August 3, 2006 (by Graham Warwick, Flight International) - Lockheed Martin is working to define the configuration of a "next-generation" F-16NG to meet the requirements of emerging customers, potentially including India.
Final definition of the configuration is depending on concrete requirements, but Lockheed intends to combine "the best of block 50
and block 60
, with elements from the F-22 and F-35", Rob Weiss, vice-president business development.
Enhancements under consideration include further uprated versions of the General Electric F110 and Pratt & Whitney F100 engines and a later generation of active electronically scanned array (AESA
) than the Northrop APG-80 agile-beam radar in the F-16E/F
Although all F-16s and its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF
) use Northrop radars, Weiss says Lockheed is "looking more broadly" for the F-16NG, suggesting that Raytheon - which produces AESA radars for the Boeing F-15 and F/A-18E/F - has at least an opportunity to bid.
Next to India, which is expected to issue a request for proposals (RfP
) for 126 multi-role fighters later this year, Weiss says emerging customers include existing F-16 operators who need to recapitalise their fleets, but do not plan to buy the F-35 until later in the next decade.
"The F-16NG would be a good transition to the F-35," he says. Weiss says the F-16NG will not be fully defined until after India has issued its RFP and the US government decides what technology will be releasable. Depending on the Indian requirement, and other potential customers, the final configuration could have a capability "less, equal to or better than" the Block 60, he says.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics president Ralph Heath says he is confident the company can tailor an aircraft for India that is sufficiently different to the Block 50/52 F-16 planned to be purchased by neighbour Pakistan
to satisfy India.