SINGAPORE: Lockheed offers fixed-price F-16 upgrade

Singapore
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Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics chief has swatted down speculation that possible funding concerns related to US F-16 upgrades will compromise its international improvement offerings for the popular type.

Speaking at the Singapore air show on 11 February, president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Orlando Carvalho said that if the Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite (CAPES) effort becomes a casualty of the US government’s 2015 budget request, it will not hurt his company’s international F-16 upgrade offering.

Recent unsourced media reports suggesting that CAPES funding will be delayed prompted widespread speculation that this would drive up the cost of Lockheed’s F-16 modernisation proposals for international customers.

Carvalho reveals that Lockheed has reached a deal with Northrop Grumman to provide its Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) at a fixed rate for international customers.

A major element in CAPES and other F-16 upgrades is the addition of an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The radar that Lockheed selected for the US Air Force’s CAPES programme is Northrop’s SABR. The other option is the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar.

Regionally, BAE Systems and Raytheon won a competition to upgrade South Korea’s F-16s, while Lockheed and SABR were tapped to upgrade Taiwan’s, which was closely tied to the US decision.

Carvalho says that CAPES should be viewed as having two parts: development, which included the integration of an AESA radar and other capabilities; and a “call to production aspect” that involves procuring equipment and upgrading aircraft.

“Think of it as two parts,” he says. “The [US] air force is re-examining the execution of the production part. The development part continues, and there is no change in direction. That work, and the foundation that work provides for international customers, has not changed. The programme in Taiwan is pressing ahead.”

A preliminary design review for the upgrade has been completed, and the critical design review will be completed in “a few months”, he says. “If the USAF makes the decision to truncate the production part of CAPES, it does not affect anything we’re offering inter- nationally. Even if the quantity of radars changes, the price remains the same.”

As for the avionics upgrade, Carvalho notes that every country is “doing something unique, so [the status of CAPES] is really not an issue.”

Given the thousands of F-16s in service globally, the potential upgrade market is enormous.

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