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Air Force, Lockheed start F-16 production for foreign sales in South Carolina

The U.S. Air Force has teamed with Lockheed Martin to open a new production line to build the F-16 Block 70/72 fighter aircraft in Greenville, S.C. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin
The U.S. Air Force has teamed with Lockheed Martin to open a new production line to build the F-16 Block 70/72 fighter aircraft in Greenville, S.C. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

May 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force announced Tuesday that it has teamed up with Lockheed Martin to open a new production line of F-16s for foreign military sales.

According to the Air Force, the F-16 Block 70/72 fighter aircraft will be built at Lockheed's Greenville, S.C., facility.

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"There are 25 nations operating F-16s today, and they have a lot of expertise with the airframe," Col. Brian Pearson, integrated product team lead for F-16 foreign military sales, with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate, said in the Air Force's press release.

The directorate is leading the effort to build and deliver the new F-16s, according to the branch.

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"The line helps us meet the global demand that a number of nations have for [F-16] aircraft and gives us the additional capability to provide the aircraft to countries interested in purchasing it for the first time," Pearson said.

The Air Force recently awarded Lockheed with about $14 billion in contracts to build 128 F-16s at the facility for foreign military partners that include Bahrain, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Taiwan.

The first F-16s are expected to roll off the production line in 2022 and production on the contracts is expected to continue until 2026.

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The Air Force's press release also noted that there are additional requests for F-16 sales under review from other foreign military partners.

"Since the LM production line opened, AFSAC [AFLCMC's Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate] has seen an uptick of our partner nations requesting detailed information and requests for U.S. government sales," Col. Anthony Walker, International Division senior materiel leader, said in the release.

"We are excited about the new workload and increased opportunity to deliver airpower capabilities that strengthen international partnerships and advance national security," Walker said.

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In addition to fielding new F-16s, the Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Directorate is also modernizing 405 F-16s operated by four partner nations with the V-configuration radar.

In 2017, Lockheed Martin announced plans to transfer production of F-16s to Greenville from its Fort Worth, Texas, facility, and began the transfer later that year.

According to the Air Force, Greenville -- which received its first F-16 for maintenance in March -- is now the only F-16 production site in the world.

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