TAIPEI – Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $1.85 billion contract by the U.S. government to begin retrofitting Taiwan’s remaining F-16A/B Block 20 fighter aircraft.
Taiwan has 145 F-16s remaining from the 150 it procured from the U.S. during the 1990s.
The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency released the retrofit deal under the Foreign Military Sales program in September 2011. It consists of the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, embedded GPS inertial navigation system and ALQ-213 electronic warfare management system.
BAE had challenged Lockheed for the contract, but Taiwan chose to go “sole source” on the program, said a BAE source. BAE in August won the South Korean competition against Lockheed to upgrade 130 KF-16 Block 52 fighters.
Taiwan’s AESA competition pits Northrop Grumman’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) against the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR).
The upgrade will be based on the F-16V (“Viper”) configuration announced by Lockheed Martin earlier this year.
Since the F-16 program began deliveries in the 1980s, configurations have been based on one of two core configurations, the F-16A/B followed by the F-16C/D, said Bill McHenry, Lockheed’s F-16 Business Development director.
“The requirements for these configurations were driven by two major factors – war fighter requirements and technology maturation.”
Lockheed unveiled the “Viper” configuration in February at the 2012 Singapore Airshow. The new variant should not be confused with Lockheed’s F-16IN “Super Viper,” offered to India for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition and showcased at the 2009 Aero India Air Show.
Although the F-16 is officially known as the “Fighting Falcon,” “Viper” is a common nickname used by pilots.
Rather than a single point solution, the “Viper” option represents key elements of a configuration that Lockheed’s customers could choose to satisfy their emerging requirements. McHenry added that the U.S. Air Force Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite (CAPES) and the Taiwan upgrade program are both based on this approach.
“Consequently, both programs will enjoy near-term benefits due to the economies of scale as well as long-term benefits due to the commonality of logistics,” he said.
Taiwan continues to request new F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters from the United States, a request that has been deferred by the White House since it was submitted by Taipei in 2006. Critics blame pressure from China on the refusal to sell new fighters.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Taiwan has recently modified its request down from 66 fighters to 24 C/Ds to cover the five-year span each refit will take per squadron of A/Bs.