Lockheed to upgrade South Korea's F-16 fighter jets

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Lockheed to upgrade South Korea's F-16 fighter jets

by: Steve Kaskovich | .
Fort Worth Star-Telegram | .
published: November 22, 2016

FORT WORTH, Texas (Tribune News Service) - Lockheed Martin said it has received a $1.2 billion contract to upgrade 134 F-16 fighter jets for South Korea, and will perform the work at its aeronautics complex in west Fort Worth.

The deal, which was tentatively approved by the U.S. government in July 2015, involves work that was initially awarded to BAE Systems. But that contract was canceled by South Korea in November 2014 over concerns with rising costs.

Lockheed said the upgrades would include an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, a large-format, high-resolution center pedestal display and a high-volume and high-speed data bus.

“We truly appreciate the trust and confidence the Republic of Korea has placed in us with this contract,” said Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 program, in a statement. “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.”

Lockheed said upgrade deal is a foreign military sales contract issued by the U.S. Air Force.

BAE originally beat out Lockheed for the South Korean deal and set up shop at Fort Worth’s Alliance Airport to handle the work. In May of 2014, the first two F-16s from South Korea arrived at a hangar at Alliance for the work to begin.

But by the fall of that year, South Korea expressed displeasure with projected cost increases for the program, originally estimated at $1.3 billion. Reuters reported that the U.S. government had indicated the new cost would be $2.1 billion to $2.4 billion. After the contract was canceled, BAE shut down the Alliance operation and laid off about 190 workers.

Lockheed Martin has produced more than 4,500 Fighting Falcons in west Fort Worth, where its F-16 line in Fort Worth has been winding down as focus has shifted to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Lockheed has said it has enough orders in place to keep the F-16 line running through October 2017.

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