11, and K1) until the model has been painted.

8. Complete the main landing gear bays. The kit lacks some detail in this area, so adding a little yourself will make it look convincing. See Lock-On for reference photos. Part D8 (antenna) is not to be used.

9. It is better to leave off the main landing gear until after painting. However, before that remove the landing/taxi lights mounts from the main landing gear.

10. Press the main wheel well doors into the holes (do not glue) to make them mask off the main wheel bays.

11. Like the main landing gear, leave off the nose gear and door until the paint job has been finished. The new landing/taxi lights can now be added to the front of the nose gear door. these landing/taxi lights can either be scratch-built or sourced from the F-16C block 50 kit.

12. The type of ladder supplied in the kit is not usually used by the Royal Danish Air Force.

13. Wing tanks are made as per instructions.

The centreline tank is too narrow and needs correction. This can be done by adding a piece of thick sheet plastic between the two tank parts, although no longer than the two farthest panel lines. When the middle of the tank is dry glue the front and rear ends together. When thoroughly dry add sheet plastic and putty to the holes. Remove the sway braces and add new ones to the centreline pylon. Sand the seams on the tank with wet-n-dry. Make a more aerodynamically correct cover for the rear of the tank mounting from scratch. An alternative would be to buy the corrected centreline tank from Jens Dreyer.

The Royal Danish Air Force has had their station 3 and 7 pylons modified. One is now for Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) while the other is for chaff/flares. The best starting point are parts B1 (station 7) and B2 (station 3). Use sheet plastic, rod, and putty to modify these.

14. Carefully remove the mould line from the canopy. A new and wider HUD is made from transparent sheet plastic etc. Move the gun camera from behind the HUD to a position in front of the HUD. Other parts are to be added as per instructions.

15. Finally, add the two new antennas to the front of the intake (between intake lip and nose gear bay). The blade antenna is mounted between the ventral fins on block 15 aircraft.

Notes

If you want to make a block 10 F-16 you have to change certain areas of the model. Some of these are mentioned above. You do not have worry about the AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles since the block 10 aircraft are not capable of carrying these on other stations than 3 and 7 – something that is practically never done.

If you prefer to make the F-16B MLU, the rear cockpit has to be modified to C/D block 50/52 standard. You can find a picture of this cockpit on page 56 in the F-16 Walk Around from Squadron & Signal (the F-16A MLU panel can be seen on page 52).

Stores

Some weapon combinations are more common than other:

- AIM-9L captive and AIM-9J dummy are usually carried (sometimes only one of them).
- Pylons for stations 3 and 7 are almost always carried. Other pylons and launchers are seldom carried if empty.
- F-16A’s use centreline tank, F-16B’s use wing tanks.
- When AIM-120 AMRAAMs are carried they are always loaded onto AMRAAM launchers!

Other interesting stores for your F-16 could be AGM-65G Maverick, Mk. 82 and 84 (as dumb, AIR, Snakeye, or 3rd generation LGB’s), CRV-7, practice bombs, LANTIRN etc.

Painting

Contrary to most people’s opinion the Danish F-16’s do not use the same patterns and colours as the American F-16’s. First of all, the dark grey upper fuselage colour is lighter than on the American and other NATO F-16’s. Second, most horizontal stabilisers are light grey (same as the undersides) on both sides. Furthermore, the colours on the vertical fin and the ventral fins vary from aircraft to aircraft. It all boils down to the fact that you have to have pictures of the F-16(s) you want to model.

The colours of the Danish F-16s are light grey FS26373, medium grey FS26270 and dark grey FS26132 (as opposed to FS26118 on
US aircraft). Generally the scheme follows the colour demarcations on the standard US
scheme. However, as mentioned above the horizontal stabilisers and ventral fins can vary in colour, both occasionally seen in light grey on both sides. Also, there were 3-4 F-16s in RDAF service in the now standard two-colour US F-16 scheme. The radome is dark gull grey FS26231 after some time in service.

National markings and individual aircraft codes and their colours can be seen in fig. 13. Crew chief names - if present - are 1” in height and either dark grey or black.
 Decals can be found on the Zotz Vivacious Vipers decals sheet. Decals for other Danish F-16s might be forthcoming.

References:

-Danny Coremans & Nico Deboeck uncover the Lockheed Martin F-16A/B/C/D from Daco Publications.
-F-16 Lock-On from Verlinden.
-F-16 Walk Around from Squadron & Signal.
-Cockpit no. 2, April 1994.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 04 May 2012 15:31