Lockheed Martin anticipates that it will soon get the greenlight to commence a long-awaited upgrade programme for South Korea’s KF-16 fighter fleet.
The $2.7 billion Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, originally announced in July, will see Lockheed Martin upgrade South Korea’s 134 C- and D-model KF-16s with new avionics, weapons and Northrop Grumman’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). The package has been subject to discussions between Washington DC and Seoul.
“We support those discussions to the extent that the two governments need us to support it, and my assessment at this point is that those discussions are very mature, and Lockheed is looking forward to the conclustion of those discussions so that we can more forward with an agreement this year,” says Lockheed Martin executive Randy Howard, who leads the company’s international sales efforts for the F-16.
He hastens to add, however, that since Lockheed is “not in the middle” of these discussions, it cannot give a firm date. Howard spoke to Flightglobal at the Lockheed Martin chalet at the Seoul Interational Aerospace & Defense Exhibition 2015.
When the deal is signed off, Lockheed will upgrde two South Korean KF-16s – one single seat C model and one twin-seat D model – to its F-16V configuration. The two aircraft are already in storage in the US. The two fighters were originally flown to the US in support of a collapsed bid by BAE Systems to upgrade South Korea’s KF-16 fleet, which is now subject to litigation in the US.
Once the validity of the upgrade is proven with these two aircraft, the remaining 132 aircraft will be upgraded in South Korea.
“It's been a long process for Southt Korea and their F-16s need to be upgraded,” says Howard. “They have very real challenges here and the F-16V upgrade will significantly enhance its capability.”