Lockheed Martin believes that its status as the original manufacturer of the world’s F-16 fleet gives it an edge in the competitive market to upgrade the venerable type.
In an interview with Flight Daily News in the Lockheed chalet, F-16 business development executive William McHenry said that his company has a unique insight into the design of the aircraft, which allows it to better assess the possible ramifcations of decisions involved in major upgrading.
“Lockheed has delivered over 1,000 F-16 upgrade kits,” he says. “F-16s are our heritage.”
McHenry says that the typical upgrade candidate has 3,000 hours on its airframe. All customer requirements are different, with some air forces wishing merely to keep their aircraft serviceable, while others wish to conduct a major upgrade to the F-16V configuration Lockheed unveiled at the Singapore air show in 2012.
The F-16V upgrade adds an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, new mission computer, a new electronic warfare suite, and other improvements to the venerable type.
One trend McHenry has observed is that many countries wish to add the Link-16 datalink to the aircraft. Link-16 allows for better sharing of information among a nation’s military assets, and also improves interoperability with US forces.
As for USAF F-16s, of which about 300 are likely to be upgraded, McHenry said there is no word when the programme will move forward owing to the prevailing tight budget environment. Other major F-16 avionics upgrades in the world include South Korea, where BAE Systems beat Lockheed in competition to upgrade 134 examples, and Taiwan, where Lockheed will upgrade 144 examples.