Lockheed, BAE Vie for F-16 Upgrades Abroad

Lockheed, BAE Vie for F-16 Upgrades Abroad

FARNBOROUGH, England — Four decades after introducing the F-16, Lockheed Martin Corp. is facing increasing competition to upgrade the venerable fighter jet in countries around the world.

In 2012, BAE Systems Plc won a potentially $1.3 billion contract from the government of South Korea to upgrade 134 F-16s with new weapons and avionics systems, including digital cockpit displays and high-speed data connections.

Now, the London-based defense giant wants to challenge the Bethesda, Maryland-based contractor that manufactured the plane for the work in Asia, Europe and especially the Middle East — a slice of the global defense market estimated at $10 billion over the next decade.


John Bean, vice president and general manager of global fighter programs for BAE’s U.S. subsidiary, said the company expects to land over half of that business, in part by selling to Middle Eastern countries.

“We see a tremendous number of aircraft in that part of the world,” he said during a briefing with reporters this week at the Farnborough International Airshow outside London.

Since the 1970s, Lockheed built more than 4,500 F-16s. Today, there are some 3,000 of the single-engine fighters flying in foreign armed forces. Of those, roughly 1,000 are more than 15 years old — making them prime candidates for enhancements to avoid obsolescence. While the F-16 won’t ever compete in the skies with newer jets like the F-22 or F-35, upgrading fourth-generation aircraft is far cheaper than buying fifth-generation jets.

Bean credits BAE’s success in South Korea partly with having fewer buildings and an overall lighter infrastructural footprint, allowing it make a more competitive offer.

“We’re believe we’re very cost competitive, in part because the large [original equipment manufacturers] have to maintain a large factory to build all these new production aircraft,” he said. “We don’t have to have as much infrastructure.”

Bean said BAE has dedicated 160 employees to the effort and hopes to compete for similar work in Greece and Singapore over the next year, Turkey over the next two years, and Egypt, Morocco and other countries over the next several years.

Lockheed is hitting back, arguing that it has delivered 1,000 F-16 upgrades over the life of the program and stands ready for the work, according to Bill McHenry, the company’s head of business development for the effort. “Some companies are adding engineers and staffing up,” he said at the show. “We have them in place.”

Lockheed over the past couple of years merged engineers on the F-16 and F-22 programs to further heighten interoperability between the two aircraft, McKenry said.

The company took a hit earlier this year when the Air Force canceled planned F-16 improvements due to budget cuts. But it’s on schedule to perform similar work in Taiwan, the first country abroad to select the latest version of the single-engine fighter, McHenry said. Known as the F-16V, the configuration includes active electronically scanned array radar, compatibility with fifth-generation warplanes and enhanced data processing.

While he acknowledged the company is “a big target” because of the sheer number of F-16s deployed around the world, McHenry said, “We bring a low-risk, wholly integrated approach.”

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Just a note that the F-16 was a General Dynamics product until GD sold off their aviation division to Lockheed sometime in the ‘90s. It has certainly come a long way from an aircraft with nothing but a gun and two Sidewinders intended to dogfight the hordes of MiG-21s.

John Bean used to be the F-16 Program VP and came up through engineering so he might know a thing or two about the upgrade market for them. Lockheed just doesn’t get it with regard to sustainment (Mods) business, everyoine else in the industry has a seperate bidding entity i.e. ” Services Company and dislcoure” to avoid excessive overheads and flow downs as Mr. Bean intimates.

You are correct on very front. I was there when he was and now I see LM losing on almost every upgrade program they bid on. Too many smart guys like Bean got fed up with LM’s “this is what you need” attitude and are now stealing the gorilla’s bananas.

Technically a early F-16A pre AIM-120 could carry 2 Sparrows and 4 sidewinders.

Apart from Steal tech the F-16 is still superior to the vaunted JSF F-35. Its faster carries more ordnance and is more maneuverable. I can see a good investment in keeping Falcons current for another decade or two.

I to know this to be true. I was one of the people that lost there job do to this . it is good to see if going on in this time. the F-16 was the #1 in the world to fight in the sky. so get it back up there.

As much as I love the F-16, for practical purposes it isn’t faster with any significant ordinance, nor is it more maneuverable with said ordinance. An F-35 with external pylons will also be able to carry more.

I’m not so sure about being faster. I test jet engines, both the F110 and F135s. I used to test F100s, not any more. I can tell you that the F135 has quite a bit more thrust than the F110-100 or –129. I cannot speak for the –132 though. Granted, I will say that considering what happened with the recent F-135 fire which destroyed that F-35, if I were a pilot I would rather have an F110.

The F135 and the F119 from which it was derived are a quantum leap better than the older F110 and engines of that era.

You’re being too nice. Lockheed’s attitude toward their customers, foreign and domestic, is a very firm “f you!” At Boeing they obsequiously kiss the customers ass. Both approaches suck, but I continuously marvel at how Lockheed is able to stay in business with their approach. I guess Lockheed figures they own enough people at the top that they can tell everyone else to “go f themselves.” Funny thing is today’s guy at the bottom is often tomorrow’s guy at the top. Well, not so funny for Lockheed, I suppose.

Sorry but you are wrong, the F-16 is slower and less maneuverable with the same ordnance & fuel load. The only way they are compatible is with no external fuel tanks and no bombs, and just a few missiles.

Upgrades are often negotiated by the foreign operator/country and DOD FMS and the US State Department which are under White House control. It is DOD/USAF FMS that tells what the “this is what you need” to Lockheed Martin. Lockheed just bids on the proposed upgrade design decided by USAF FMS and allowed by the State Dept. System upgrades or new planes are often nixed by US State Dept, DOD or the White House.

But they are flying! The F-35’s are nothing more than tax sucking hanger queens and maintenance nightmares. Those P.O.S. couldn’t maneuver a P-51.

The F-16 is an very capable fighter the F-35 will out fight it in every flight envelope it really would be no match.

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