Lockheed Martin Lands Upgrade Contract for South Korea F-16s

 - November 29, 2016, 9:11 AM
The contract calls for the manufacturer to complete upgrades on 134 South Korean F-16s by 2025. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.2 billion foreign military sale (FMS) contract to upgrade 134 South Korean F-16C/D fighters to a “V” configuration. The contract calls for the manufacturer to complete upgrades by 2025 on a program that was originally awarded to BAE Systems.

Developed for Taiwan’s air force, the F-16V upgrade introduces Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire-control radar, a new Elbit Systems of America center pedestal display, an upgraded mission computer, an Ethernet data bus and other enhancements to the fourth-generation fighter. Those underlying upgrades would likely be incorporated on the new-production “F-16 Block 70” Lockheed Martin has proposed to India.

Lockheed Martin said it completed the first flight of an F-16V in October 2015. At the Singapore Airshow in February, the manufacturer said it expects to complete the flight test program for the upgrade early next year after about 80 sorties. A spokesman declined to provide further information on the program relating to Taiwan.

The Pentagon announced the contract award to Lockheed Martin for the Republic of Korea Air Force on November 18. This calls for work to be completed by Nov. 15, 2025.

Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration in 2012 chose BAE Systems to perform the upgrade, but the agency cancelled the arrangement in November 2014 after disputing a cost increase with the U.S. government. The fixed-price-incentive-fee contract awarded to Lockheed Martin approximates the cost the two governments originally agreed to for BAE’s upgrade, which would have featured the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar.

“We truly appreciate the trust and confidence the Republic of Korea has placed in us with this contract,” stated Susan Ouzts, Lockheed Martin F-16 program vice president. “These upgrades are a critical piece of South Korea's national defense and highlight Lockheed Martin's commitment to the full lifecycle of the F-16, from production to through-life sustainment.”

In addition to Taiwan and South Korea, Lockheed Martin’s unannounced third customer for the F-16V upgrade is thought to be Singapore. During the Indo Defence conference in Jakarta in early November, the manufacturer revealed that it is also offering the upgrade to Indonesia as a Northrop F-5 replacement. That version would come with come with the Auto GCAS (Auto Ground Collision Avoidance System) that is installed on some U.S. F-16s, the spokesman said.