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South Korea finalizes deal for BAE to perform KF-16 upgrades

May 15, 2014 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The US Air Force has awarded BAE Systems a $140 million contract related to perform upgrades and systems integration for the fleet of 134 F-16 C/Ds operated by South Korea.

RoKAF F-16D block 52 #92-039 has just left the factory after being produced back in 1995 with a pilot posing in front of it. [Samsung photo]

“This award is for initial development and long lead production for the program,” says the US Department of Defence (DOD). “The full program will be added in to this undefinitized contract action in fourth quarter 2014, and a modification will be done at that time to increase the scope of work to the full program.” The upgrade work will be carried out through a foreign military sales (FMS) program.

Work will be performed at BAE Systems’ facility in Ft. Worth, Texas. The first of a group of RoKAF F-16s will arrive in the coming year to start modifications for the test program, alongside a large, corporate-type jet that will act as a flying testbed for the new systems. F-16 flight tests are due in 2016. The first upgraded KF-16 aircraft are scheduled for delivery starting 2019.

The London-based company was chosen over Lockheed Martin, the maker of the jets, in August 2012 as the primary contractor to upgrade of Korea's 134 F-16s. At the time, South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Procurement Agency pegged the value of the avionics deal at $1 billion.

The avionics upgrade covers elements such as weapons, multi-function displays, and the aircraft’s mission computer.

According to BAE, the world's third-largest defense and aerospace company, phase one of the work will begin immediately and will involve the initial design and development of the upgrade program. Phase two of the agreement, once approved, will begin next year and will involve completion of the production and installation of the upgrade kits in all of the warplanes.

Separately, Raytheon won a parallel competition to provide its Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) for the fleet.

At 2013’s Seoul air show, BAE Systems said that it will initially upgrade two F-16s – one single-seat C-model aircraft and one two-seat D-model – to the new configuration. BAE will also install the new radars.

After extensive testing of the upgraded examples, BAE will then develop upgrade kits that will be shipped to South Korea, where a local company will perform the in-country upgrade work.

Upgrades of operational aircraft should begin in 2017. The US DoD says the first upgraded aircraft will be delivered in 2019.

Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are among the countries seeking to modernize their aging single-engine fighter jets, by installing new radar systems, communications gear and displays in the coming years.

Additional images:

RoKAF F-16C block 52 #93-077 from the 20th FW is taking off for another training sortie on March 20th, 2012. [RoKAF photo]

RoKAF F-16C block 52 #01-524 is presented at the Korean Aerospace as the final aircraft of the KFP-II batch. [ photo]

RoKAF F-16C block 52 #93-097 from the 20th Wing is parked on the flight display line at Sacheon AB on October 20th, 2013. [ photo by Wonjungjun]