Fresh from its successful campaign win of an avionics upgrade programme for South Korea’s 134 Lockheed Martin F-16s, BAE Systems is eyeing similar opportunities globally.
The UK firm beat Lockheed Martin in a competition for the upgrade deal in late 2012, which was followed by Seoul’s announcement in March 2013 that it had selected Raytheon’s Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) for the radar component of the enhancement.
Speaking to Flightglobal on the sidelines of the Seoul show, BAE’s vice-president global fighter programs John Bean said that BAE expects Seoul to sign the letter of agreement for both the avionics and radar upgrades by the end of 2013.
This will set the stage for BAE, which will also install the RACR equipment, to upgrade two F-16s – one single-seat C-model aircraft and one two-seat D-model – to the new configuration. After extensive testing, BAE will then develop upgrade kits that will be shipped to South Korea. BAE is deciding between Samsung Techwin or Korea Aerospace Industries to perform the in-country upgrade work.
The upgrades of operational aircraft could begin in 2017, with four to six aircraft receiving the modifications each month.
Bean says that the budget challenges facing the world’s air forces make upgrading existing aircraft an attractive option, not least because countries lack the funds to replace existing types with advanced aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 on anything approaching a one-for-one basis.
Aside from the new RACR active electronically scanned array radar sets, Seoul’s F-16s will receive a range of major improvements, such as a new glass cockpit, mission computer, and a Raytheon-produced digital radar warning receiver.
Following its success in South Korea, BAE is looking at other opportunities to upgrade legacy F-16s in nations such as Singapore, Turkey and Egypt.
Bean says that the prime candidates for extensive avionics and radar upgrades are F-16s delivered in the 1990s. F-16s produced prior to this can also benefit from selected upgrades, although these airframes are closer to the end of their service lives.