April 24 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin opened its new F-16 fighter plane production line in Greenville, S.C., nearly two years after announcing it would move there.
Guests at the ribbon cutting on Tuesday included Gov. Henry McMaster and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, as well as South Carolina representatives in Congress, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Reps. Ralph Norman, William Timmons and Jeff Duncan.
"Today, we mark the beginning of a new chapter, building the most advanced fourth generation fighter ever," Lockheed Martin Greenville general manager Mike Fox said at the event.
The company announced in 2017 that its F-16 production line would move to Greenville from Fort Worth, Texas. Up to 400 new jobs will be created to build F-16 Block 70 aircraft, largely for foreign customers, when manufacturing begins later this year. The Fort Worth plant will build F-35s.
"South Carolina's workforce is second to none, and the fact that Lockheed Martin continues to invest and put its faith in South Carolinians to build the newest F-16s in Greenville speaks volumes about our state and the company," said McMaster. "Every person who calls South Carolina home should be proud that the F-16 is made right here in the Palmetto state."
Bahrain, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Morocco are among the most recent customers for the fighter plane.
About 3,000 operational F-16s are in service in 25 countries, and the company expects new F-16 production line to build at least 400 more aircraft. In March, Lockheed Martin announced the establishment of the first F-16 Falcon Depot, a maintenance facility for foreign-owned F-16s, in Norway.
There have been 4,558 F-16s built since its introduction in 1974, with approximately 3,000 operational F-16s currently in service in 25 countries, and Lockheed expects new F-16 production opportunities totaling more than 400 aircraft.