Lockheed Martin’s last F-16 produced at its Fort Worth, Texas facility rolled out the door on 14 November, marking the end of a 40-year era for the single-engined fighter.
The last Texas-made F-16 will fly with the Iraqi air force, but over the last four decades the fourth-generation fighter has flown with 28 customers around the globe, from the US Air Force and NASA, to Israel, Venezuela and Poland.
“The Fighting Falcon Nest,” as it is affectionately referred to by Lockheed employees, is dwarfed by a F-35 production line that already stretches the length of several football fields.
The fifth-generation fighter line will eventually cannibalise the smaller F-16 facility, as Lockheed makes room for the F-35 production ramp up.
Lockheed will transition F-16 production to an existing facility in Greenville, South Carolina, where it’s also planning to assemble T-50 trainer jets pending the outcome of the US Air Force's T-X trainer recapitalisation contract.
The Lockheed/Korea Aerospace Industries T-50A is a close cousin to the F-16, sharing the same basic shape, flight controls and wing.
Initial activities supporting the move to South Carolina are already underway, a Lockheed spokesman says.
With several potential international sales brewing, including a $2.78 billion deal for 19 F-16Vs for Bahrain, Lockheed expects to extend F-16 production beyond 2022.