March 12 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin will establish its first F-16 Falcon Depot in the world in Norway with government-owned AIM Norway.
Sustainment services will be provided for the Royal Norwegian Air Force and other regional F-16 customers, Lockheed Martin said in a news release Tuesday.
The facility will be located in Kjeller at an existing maintenance, repair and overhaul facility used by the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
Lockheed Martin, the original equipment manufacturer and design authority of the F-16, said it is utilizing AIM's extensive technical expertise and MRO experience.
"Lockheed Martin is extremely proud of our longstanding relationship with AIM Norway and Norway," said Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed Martin's F-16 Program. "This first-of-its-kind Falcon Depot Center reflects the strong global demand for F-16 sustainment services, which is poised to grow as we continue to produce new F-16s and upgrade existing aircraft."
AIM has been involved in the Norwegian aviation industry since 1916 and was made a fully owned state enterprise by the Ministry of Defense in 2011, according to the company.
"AIM Norway is extremely proud that Lockheed Martin recognizes our experienced personnel, competence and capabilities," said AIM Norway CEO Ove Haukassveen. "Together we will ensure continued success and readiness for existing and new F-16 operators."
Approximately 3,000 operational F-16s are in service in 25 countries, and Lockheed expects new F-16 production opportunities totaling more than 400 aircraft.
The F-16s to be built there are next-generation Block 70 versions of the aircraft.
In one year, the first of 16 F-16s for Bahrain will enter the assembly building, The Post and Courier reported. Deliveries are scheduled to start in 2022.
Lockheed has partnered with Tata Advanced Systems to produce the F-16 in South Carolina. Tata delivers weapons to the Indian security forces.
The company's long-term plan was to move F-16 production to India and build next-generation training jets in South Carolina but Boeing won the training jet contract and Lockheed needed a use for its Greenville plant.
Lockheed plans to produce the F-16 in India if that country buys at least 100 of the jets for its military, the company has said, and that the Indian facility would also build and maintain F-16s for other countries.
Lockheed envisions enough work to sustain two production sites.
"We have a lot of growth potential," Mike Fox, site director for Lockheed's Upstate operations, said of the Greenville site. "We're committed to South Carolina."