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Farnborough 2018: Boeing bidding F-16 upgrade campaigns

17 July 2018

Boeing is engaged in a number of campaigns to upgrade Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft for unspecified customers, Jane’s was told on 17 July.

Boeing is currently bidding a number of F-16 upgrade requirements, although the company has declined to say when and for whom this work would take place. (US Air Force)Boeing is currently bidding a number of F-16 upgrade requirements, although the company has declined to say when and for whom this work would take place. (US Air Force)

The head of the company’s recently created Global Services division, Stan Deal, said that Boeing is making good on the company's earlier commitment to leverage its QF-16 aerial target drone work for the US Air Force (USAF) to offer F-16 upgrades to the wider market.

“We have active F-16 upgrade campaigns under way today, but I would decline to say where or for whom,” Deal said during the Farnborough Airshow.

Boeing’s plan to bid for F-16 upgrade work dates back to 2012, shortly after it was awarded an initial contract to convert six F-16 fighters into QF-16 target drones. At that time, officials told Jane’s and other defence media that the company saw a strong market for upgrading these legacy fighters and would actively pursue domestic and international opportunities to do so.

Despite Boeing not being the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) – Lockheed Martin took on that mantle when it acquired General Dynamics – Deal said there is “no barrier” to its performing such upgrade work despite not having access to much of the aircraft’s propriety information. In leveraging talent from across the company's portfolio – unmanned systems, weapons, conventional military aircraft, and commercial aircraft – to reverse engineer much of the F-16s structure and systems, Boeing feels that it now has the expertise on the aircraft to justify its pursuit of upgrade work.

While Deal declined to say which particular F-16 upgrade programmes Boeing is bidding for, there are a number known to be ongoing. Taiwan and South Korea have contracted Lockheed Martin to upgrade their fleets, but a USAF service-life extension programme (SLEP) for up to 840 aircraft has yet to be awarded.

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