June 14, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The two versions of the F-16 being delivered to customers now are the most advanced multi-role fighter aircraft types currently available on the international market and are building on the F-16's reputation for effectiveness and value, the Lockheed Martin general manager for the program said today.
A demonstration flight of the first F-16E/Fs of the UAE Air Force.
"The F-16 continues as a modern, highly capable, affordable and supportable fighter. The program is healthy and full of activity, with firm production through 2008 and a strong likelihood of new orders that will extend the line for several more years," said June Shrewsbury, vice president for F-16 programs, in remarks to reporters at the Paris Air Show.
Shrewsbury said there are current backorders for 191 F-16 aircraft, plus a strong possibility Lockheed Martin will gain 100-200 further orders during the next few years.
Recent F-16 program milestones have included a rollout ceremony for the first aircraft for Chile
at the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas; the arrival of the first group of 10 "block 60
" F-16 aircraft in the United Arab Emirates
; and Turkey
's agreement for a major capabilities upgrade for its fleet of F-16s.
"In the aircraft business, nothing is more exciting than having a brand new product. The F-16 program has two new products in production today, and we also have a range of upgrade options available," Shrewsbury said.
Aircraft now being produced for Chile, Oman
are in the Advanced Block 50/52 F-16C/D configuration. The UAE
is the launch customer for the Block 60 version, which has a new type designation – F-16E/F
– and is the most sophisticated configuration of the F-16 produced to date.
Shrewsbury said both new versions have the latest technologies and capabilities – including around-the-clock, all-weather, standoff, autonomous, air intercept and precision strike. These aircraft have the latest in avionics, sensors and weapons, plus user-friendly cockpits and systems integration that provide pilots with high situation awareness.
Both types have features that extend mission range, persistence and payload – including internal electronic countermeasures equipment and optional conformal fuel tanks. The aft cockpit of the two-place versions of both types serves either as a weapon system operator station or an instructor pilot station.
The upgrade for Turkey is exemplary of the several F-16 modification programs that are available to provide the newest air combat capabilities to fleet aircraft. The upgrade potential for the F-16 fleet is substantial, since 24 countries have ordered F-16s to date and the aircraft will be in operation around the world for several more decades.
"Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force are totally committed to modification and sustainment of the worldwide F-16 fleet. We recognize that we have a serious obligation to support our customers in their missions, and we also recognize fleet sustainment as a growing business opportunity," Shrewsbury said.