Lockheed Martin is advancing with work on the first F-16V to be built on its new final assembly line in Greenville, South Carolina, and is confident of securing further fresh business for the world’s most widely-used fighter.

“We have orders for 128 brand-new F-16s,” says Lockheed Martin Aeronautics executive vice-president Greg Ulmer.

F-16V Bahrain

Source: Lockheed Martin

Bahrain’s first new-build F-16V will be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2022

Its buyers for these aircraft are Bahrain (16), Bulgaria (8), Slovakia (14) and Taiwan (66), plus what he describes only as “a fifth FMS [Foreign Military Sales] customer”. Cirium fleets data shows this to be Morocco, which has 24 examples on order.

Bahrain will be the first to receive a Greenville-built F-16V, with its lead aircraft due to be transferred in the fourth quarter of 2022.

“We see a market of potentially 300 or more new F-16s,” Ulmer says, with this total including the on-order examples. “From a fourth-gen perspective, I think it’s the best value – especially when you think about the Block 70/72. It will have an AESA [active electronically scanned array] radar and an updated EW [electronic warfare] system.

“We will take lessons learned from the F-22 and F-35 from the way we fuse and present data. It’s going to be a mean machine.”

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.

Ulmer describes the F-21 variant being promoted to the Indian air force as a “close cousin” of the F-16V. The service has a pending requirement to acquire 110 new fighters, with expected candidates also including the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15EX, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, RAC MiG-35, Saab Gripen E and Sukhoi Su-35.

Lockheed Martin F-21 for India

Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed is offering its F-21 model to meet 110-aircraft Indian air force need

“We meet all of the requirements as we understand them today,” he told FlightGlobal at the Dubai air show on 15 November. “We are waiting for formal requirements to come out – we’re keen to get them and understand them, and see if we need to do any check and adjust. But we believe we are very well positioned.”

Meanwhile, several existing F-16 operators are advancing major upgrades to their inventories, taking them to the V-model configuration. Work is ongoing for South Korea and Taiwan, with the latter approaching the half-way point in a project to modify 141 examples.

Athens also will be modifying its in-service jets. “We flew in a Greek aircraft to Fort Worth, got it modified and it’s now at Edwards [AFB, in California], conducting flight-test for that configuration,” he says.

Ulmer says the company is also “in the thick of” performing an obsolescence and sustainment update to the United Arab Emirates’ 78-strong F-16E/F fleet.

Cirium data prepared for FlightGlobal’s World Air Forces directory 2022 shows that there are 2,248 F-16s in combat use with 28 nations, representing 15% of the global combat aircraft fleet. Another 646 are employed as dedicated trainers.

Our new directory will be available for download from 2 December.