Lockheed Martin intends to upgrade over 800 F-16s
January 26, 2022
An F-16V unit. Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin intends to upgrade over 800 F-16s

With 300 F-16s in the process of receiving the F-16V upgrade in Asia, Lockheed Martin is hoping to secure orders for another 500 in-service F-16s in the coming years.

The F-16V program aims to imbue serving F-16s – including the legacy F-16A/B – with AN/APG-83 active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radars as well as avionics upgrades, enabling them to better serve in an environment saturated with increasingly effective electronic warfare (EW) systems.

Currently, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore are in the process of upgrading their F-16s, which currently form Lockheed Martin’s existing order run of 300 aircraft. However, the company is hopeful that it could secure another 500 upgrade orders over the next seven years.

Comment and Analysis

In terms of extending the F-16’s utility, the United States Air Force (USAF) issued a request for information (RFI) in January for a service-life extension program (SLEP) for 300 F-16C/D Block-40/42 and Block-50/52s. The SLEP would extend the fighter’s service life from 8000 to 12,000 hours.

According to Defense News, Lockheed Martin sees Turkey, Egypt and Greece as potential customers of its F-16V upgrade. It is worth noting that Turkey has its own F-16V-like upgrade which will use an AESA radar and updated avionics and EW suite developed by the Turkish firm Aselsan.

If the F-16 SLEP is brought to the upgrade market, its combination with the F-16V upgrade (most notably the AN/APG-83 AESA radar) would make for an attractive package, especially for air forces seeking a good bridge ahead of their next-generation fighter programs, such as the Turkish TFX or South Korean KFX.

Pakistan is also in the process of having at least a portion of its F-16s upgraded, it will be interesting to see if the F-16V is on the cards (though unlikely considering the still sensitive nature of the package). In fact, with the F-16 SLEP and F-16V, Lockheed Martin may be sitting on another product entirely, one it could pitch against the JAS-39E/F Gripen with cost-sensitive customers.