BAE Calls F-16 Upgrade Push ‘Logical Step’

BAE Calls F-16 Upgrade Push ‘Logical Step’

PARIS — BAE Systems Plc’s push to challenge Lockheed Martin Corp. in upgrading foreign fleets of F-16 fighter jets is a logical move, given the contractor’s experience with the work, BAE officials said.

The U.S. subsidiary of the London-based company has refurbished more than 1,000 aircraft in the past couple of decades. That includes about 270 F-16s for the Air National Guard and more than 200 C-130 cargo planes. Both aircraft are made by Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed, the world’s largest defense contractor.

“We’ve demonstrated this performance,” Erin Moseley, president of BAE System Inc.‘s support solutions unit, said during a news conference Tuesday at the Paris Air Show. “Moving into the F-16 upgrade space is a very logical step.”


As defense spending declines in the U.S. and overseas, countries are considering upgrading their fourth-generation F-16s rather than buying more expensive fifth-generation aircraft such as the F-22 and F-35. BAE and Chicago-based Boeing Co. are seeking to challenge Lockheed for the work.

“Defense budgets around the world are shrinking,” John Bean, vice president of global fighter programs at the company, said at the event. “Many customers are looking for an affordable alternative.”

More than 4,500 F-16s, known in the U.S. as the Fighting Falcon, have been built since production began in the mid-1970s. General Dynamics Corp. initially manufactured the planes before selling its aircraft unit to Lockheed in the 1990s. About half of those jets were purchased by the U.S. military. The rest were bought by more than two dozen countries.

Of the more than 3,000 F-16s still in service around the world, more than 1,000 are at least 15 years old, making them prime candidates for upgrades such as new avionics, sensors and weapons systems, Bean said.

“It’s going to be very common, in my belief, to see fighter aircraft now that are going to be 40 to 45 years old before they’re retired,” he said, acknowledging that the prospect is “unheard of” compared to previous years.

BAE, which has already upgraded 50 of Turkey’s F-16s, last year won a deal to refurbish 134 of South Korea’s jets. The agreement is expected to be finalized later this year, Bean said.

The company is also in discussions with other countries for the fighter upgrades, including Singapore, which is probably the nearest-term opportunity, Indonesia, Thailand, Greece, Oman and Chile, Bean said.

The potential business isn’t limited to F-16s. BAE has also refurbished F-15 and F/A-18 fighters, as well as MH-60 helicopters and other rotorcraft, according to Gordon Eldridge, a vice president and general manager at the company.

“We’re taking that experience we’ve had in the U.S. and extending that into the international market,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to go back to your OEM to do an upgrade,” he said, referring to the original equipment manufacturer.

Lockheed has already upgraded more than 1,000 F-16s. A couple months after it lost the South Korea decision, the company landed a $1.85 billion contract from the U.S. Air Force as part of a so-called foreign military sale to upgrade more than 140 of Taiwan’s F-16s with new radar, global positioning and electronic warfare systems.

In the U.S., Lockheed is the main contractor on a $2.8 billion Air Force program to upgrade about 350 of the single-engine fighters’ airframes and avionics systems. The multi-year effort slated for certain Block 40 and Block 50 versions is designed to keep the aircraft viable after 2025 in part because of delays to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons acquisition program.

The avionics enhancements include an active electronically scanned array radar, which boosts the plane’s ability to destroy enemy air defenses; a higher-resolution display unit; single-point access for electronic warfare control; and an integrated broadcast system for intelligence feeds.

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F-16 operators (to include USAF) have a quandary.

They can buy the F-35. Which still is not fully tested and combat ready, and in all honesty will not be fully tested and combat-ready until roughly 2020. Or they can buy upgrades to their existing F-16s that should be deliverable within a year or so.

When the F-35 is finally fully mature, it will have mediocre kinematics and mediocre stealth, and a short life span anywhere near a modern anti-access integrated air defense. At an amazingly high price tag.

Whereas an upgraded F-16 loaded down with bulky new electronics and draggy external weapons will have mediocre kinematics and no stealth, and an even shorter life span anywhere near a modern anti-access integrated air defense. But it’ll cost far less.

Decisions, decisions.

No matter what the outcome of the F-35 is, I think it is stupid to just get rid of the F-16 altogether. That aircraft is still and will still be great for many years especially if they upgrade it with the lastest tech. I would also add more rugged landing gear to give it the same short field take off capability as the SAAB Gripen and I would put an engine that has super cruise and 360 degree vectored trust. Give it a radar absorbant paint, and then you’d have one heck of an aircraft.
Yes we can afford this, just quit throwing away money in foreign aid, quit subsidizing Europe’s, Iraq’s, Korea’s, Japan’s, Afghanistan’s, etc. defense. Do away with the IRS, Dept. of Ed, Welfare, 0bamaphones, Politicians being paid for life and cut their pay in half. Another reason why things are so expensive these days is because our Dollar is almost worthless. Quit printing so much, strengthen the Dollar and you’ll see prices come down.

Right on. Continuing to sustain and upgrade the F-16 is a wise hedge until we have greater certainty that F-35 delivers on its promises.

Good comments, but couldn’t we manage the F-16s alleged “nonsurvivability against a modern anti-access integrated air defense” through a variety of less costly solutions than the F-35? See redneck’s survivability comments below. In addition there’s SEAD, standoff attack, decoys, UAVs, offensive cyber, etc.

well said!

We won’t get rid of the F-16 overnight, and Lockheed will continue to make the –16’s for the Middle Eastern customers who are still getting Block 60 units. The high unit costs of the F-35 may make F-35/F-16 combos possible, and for the USAF, we will likely field F-22/F-15E/F-35/F-16 into the near future.

Who is going to sustain these aircraft if the OEM doesn’t upgrade them. This is not an option and a pipe dream. BAE is trying to get into the F-16 upgrade world and they do not have the ability to sustain the airraft and if it is a non standard configuration Lockheed will not touch it. Will BAE stand up a new Falcon 2020 type contract for sustainment? Will the countries then need to join both sustainment contracts? Who is going to do the software? Don’t look to the USAF, we aren’t going to touch that either. Countries better think long and hard about who upgrades their aircraft before signing on the dotted line.

Dude, you nailed it on the head…keep it simple…play the hand we’re dealt and improve on it…

I have a programming and analysis background and I can say from sorry experience that having multiple corporate hands maintaining computer software can be problematic. There are almost no rules or professional standards that are enforced on computer contractors, it’s more a question of “can you do the job?”.

The troubles occur when the next set of hands need to modify the same code to add the next round of enhancements. It can make the job almost impossible, and certainly very expensive. Of course, why should the government care about that? They can just put it on the revolving charge card that is our national debt.

Dave

It makes sense that the countries which have F-16 upgrade them in preference to buy fifth generation aircrafts. In the meantime you can have a look at some great F-16 photos: http://​savas​-ucaklari1​.blogspot​.com/​2​0​1​0​/​0​7​/​f​-16–

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