BAE awaits go-ahead for Korea F-16 upgrade
BAE Systems expects that the U.S. and Korean governments will sign a letter of offer and acceptance later this year authorizing the foreign military sale (FMS) of BAE’s F-16 avionics and weapons upgrade to the Republic of Korea Air Force. The company provided an update on the Korean program and a sales pitch for further F-16 upgrades during a Paris Air Show briefing on Tuesday.
BAE plans to conduct systems integration work and deliver production kits for 134 Korean F-16C/Ds. The Korean government selected BAE for the upgrade last summer over F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin. A separate procurement for an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar was decided in April, when the Korean air force selected Raytheon’s Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) over Northrop Grumman’s scalable agile beam radar. BAE executives said the U.S. Air Force combined the two procurements into a single requirement for the FMS.
BAE (Chalet A264, Static D132) has increased its engineering team with F-16 systems integration specialists in anticipation of the letter of authorization. “We are primed and ready to execute this,” said John Bean, BAE vice president of global fighter programs.
Gordon Eldridge, BAE vice president and general manager of Aerospace Solutions, said the company plans to integrate new systems on the first several Korean F-16s and demonstrate initial operational capability of the KF-16. BAE will then deliver production kits that will be installed in Korea using “some indigenous capability” to install the kits under U.S. government supervision. “There will not be a lot of customer participation” in the initial integration because of the sensitive technologies involved, Bean said.
There are more than 1,000 other F-16s flown by other nations in the age range that would be candidates for the avionics and weapons upgrade, Bean said. He mentioned Singapore as the nearest-term opportunity, as well as Greece, Turkey, Oman, Chile, Indonesia and Thailand. BAE is already providing incremental improvements for 50 Turkish F-16s. It has integrated advanced fire-control computers on 270 F-16s operated by the U.S. Air National Guard.
“Some of the upgrades we are doing to our own systems [on the F-16],” Eldridge said. “We have the talent, the expertise, the experience to address this [world] market.”