Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin will build F-16 fighter planes for foreign allies under a contract, potentially worth $62 billion, announced by the Defense Department.
Taiwan signed an agreement to buy 66 of the planes. Ninety planes will be built under the contract announced Friday. Although no countries were named in Friday's announcement, 24 planes are expected to be sold to Morocco. The Defense Department previously identified Taiwan and Morocco as prospective customers.
The total price for the 90 planes in the 10-year, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity deal is $4.94 billion, with work to be completed by 2026. The $62 billion figure is the upper limit of numerous contracts if all potential foreign customers place their maximum desired number over the course of the decade.
The F-16 is a multirole fighter plane introduced for the U.S. Air Force in 1978. In various iterations, about 4,000 have been manufactured for the U.S. military and 25 other countries, including numerous NATO allies. Lockheed's production facilities currently have a backlog of 38 F-16s.
Plans for the sale to Taiwan were signaled a year ago, and although deliveries of the planes could take years, China denounced the sale. In August 2019, a spokeswoman of China's Foreign Ministry said that the "arms sales to Taiwan severely violate the one-China principle" and that "the Chinese side will surely make strong reactions."
Since then, U.S.-China relations have deteriorated, with the two countries disputing the origin of the COVID-19 virus, the use of 5G technology, China's clampdown on Hong Kong democracy and maritime claims by China in the South China Sea.