Lockheed Martin has completed the depot sustainment work on the US Air Force’s (USAF) first F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet.

The aircraft was successfully returned to the service from the company’s facility in Greenville, South Carolina, US.

In December 2020, the company received the $900m F-16 Sustainment Depot programme contract from USAF’s F-16 System Program Office within the Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate.

The first USAF F-16 aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base in California was inducted into the programme last year.  

Lockheed Martin F-16 Program vice-president Danya Trent said: “This was the first fighter sustainment work awarded to the site, and with F-16 production also well underway in Greenville, the site is now the global home of the F-16.”

The company aims to recruit more than 300 people for new roles by the end of this year to support the sustainment work and manufacture of the aircraft.

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In a statement, the company said: “These new roles represent Lockheed Martin’s long-standing commitment to meet our customers’ current and future needs, and to bring more jobs to the Greenville area.”

As part of its digital engineering efforts, the company makes use of advanced technologies and automation to achieve enhanced product quality while reducing costs and span time.

The F-16s are used by customers in 25 countries, and more than 3,000 units are currently operational.

The aircraft has so far logged in 19.5 million flight hours and flown 13 million sorties.