SEOUL, -- Lockheed Martin has been awarded a USD1.2 billion contract to upgrade the Republic of Korea Air Force's (RoKAF's) fleet of KF-16 combat aircraft, the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced on 21 November.
The contract, which was awarded on 18 November, will be performed at the company's Fort Worth production facility in Texas, and will be complete by 15 November 2025.
The RoKAF maintains a fleet of 170 KF-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters, which were received in 1986. In 2012 the South Korean government awarded BAE Systems a USD1.2 billion contract to upgrade 134 KF-16s with the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR), Raytheon's AN/ALR-69A electronic warfare (EW) suite, a Link 16 datalink, a helmet-mounted sight, a 'glass' cockpit, and an enhanced weapons package. The first two aircraft due to be upgraded had arrived at Fort Worth Alliance Airport in mid-May 2014. These were intended to serve as prototypes and test aircraft, with the remainder to be modernised in Korea using kits supplied by BAE Systems.
However, this contract was cancelled by the South Korean government in November 2014 after it said that costs had increased by about USD730 million. In December 2015, South Korea instead selected Lockheed Martin to carry out the work on its KF-16 upgrade programme. While this latest contract announcement does not disclose aircraft numbers or the specific nature of the work to be done, it will likely follow the same path as the previous award in terms of both numbers and scope. At least one aspect that will likely change will be the active electronically scanned array radar, which will now probably be provided by Lockheed Martin's long-standing F-16 partner Northrop Grumman rather than by Raytheon.
The Republic of Korea Air Force KF-16 Fighting Falcon crew chiefs from the 123rd Maintenance Flight, 20th Fighter Wing, Seosan Air Base, approach a KF-16 as it arrives from Seosan Air Base to Kunsan Air Base.