Lockheed Martin expects to upgrade 500 in-service F-16s to a new, AESA radar equipped, 'F-16V' format within seven years, after bagging orders for over 300 upgrades to date from South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.

The upgrade sees the addition of Northrop Grumman's SABR electronically scanned radar, as well as a new 6 by 8 inch center pedestal display, a Link 16 data link, enhanced data processing and a Sniper advanced targeting pod. The new radar offers functions including multiple target tracking, synthetic aperture, ground moving target indication, and greater reliability than a mechanical radar.

"Three customers are refitting 300 aircraft now and we expect several hundred more in the next few years," said Randall Howard, head of F-16 Business Development.

A source said the target was 500 aircraft in seven years, with possible future customers including Greece, Turkey and Egypt. Current customers Korea, Taiwan and Singapore have refitted around 130, 130 and 50 jets respectively.

The push to sell the upgrade kits comes as Lockheed Martin reaches 4,588 F-16 orders since the aircraft's launch. But with 4,573 of those aircraft now delivered, the firm has just 15 F-16s left to assemble, meaning its production line will come to a halt at the end of 2017.

Separately, the USAF is upgrading its Block 40/50 F-16s to extend their flying life from 8,000 hours to around 12,000 hours, said Howard.

While Lockheed Martin has chosen the Northrop Grumman radar over its Raytheon competition as the designated radar for the F-16V upgrade, the US has not selected an AESA radar to perform similar upgrades for its aircraft.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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