The US government has awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth up to $1.85 billion to upgrade the avionics of 145 Taiwanese F-16A/B combat aircraft.

"This retrofit program will include the addition of an active electronically scanned array [AESA] radar, embedded global positioning, as well as upgrades to the electronic warfare and other avionics systems of Taiwan's F-16s," says Lockheed. The company, however, did not state the provider of the AESA radar. The contenders for the sensor upgrade are Northrop Grumman's Scalable Agile Beam Radar and the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar.

Lockheed's contract is part of a $3.8 billion deal signed in July 2012 between the US government and Taiwan regarding the latter's ageing F-16s, where the US Air Force would evaluate both the avionics and radar upgrade options that are available to Taipei. Under that agreement, the US government will provide AESA radars, structural upgrades, improved avionics and expanded electronic warfare suites. The avionics and AESA upgrades come under separate contracts.

At this year's Farnborough air show, Lockheed and Taiwan's state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation signed a memorandum of co-operation with regard to the F-16s. This prompted BAE Systems, which also upgrades F-16s, to question the fairness of the competition for Taiwan's F-16 upgrade.

In early August, South Korea's Defence Acquisition Procurement Agency announced that it had selected the US unit of BAE Systems to upgrade the avionics of 134 F-16C/Ds, but that it would not decide on an AESA radar supplier until 2013.

Source: Flight International