Fresh from the 50th anniversary of the F-16’s first flight, Lockheed Martin sees continued strong interest in the iconic fighter as production picks up at its factory in Greenville, South Carolina.

So far, six F-16 Block 70/72s have been delivered to customers from Greenville, and the backlog for the type stands at 132 aircraft, says Lockheed’s head of aeronautics Greg Ulmer, speaking with reporters at the Singapore air show.

Taiwan F-16

Source: Republic of China Air Force

Taiwan has completed an upgrade programme for its in-service F-16 fleet, as it awaits 66 new-build aircraft from Greenville

The company anticipates the delivery of 19-21 fighters from Greenville this year, and aspires to a production rate of four examples per month by the end of 2024.

Lockheed in 2017 delivered the last F-16 to be produced at its Fort Worth site in Texas, where assembly capacity is now dedicated to the fifth-generation F-35.

“There is still quite a lot of interest in the F-16,” says Ulmer. “There is obviously [Turkey], quite a bit of interest there. And when we look across the world, we see an opportunity probably north of 300 production aircraft.”

Turkey has long expressed an interest in obtaining 40 F-16Vs, a potential deal that was held up by Ankara’s political wrangling over Sweden’s entry into NATO following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. In Southeast Asia, Ulmer says that Thailand is also interested in new F-16Vs.

Lockheed continues to pitch a proposed variant of the F-16 designated F-21 for a long-running Indian requirement for new fighters.

In addition, the first of Taiwan’s 66 new F-16Vs is already “in flow” at Greenville, says Ulmer. 

Taiwan’s new fighters will eventually join 139 F-16s that were updated by Taiwan’s AIDC to the Block 72 standard in a programme that concluded in December 2023.

In addition to Taiwan, nations with F-16s on order are Bahrain, Bulgaria, Morocco and Slovakia.