Pentagon Clears BAE to Create Upgrade for Korean F-16s

The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has notified Congress about phase one of an upgrade for 134 South Korean Lockheed Martin F-16 C/D Block 52 aircraft, with the work to be conducted by BAE Systems.

The estimated cost of phase one is $200 million, says the DSCA. It will see Arlington, Virginia-based BAE Systems Technology Solution & Services create a detailed plan with regards to the fleet’s avionics upgrade. The deal will be conducted under the auspices of the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.

The plan will include details about computers, displays, sensors, weapons, software development, and a range of other elements involved in the upgrade.

In 2012, BAE defeated Lockheed Martin in a competitive bidding process to upgrade the avionics for South Korea’s F-16 fleet. A separate radar competition saw Raytheon's Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) defeat Northrop Grumman’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). As part of its upgrade programme, BAE will integrate RACR into the aircraft.

Phase two of the upgrade will see BAE's upgrade programme implemented across the South Korean F-16 fleet.
Speaking to Flightglobal at a Seoul defence show in October, BAE’s vice-president global fighter programs John Bean said that BAE expects Seoul to sign the letter of agreement for both the avionics and radar upgrades by the end of 2013.

This will set the stage for BAE to upgrade two F-16s – one single-seat C-model aircraft and one two-seat D-model – to the new configuration, which includes the RACR equipment. After extensive testing, BAE will then develop upgrade kits that will be shipped to South Korea. It is deciding between Samsung Techwin or Korea Aerospace Industries for the performance of the in-country upgrade work.

The upgrades of operational aircraft could begin in 2017, with four to six aircraft receiving the modifications each month.

Bean said that the budget challenges facing the world’s air forces make upgrading existing aircraft an attractive option, not least because countries lack the funds to replace existing types with advanced aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 on anything approaching a one-for-one basis. [via]

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