US-based Lockheed Martin Corp announced on Monday it has been awarded a US$1.85 billion contract by the US government to initiate the upgrade of Taiwan’s 145 Block 20 F-16A/B fighter jets.
The multi-year retrofit is part of a US$5.2 billion package notified to US Congress in September last year and will include Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, embedded global positioning and upgrades to the electronic warfare systems and avionics.
The defense firm, which will also be the prime integrator for the upgrade of 300 US Air Force (USAF) F-16s, said both programs would be based on the F-16V, for “Viper,” configuration. The new version, the result of input from the USAF and foreign clients, was unveiled at the Singapore Air Show.
“Lockheed Martin looks forward to a continued partnership with the Republic of China in upgrading their F-16s,” Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager of the F-16/F-22 Integrated Fighter Group at Lockheed, was quoted as saying.
“Based on elements of the F-16V configuration, Taiwan’s air force will receive the most advanced F-16 upgrades. This program reinforces the strong value proposition associated with commonality between the USAF F-16 program and the worldwide F-16 user community,” he said in a press release.
George Standridge, vice president of business development at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said the technologies involved in the F-16V could help customers better interoperate with fifth-generation aircraft, such as the F-35 and F-22.
Lockheed spokeswoman Laura Siebert said about 200 people will work on the contract.
All the engineering work will be done in Fort Worth, Texas, and work on a number of aircraft will be conducted there initially, the Star Telegram reported. However, the bulk of the upgrade work will be done in Taiwan, where Aerospace Industrial Development Corp, which signed a memorandum of understanding with the US firm earlier this year, will install the upgrade kits delivered by Lockheed. Upgrades will be performed on 24 aircraft at a time, with installation starting in 2016 and delivery of the first upgraded jets by 2021.
Two firms, Raytheon Corp and Northrop Grumman Corp, are competing for the AESA contract.
Taiwan and the US signed a US$3.7 billion letter of acceptance for the upgrade package in July. Industry sources told the Taipei Times that Taipei remains committed to the US$5.2 billion program.
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