BAE Systems says competition among suppliers is essential if Lockheed Martin F-16 operators hope to enjoy the best value when upgrading the aging type.

"BAE Systems is the predominate original equipment manufacturer for the avionics on the F-16," says Floyd McConnell, vice-president of Integrated Aviation Solutions for BAE Systems.

He adds that BAE has been involved in the F-16 for almost 40 years and produces about 40% of the type's mission components.

McConnell made the remarks to journalists in the BAE Systems pavilion at the Farnborough air show.

There are approximately 3,000 F-16s operating globally, and the upgrade market for the type is extremely lucrative. BAE and Lockheed Martin are major rivals in the avionics upgrade markets, while Raytheon and Northrop Grumman are intent on selling F-16 users their active electronically scanned array radars.

The competition between BAE and Lockheed is especially pointed in South Korea and Taiwan, which are both seriously considering major F-16 upgrade programmes. Seoul plans to upgrade the avionics and radar of 134 F-16s, while Taipei could upgrade 152 examples of the type.

McConnell says that while the F-16 itself is still a superb aircraft, its electronic systems are increasingly outclassed by evolving threats.

He declined to comment specifically on the upgrade plans of individual countries, but said the company has discussed potential avionics upgrades with virtually all F-16 operators.

"The F-16 is an excellent aircraft that is relevant for the current environment and, with upgrades, can be relevant for years to come," says McConnell. "Competition puts the customer in charge and drives lower cost and more innovation."

Source: Flight Daily News