Lockheed Martin believes its backlog of orders for the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft could more than triple based on demand from Middle Eastern and Asian countries.
The company currently has a backlog of 30 F-16s, but anticipates orders for additional aircraft could increase its sales by at least another 60 examples, says Kenneth Possenriede, executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Lockheed Martin on the firm’s third quarter earnings call on 22 October.
“In our plan, we see countries like Morocco and other countries out in the Far East that in aggregate could grow our backlog by another 60 aircraft,” he says. “We see a great future for F-16.”
Lockheed Martin is currently building one F-16 per month at its Greenville, South Carolina facility, which this year started producing the fighter after production was moved from Fort Worth, Texas.
The company just recently started building Bahrain’s first F-16 Block 70 aircraft, which is scheduled to be delivered before the end of 2021. The Middle Eastern country ordered 16 examples for $1.12 billion in 2018.
The Greenville facility will also handle production of 14 examples of the F-16 Block 70 for Slovakia. The US government is also negotiating Bulgaria's planned acquisition of F-16 Block 70 aircraft. And, in March 2019 the US State Department approved the possible sale of 25 new production F-16 Block 72 aircraft and F-16V upgrades for Morocco.
Besides countries that have already disclosed interest in the F-16, Possenriede did not explain where the additional orders would come from. Should more orders be signed Lockheed Martin anticipates increasing its production pace from one aircraft per month to up to three per month. The Greenville facility has capacity to produce up to four aircraft per month, the company says.
Possenriede nodded to Taipei’s interest in the F-16 and the US State Department’s approval of the possible sale, but did not name Taiwan as a prospective buyer. The deal is contested by China which views selling arms or helping Taiwan as challenging its claim that the self-ruled democratic country should be controlled by Beijing.
“There’s discussion about another country in the Far East that could want as much as 66 [examples of the F-16], and we will see where that goes,” Possenriede says of Taiwan’s interest.
Moreover, Lockheed Martin sees a big opportunity to sell the F-21 variant of the F-16 to India.
“We are going to build that aircraft in India if we win that programme,” says Possenriede. “That programme would be worth $10 [billion] to $15 billion.”