US company Boeing has said it is prepared to pursue contracts to upgrade F-16 fleets, including that of the Republic of Singapore Air Force, should the Southeast Asian country decide to upgrade its Lockheed Martin-built fighters. (Paul Crock / AFP)
SINGAPORE — Boeing is ready to throw its hat in the ring and compete for upcoming Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter upgrades, company executives said Feb. 10 ahead of the start of the Singapore Air Show.
The US defense giant is eyeing Singapore as a target if the southeast Asian nation decides to compete a possible upgrade of its F-16 fleet, said Chris Raymond, vice president of business development and strategy for Boeing Defense, Space and Security..
“Should they [Singapore] go that route, we would be interested in pursuing that and introducing some competition,” Raymond told reporters.
The Pentagon notified the US Congress in mid-January of a possible $2.4 billion deal to upgrade a fleet of aging F-16 Block52 aircraft.
That could involve a deal similar to the one signed by Lockheed Martin with Taiwan to upgrade its F-16 fleet on the back of the US Air Force’s Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suites (CAPES) aimed at revitalizing the capabilities of around 300 jets with an AESA radar and new avioinics.
But the word in Washington is that CAPES could be a victim of the US 2015 budget deliberations, with a delay or maybe even a cancellation a possibility. That would leave a big question mark over the future of the CAPES programs in Taiwan and in Singapore, if the latter goes that route.
Outside the region, the United Arab Emirates is another opportunity. Lockheed Martin and upgrade rival BAE Systems tried to woo the Gulf state with F-16 upgrade packages at the Dubai Air Show last November.
Raymond said he wasn’t privy to Singaporean plans at the moment, but the company had a credible offering, not least due to the experience gained on other programs where it wasn’t the platform supplier — like the C-130 AMPS update and A-10 modification programs.
“Any time you go on to somebody else’s platform for sustainment and modification, you need to be very candid about whether you have the right tools, the right intellectual property and the right engineering systems in place and can you manage or in some cases rebuild the supply chain,” he said. “Through what we learned on A-10 and C-130, we have got to a place where we could look at F-16 upgrade opportunities, be credible and introduce some competition.”
BAE Systems would justifiably claim it has had more than a little success at doing that already, recently beating Lockheed Martin to a deal upgrading 130 South Korean F-16s with $2.4 billion worth of AESA radars, new avionics and other equipment.
The US arm of BAE will be pushing its capabilities at the Singapore Air Show this week as part of a campaign to outmaneuver its bitter F-16 upgrade rival again if it gets the chance.
The air show here opens Feb. 11.