February 15, 2012 (by Asif Shamim) - Lockheed Martin unveiled a new version of the F-16, which will include an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, upgraded mission computer and improvements to the cockpit. The "V" designation is derived from Viper, the name fighter pilots have called the F-16 from its beginnings.
During a presentation at the Singapore
Airshow, George Standridge, vice-president of business development at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics noted that most legacy F-16s can be upgraded to the F-16V standard, which is roughly equivalent to the F-16 block 60
With nearly 4,500 F-16s delivered, this is a natural step in the evolution of the world’s most successful 4th generation fighter. The Fighting Falcon program has continually evolved as it began with the F-16 A/B
as the lightweight fighter then transitioned to F-16 C/D
and Block 60 versions
as customer's requirements changed.
radars offer significant operational capability improvements. Lockheed Martin has developed an innovative solution to affordable retrofit this key technology into existing F-16s. The F-16V configuration is an option for new production jets and elements of the upgrade are available to most earlier-model F-16s. The upgrade effort does not change the aircraft's external configuration.
At the Singapore Airshow, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are busy promoting their competing AESAs for the F-16V. Northrop Grumman is the current radar supplier for the F-16, having produced more than 6,000 radars for the aircraft in over 30 years. That number includes 80 earlier APG-80 AESA units for the UAE
Block 60 F-16E/Fs. It also built the F-22's AESA radar, and is supplying the APG-81 for the F-35. Raytheon is offering the RACR
(Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar), which builds on the experience gained with delivering hundreds of AESA radars into the Boeing Super Hornet program.
Korea has also just issued an RfP
for an AESA radar upgrade to its F-16s, and the U.S. government has offered the same to Taiwan
as a less politically sensitive response to its request for 66 new F-16s.
The F-16V is intended to satisfy customers' emerging needs and prepare them to better interoperability with fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22.
As for V upgrades, Standridge mentioned South Korea
's requirement to upgrade F-16s and the U.S. Air Force's interest in upgrading 300-350 F-16s.
An F-16 order from Iraq
is enough for Lockheed Martin to keep the lines open until the end of 2015, but it needs orders for 2016 and beyond to keep going.