Hill Air Force Base's 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, which won the Air Force Gunsmoke competition last year, will receive 72 new F-16C jet fighters next year, says wing commander Col. Charles Heflebower.

Heflebower, who assumed command of the 388th last month, said the first jets are scheduled to arrive next spring. Each of the wing's three squadrons will receive some of the sophisticated aircraft.The jets initially received will be maintenance trainers, so ground crews can become versed in keeping the $19.5 million planes in top operating condition, he said.

Heflebower said the F-16C models have "a lot more capabilities" than the A model the 388th currently is equipped with.

F-16C capabilities include one of two new engines manufactured by Pratt and Whitney or General Electric; a new radar; more sophisticated weaponry, and avionics that will allow pilots to navigate better at low levels and see at night.

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He said that about two years after the wing is flying the new jets, a system called LANTIRN will be installed on the planes.

LANTIRN - which stands for "low altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night" - incorporates a pod that will take infrared projections of the topography in front of the plane and flash them on the pilot's heads-up display, Heflebower said.

The navigation pod enables the pilot to see in the dark and safely penetrate enemy targets in adverse weather, he said. It contains a terrain-following radar.

With nighttime flying capabilities on the new F-16s, the number of 388th sorties after dark will increase. Heflebower said that will mean roughly a 30 percent increase in nighttime sorties beginning in 1991-92. He said an environmental impact study is being conducted on how much noise the increased night flights will generate.

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