Lockheed Martin has launched a new F-16V Block 70 production line in Greenville, South Carolina, to begin manufacturing the aircraft later this year.

The company has shifted F-16 tooling and equipment previously in Fort Worth, Texas, to a newly-refurbished hangar in Greenville, which will be used to assemble the aircraft at the new site.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics executive vice-president Michele Evans said: “This is an exciting time as we celebrate another important milestone for the F-16 – the world’s most successful, combat-proven 4th generation fighter.

“The future is bright, and it begins right here in Greenville, South Carolina – the new home of F-16 production.”

The company is looking to meet the growing demand for new production of  F-16s and F-16V Block 70 upgrades.

In June last year, Bahrain became the first country to order the F-16 Block 70 while Slovakia reached a Letter of Agreement with Lockheed Martin for the procurement of 14 aircraft of the type in December 2018.

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“This is an exciting time as we celebrate another important milestone for the F-16 – the world’s most successful, combat-proven 4th generation fighter.”

Lockheed Martin is currently negotiating with Bulgaria and the US regarding the former’s planned acquisition of new F-16V Block 70 aircraft.

Last month, the US State Department cleared the potential sale of 25 new production F-16V Block 72 aircraft and F-16V upgrades to Morocco for around $3.78bn.

The new F-16 production line in Greenville is expected to generate more than 400 new jobs.

According to the company, production of the fighter jet also supports engineering, procurement, sustainment, customer support, and supplier jobs.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said: “South Carolina’s workforce is second to none, and the fact that Lockheed Martin continues to invest and put its faith in South Carolinians to build the newest F-16s in Greenville speaks volumes about our state and the company.

“Every person who calls South Carolina home should be proud that the F-16 is made right here in the Palmetto state.”

The F-16 supply chain currently includes over 400 US suppliers in 41 states.

Lockheed Martin has so far produced 4,588 F-16s. Around 3,000 operational F-16s are in service with the armed forces of 25 nations.