The US Air Force (USAF) has officially announced the opening of a new F-16 production line at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Greenville, South Carolina, US.
The new production line will support the growing demand for new F-16 aircraft from partner nations. It will be used to build the F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jet for foreign military sales (FMS).
The foreign military partners are Bahrain, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Taiwan and several other nations.
On behalf of five foreign military partners, the USAF has recently awarded Lockheed Martin a nearly $14bn contract to manufacture 128 F-16s at the facility until 2026.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a fourth-generation multi-role fighter jet and F-16 Block 70/72 is the newest variant of the aircraft. It is equipped with new capabilities based on the advanced F-16V or Viper configuration.
Currently, more than 2,000 aircraft are in service with the USAF and 2,500 operational with 25 other countries.
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Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate Integrated Product Team lead colonel Brian Pearson said: “This new production line is very significant.
“The line helps us meet the global demand that a number of nations have for [F-16] aircraft and gives us the additional capability to provide the aircraft to countries interested in purchasing it for the first time.”
The production line is expected to roll off the first F-16s next year.
According to AFLCMC, production is expected to increase after the first year.
Furthermore, there are requests for ‘F-16s under review’ from additional overseas military partners.
In addition to fielding new F-16s, the Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate is also upgrading 405 F-16s operated by four partner nations.
USAF Fighters and Advanced Aircraft programme executive officer Dale White said: “Every F-16 we equip our foreign partners with improves their ability to defend their interests and support our mutual security interests.
“The calibre and talent of our foreign military sales program office teams is top-notch, and their impact is felt globally.”